TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida voters like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. But if either of the Republicans decides to run for president in 2016, Floridians could back Democrat Hillary Clinton instead.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday gives Clinton the edge over Rubio and Bush in Florida in hypothetical presidential races, with the former First Lady, U.S. secretary of state and New York senator leading by large margins among women and Hispanic voters.
But underline the word hypothethical. While Rubio, Bush and Clinton are popular subjects in presidential parlor games, they haven't even declared they are running. A lot will happen before November 2016. And, of course, this is Florida.
In the Quinnipiac poll, Clinton led Rubio by a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent among Florida voters and led Bush by a margin of 50 percent to 43 percent.
The poll, however, included good news for the Republicans. More than six years after leaving the governor's office, Bush is viewed favorably by 54 percent of Florida voters, while being viewed unfavorably by 33 percent. The favorable opinions appear to be broad-based, with that view shared by 58 percent of independent voters, 56 percent of men and 52 percent of women.
Rubio, who has become a high-profile player in national Republican politics since winning a 2010 Senate race, is viewed favorably by 44 percent of voters, while 33 percent view him unfavorably. Also, 51 percent of voters said they approve of the way Rubio is handling his job, while 35 percent disapprove.
Those job-approval numbers have remained high despite indications in the poll that many voters disagree with Rubio's stances on gun control and immigration. As an example, 49 percent of the people polled said they view Rubio less favorably because of his vote against a proposal that would have required background checks for guns purchased at gun shows or online.
"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," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a news release announcing the poll results.
While Rubio and Bush remain popular, the poll didn't have such upbeat news for the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Only 32 percent of voters approve of the way the Legislature is handling its job, while 49 percent disapprove.
Also, a near-majority of voters said they support increasing the number of Floridians eligible for Medicaid coverage --- a controversial idea that was rejected by Republican lawmakers during this spring's session. Among people polled, 49 percent thought an expansion of Medicaid eligibility was a good idea, while 40 percent said it was a bad idea.
Meanwhile, voters offered strong support for the state's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to fight back with force if they feel threatened, even if they could retreat. The issue has drawn heavy debate since the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Seminole County.
The poll indicates 57 percent of voters support the law, while 36 percent oppose it. Along with having heavy support from Republican voters, the law gets support from 59 percent of independent voters.
The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac regularly conducts polls in Florida and other states. The poll released Wednesday was conducted from June 11 to June 16 and included 1,176 registered voters. It had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
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