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Florida voters losing faith in DeSantis, new poll finds

DeSantis, among several Republican governors who pushed in May to quickly reopen their states, has seen his approval rating dip as Florida experiences one of the worst outbreaks.
Governor Ron DeSantis.
Governor Ron DeSantis. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 23, 2020|Updated Jul. 23, 2020

Once one of the most popular governors in the country, Ron DeSantis is losing his standing among Florida voters as the state’s coronavirus outbreak reaches new, alarming levels.

DeSantis, among several Republican governors who pushed in May to quickly reopen their states from pandemic-driven lock-downs, has seen his approval rating dip as Florida experiences one of the worst outbreaks in the country. On Thursday, as the Florida Department of Health reported a state record 173 COVID-19 deaths, a new poll released by Quinnipiac University put DeSantis’ favorability rating at a new low, with 41 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 52 percent disapproving.

The numbers reflect a 31-point drop in DeSantis’ approval rating from a poll the university conducted in late April.

“A popular governor has gone to a not-terribly-popular governor in a couple months,” said Tim Malloy, a polling analyst for Quinnipiac.

Thursday’s poll, a query of 924 registered voters with a 3.2 percent margin of error conducted from July 15 through July 20, is the latest to find approval of DeSantis’ job performance on the decline amid the pandemic. A July 10 CBS News/YouGov poll found that 53 percent of voters disapproved of DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Florida. A July 12 CNBC/Change Research poll that asked the same question found that 57 percent disapproved.

The Quinnipiac poll found that 70 percent of Florida voters believe the spread of coronavirus is “out of control,” and that the same percentage support masks-in-public mandates — an order that DeSantis has resisted. Voters were just about split evenly on whether DeSantis should issue another statewide stay-at-home order, as he did in April.

On schools, 62 percent of voters were against sending elementary, middle and high school students back to classrooms. The same number — 62 percent — said it would be “unsafe” to hold the Republican National Convention late next month in Jacksonville.

“There’s palpable fear in the state of Florida right now,” said Malloy, “and you’ve seen it in every aspect of every question we asked in this poll.”

Florida reported more than 10,000 new positive coronavirus test results Thursday, and announced that the state’s death toll had reached 5,518. Among the new positive cases, Miami-Dade County, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, reported another 2,700 positive results.

DeSantis continued Thursday to defend the state’s handling of the pandemic. During a Thursday press conference at Health First’s Holmes Regional Center in Melbourne, the governor said “there’s a whole bunch of different data points, but we’re trending much better today than we were a couple weeks ago.”

The governor suggested earlier Thursday during an interview on Fox & Friends that the resurgence of the virus in Florida was part of a seasonal trend across southern states not entirely tied to human behavior.

“I think people are always trying to do political blame,” he said. “But I do think the trends are much more positive today than they were two weeks ago.”

In a visit to Miami Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams stressed that cases across the state are stabilizing.

DeSantis, though, has been sued this week by the Florida Education Association over his administration’s emergency order requiring schools to offer “the full panoply of services.” He was loudly heckled Monday at an Orlando blood bank. And President Donald Trump — who once regularly praised the job DeSantis was doing in Florida during his coronavirus task force briefings with the press — acknowledged Tuesday during his first coronavirus briefing in weeks that Florida is in a “big, tough situation.”

The same could be said for Trump’s standing in his home state, where Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll found the president trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by 13 points. Trump has not led Biden in a poll in Florida since mid March.

There was one issue on which voters favored Trump, though: More of them trusted him on the economy.

“Trump still has the lead within the economy,” said Malloy. “But on handling a crisis in healthcare and his response to coronavirus, he gets clobbered. The economy, that’s all he’s got right now.”


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