New Florida poll shows voters souring on President Barack Obama

Published Nov. 22, 2013

Florida voters are souring on President Barack Obama and his signature health care law — and it's hurting Democrats in the state, a new poll indicates.

The president's job-approval numbers are near an all-time low — 40 percent approve, 57 percent don't — and a majority of Florida voters now view him as being untrustworthy, the Quinnipiac University poll released Friday showed.

Obama's waning support is probably weighing down Democrats from Charlie Crist to Hillary Clinton, who are now seeing stiffer competition from Republicans, said Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown.

"Politics is a team sport," Brown said. "Obama's the blue team captain and he's not doing well. So it's no surprise the president's teammates are not doing well, either."

For the first time since Gov. Rick Scott took office as an unpopular newcomer in 2011, the Republican's job-approval percentage — 42 — is marginally better than Obama's.

Brown notes that, 11 months before the midterm elections, the poll numbers are a snapshot that don't clearly indicate the ultimate winner.

Still, since Quinnipiac's June Florida poll, there has been a notable overall tilt toward Republicans, fueled in good measure by independents — the crucial swing voters who often decide elections in the divided state:

• Clinton saw her respective leads fall 5 percentage points in theoretical 2016 presidential contests against Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who matches up best with the former Secretary of State and trails by just 2 points, which is inside the poll's error margin.

• Crist saw his lead fall by a lesser amount — 3 points — against Scott. Crist's top-line number remains the same, 47 percent, but Scott now pulls in 40 percent of the vote. Not only have independents shifted 7 points away from Crist, but Republicans are now starting to rally behind the incumbent Scott as he solidifies his base.

• By 41-39 percent, Crist is viewed more favorably than unfavorably, an index of +2. That's a significant decrease of 15 points since June, when his rating was +17. Among independents, Crist's favorable index is -3, a decrease of 22.

• Scott's overall favorable index is worse than Crist's at -3, and the governor's job-approval index is -5.

• Obama's job-approval index is near an all-time low and the worst of anyone polled: -17. That's a 16-point negative shift. Only after the 2011 debt talks and credit downgrade did Obama receive a lower job-approval percentage, 39 percent, which is 1 point away from where it stands now.

• Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's indexed job-approval tumbled by about the same amount as Crist's favorable ratings: 16 points, from +22 to +6. Independents moved away from him by 10 points.

The poll not only shows the effects of Obama's woes on others, it also provides no evidence to back up the claims of some Nelson supporters, who say that Crist would do more poorly against Scott than Nelson would, Brown said.

The last time Quinnipiac polled Nelson and Scott, in June, the Democrat beat the Republican by 10 percentage points — the same as Crist.

Nelson, who has said he has no plans to run unless Crist does horribly, wasn't polled this time by Quinnipiac due to the senator's apparent lack of interest.

Crist points out that he's on pace to raise well over $1 million in his first few weeks of campaigning and that Scott instantly spent about $500,000 to trash him on television as an opportunist.

Yet Crist still leads by 7 percentage points. Crist's Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Nan Rich, would lose to Scott by 8 percentage points, 35-43 percent, the poll shows.

"In the past two weeks, I've been like a boxer in the corner: taking the punches, taking the punches, taking the punches," Crist said. "And I haven't spent a cent and Obamacare happened, at least with the rollout and all of those problems, and with all of that, look where we are right now."

Crist, who was a former Republican governor before becoming an independent and now a Democrat, is embracing the president, whom he helped in Florida in 2012, and the Affordable Care Act.

While a Republican, Crist trashed the law.

Crist chalks up his change of heart to learning more about the program and its benefits, including a ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

But though Crist says people will come around to supporting the law, it hasn't happened yet; 39 percent support it, and 54 percent oppose.

Only 21 percent believe Obamacare will improve their health care, 44 percent say it will make it worse and 31 percent say it will make no difference.

National polls, which often reflect Florida public sentiment, indicate opposition to the Affordable Care Act came after the Obama Administration's failure to launch an effective sign-up website Oct. 1. Then came news that Obama wasn't straight with people when he said they could keep their current health insurance under Obamacare if they like it.

Now, 51 percent of Florida voters say the president isn't trustworthy and honest, compared to 44 percent who say he is. That's a shift away from the president of 12 points.

Brown said the political climate right now favors Republicans. But much can change.

"If the numbers are like this next October," Brown said, "then Democrats will have a real problem."