A crucial swing state, Florida had not voted for a losing candidate in a Presidential Election since 1992—until Donald Trump won the state in 2020 with 51.22% of the vote. In the same 2020 Election, Republicans received 52.26% of votes for the House of Representatives to the Democrats’ 47.23%, demonstrating the degree to which the state is politically split, though the Republican Party currently has an edge. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies reaffirms this partisan division, looking at how Floridians assess the performances of the country’s and state’s political leaders.
47% of respondents in Florida disapprove and 40% approve of President Joe Biden’s overall job performance as President, resulting in a -7% net approval rating. A further 10% neither approve nor disapprove of the President’s performance. For 2020 Donald Trump voters, disapproval increases to 85%—including 71% who disapprove strongly. Meanwhile, 79% of 2020 Joe Biden voters approve of the President’s overall performance thus far.
Floridians demonstrate mixed opinions when it comes to the Joe Biden Administration’s performance in certain policy areas as well. This pattern is most evident with respect to the administration’s performance on the environment, of which 38% approve and 38% disapprove. Views are also split on how the Administration responded to the coronavirus pandemic, though a greater proportion approves (46%) than disapproves (39%) of its performance in this regard.
However, the Administration’s handling of the pandemic is the only policy area which sees a plurality of respondents expressing approval in Florida. The pluralities are relatively slight with respect to the Administration’s record on the economy (48% disapprove, 39% approve) and addressing unemployment (45% disapprove, 38% approve), suggesting that economic policies are among the most divisive issues in Florida. Stronger pluralities disapprove of the Joe Biden Administration’s performance in other policy areas, including relations with China (47%), relations with Russia (46%), defense (46%), crime/policing (45%), and housing (42%).
Disapproval becomes the majority position where the Administration’s immigration policies are concerned: 53% of Floridians disapprove of the Administration’s performance on immigration, whereas 26% approve and 18% neither approve nor disapprove. It is also this policy area that elicits the most disapproval from both 2020 Donald Trump voters (85%) and Joe Biden voters (22%).
In comparison to the negative net approval rating given to President Joe Biden by residents of Florida, views of the state’s Republican Senators and Governor are relatively more positive. 42% approve and 33% disapprove of Senator Marco Rubio’s overall job performance, while 39% approve and 35% disapprove of Senator Rick Scott’s performance. With respective net approval ratings of +9% and +4%, it appears that Marco Rubio is slightly more favoured by Floridians. The considerable approval of Rubio that respondents express bodes well for the Senator’s chances as he seeks re-election in November 2022.
Indeed, our hypothetical voting intention polling finds that, after weighting by likelihood to vote, 48% say they would vote for Marco Rubio and 36% say they would vote for US Representative Val Deming, if Demings were to be the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat. Results are similar if former US Representative Alan Grayson is presumed to be the Democratic nominee, with 48% saying they would vote for Rubio and 36% saying they would vote for Grayson. 10% and 11%, respectively, say they don’t know how they would vote in these hypothetical Senate Election scenarios.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will also seek re-election next year, and currently enjoys a positive net approval rating as well: 47% approve of Ron DeSantis’ overall job performance as Governor, compared to 36% who disapprove and 11% who neither approve nor disapprove, placing his net approval rating at +11%. Whereas 60% of 2020 Donald Trump voters approve of Rick Scott and 68% approve of Marco Rubio, an even greater 80% of Trump voters approve of Ron DeSantis, including 56% who approve strongly, demonstrating the Governor’s immense popularity among this demographic. Ron DeSantis’ unpopularity with 2020 Joe Biden voters is also apparent, with 69% disapproving—57% strongly—of his performance.
Ron DeSantis, too, appears well-positioned to win re-election, as our hypothetical voting intention poll finds that, after weighting by likelihood to vote, 48% say they would vote for DeSantis against 38% who say they would vote for Charlie Crist, if the US Representative were to be the Democratic nominee. The outcome is the same if it is Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried who is presented as the hypothetical Democratic challenger. 8% say they don’t know how they would vote if the options were DeSantis and Crist, and 10% say the same if the options were DeSantis and Fried.
The areas in which Floridians convey the highest levels of approval of Ron DeSantis’ performance are on the economy (51%) and addressing unemployment (49%). Pluralities also approve of the Governor’s performance on crime/policing (47%), immigration (45%), the environment (45%), and housing (43%). Thus, in each of these policy areas, a higher proportion of respondents approve of Governor DeSantis’ performance than approve of President Biden’s performance.
Notably, however, the proportion of respondents who approve of President Joe Biden and Governor Ron DeSantis’ respective responses to the pandemic is the same, at 46%, though these results are driven by different segments of the population. Approval of Ron DeSantis’ approach to the pandemic, which has involved opposing mask mandates, lockdown restrictions, and vaccine requirements, appears to have been embraced by most Donald Trump voters, as 71% approve of his performance in this realm. Meanwhile, 65% of Joe Biden voters disapprove, with this demographic being far more likely to approve of the Joe Biden Administration’s approach (81%).
Florida is clearly at no risk of losing its status as a critical swing state in American elections, though Republican leaders in the state enjoy greater levels of approval than President Joe Biden and his Administration do. The November 2022 General Elections, when voters will decide if Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis will have additional terms, will serve to confirm whether or not the state is becoming increasingly more ‘red.’