As the final two weeks of campaigning begin, Democrats hold an edge in both the gubernatorial and Senate contests in the key state of Florida, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS. Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum holds a wide 12-point edge over his Republican opponent Rep. Ron DeSantis in the race for governor, while the Senate contest is a closer matchup with incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson at 50% to Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s 45%.
Gillum’s 54% to 42% lead rests on advantages among women (60% back him vs. 34% who say they favor DeSantis), non-white voters (74% back Gillum, 23% DeSantis), younger voters (60% for Gillum, 33% for DeSantis) and political independents (51% back Gillum, 42% DeSantis). Gillum has also consolidated Democratic support (97% favor him) in a way that DeSantis has not matched on the Republican side (88% back him).
Views of Donald Trump are about as polarizing as partisanship in this race, which Trump has tweeted about multiple times. Among the 51% of likely voters who disapprove of the president, 92% back Gillum, while 87% back DeSantis among the 43% who approve of Trump.
The poll shows a wider lead for Gillum than some other recent telephone polling, nearly all of which was conducted before Hurricane Michael struck the state on October 10. Before the storm, public polling in mid- to late-September on these contests was mixed, with some (including surveys from Mason-Dixon and the University of North Florida) finding near-even races while others (including the Quinnipiac University and NBC News/Marist polls) gave the Democratic candidates the edge.
The CNN findings could be an outlier – a statistical anomaly which occurs in polling by random chance. It also could be an indicator of renewed Democratic enthusiasm.
In the poll’s sample of registered voters, the mix of Democrats and Republicans surveyed almost exactly matches the numbers reported by Florida’s Secretary of State: 38% report being registered as Democrats, 35% as Republicans and 27% are registered with no party affiliation or as members of another party. Those identified as likely voters are similarly divided between Democrats and Republicans (40% to 37%) with fewer who are registered without a party affiliation or as members of a third party (23%).
And the Democratic advantages in the poll were similar across multiple versions of a likely voter model, including those driven more by interest in the campaign and those which placed stronger emphasis on past voting behavior.
Several recent national polls – including surveys from CNN, the Washington Post and ABC News, and the Wall Street Journal and NBC News – have also found wider Democratic leads in generic congressional ballots among likely voters than among registered voters, and have found signs of strong enthusiasm among Democratic voters.
Florida Senate race
In the Senate contest, Nelson’s slimmer edge is likewise dependent on wide gaps by gender and race, though the divide is far smaller by age and each candidate’s backing among their own partisans is similar. Both candidates for Senate are viewed favorably by 47% of likely voters. Nelson, however, is less likely than Scott to be seen unfavorably, 37% say they have a negative view of Nelson, compared with 46% who have a negative take on Scott.
In both races, 11% of likely voters say there’s a chance they could change their minds before Election Day.
Likely voters in this poll give Scott broadly positive marks for his response to Hurricane Michael, 64% approve and 17% disapprove. Nelson’s response also merited more positive than negative reviews, 40% approve to 23% disapprove, but a sizable 37% weren’t sure how they felt about the Senator’s response to the storm.
Scott tops Nelson by a wide 51% to 39% margin in North Florida and the Panhandle, which was most deeply affected by the storm and is a typically Republican-leaning region. Gillum, who is mayor of Tallahassee, outperforms Nelson in the region, splitting it evenly with DeSantis at 47% for each.
Florida’s likely voters are about equally likely to say health care (26%) and the economy (25%) are the most important issues they’re considering in the Senate contest. Immigration and gun policy follow, with 15% calling immigration most important to their vote and 12% gun policy.
As in other states, health care voters broadly back the Democratic candidate, breaking overwhelmingly for Nelson here 81% to 14%. Economy voters favor the Republican, 72% for Scott to 23% for Nelson.
The CNN Poll in Florida was conducted by SSRS October 16 through 20 among a random statewide sample reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample of 1,012 adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, for the subset of 872 registered voters, it is plus or minus 3.9 and for the 759 likely voters plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.