1. Florida Politics

Poll: Florida voters don't like Marco Rubio's immigration stance, but his approval rating remains steady

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Published Jun. 19, 2013

Florida voters give Sen. Marco Rubio bad reviews for his mixed signals on immigration and don't like his opposition to requiring background checks for gun buyers, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Rubio, however, still gets a 51-35 percent job approval rating, little changed from his 48-33 percent approval in a March 20 Quinnipiac poll.

In a potential 2016 presidential matchup against Hillary Clinton, Rubio would lose to the former Secretary of State, 41-53 percent. Clinton also would beat former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 50-43 percent, the poll shows.

As the nation's best-known Hispanic-American politician, Rubio "has a tightrope to walk between keeping the folks back home happy and serving as a high-profile symbol for the GOP nationally," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a statement.

"A mark of an able politician is one who can keep his support among the electorate even when that politician follows his own path rather than the public's preference on a high-profile issue like immigration or gun control," he said.

Still, when it comes to those issues, voters disapproved of the way Rubio is handling the immigration issue, 41-33 percent. Voters they think less favorably of him because of his opposition to expanded background checks for gun buyers, 49-10 percent.

Florida voters overwhelmingly support background checks, with 73 percent in favor of them, including 63 percent of voters in households with guns.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's approval rating among Florida voters has dropped to 47-48 percent, compared to 50-45 percent in a similar March 21 poll.

Obama does better in Florida than in other states, a sign of the residual support from his 2008 and 2012 campaigns when he carried the state. A May 30 Quinnipiac University national poll showed him with a negative 45-49 percent job approval while Florida voters still rank him "honest and trustworthy" 50-45 percent.

When it comes to the prospects for the presidential race in 2016, Rubio's Hispanic heritage still does not give him the edge with Florida voters over Clinton. Hispanics support the Democrat over Rubio in Florida 58-35 percent. She bests Florida's other favorite Republican son, Jeb Bush, 52 to 36 percent.

Clinton leads Rubio and Bush among the one group of voters who determine statewide elections in Florida: unaffiliated or independent voters. Clinton, 65, ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2008 and hasn't ruled out running again in 2016. Rubio, elected to the Senate in 2010, is widely viewed to be a more likely candidate for a presidential run than Bush.

Florida voters overwhelmingly support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with 58 percent of Florida voters supporting compared to 24 percent who say they should be deported and 12 percent say they should be allowed to stay with no path to citizenship. Among those surveyed, 54 percent of white voters support a path to citizenship, as do 66 percent of black voters and 69 percent of Hispanic voters.

The poll also underscored why Florida Gov. Rick Scott's job approval rating still remains underwater at 43 percent. The governor's veto of a bill to make it easier for children of undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses contradicts public support for the issue. Nearly 60 percent of voters favor granting licenses, including 53 percent support among whites and 72 and 80 percent among blacks and Hispanics, respectively.

The governor's veto does cater to the Republican base, however, as 48 percent of GOP voters surveyed oppose making it easier for working children of undocumented workers to drive legally, compared to 42 percent of the Republicans surveyed who support the idea.

On other controversial statewide issues, Florida voters remain supportive of expanding Medicaid coverage for Floridians without health insurance by 49-40 percent, virtually unchanged from a similar March poll. Voters continue to support the state's "stand your ground" law, allowing people to fight back with deadly force when threatened, 57 to 36 percent.

The poll of 1,176 registered voters was conducted June 11-16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.