Poll finds 44% would re-elect Sen. Bill Nelson

UNF Poll: 38% said they would vote for Gov. Rick Scott; 12% undecided

Sen. Bill Nelson tours St. Augustine after Hurricane Matthew.
Sen. Bill Nelson tours St. Augustine after Hurricane Matthew.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new poll of registered voters in Florida by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida shows that, when asked about the 2018 election, 44 percent of Florida registered voters said they would vote to re-elect Sen. Bill Nelson, while 38 percent said they would vote for Gov. Rick Scott and 12 percent were undecided.

“Even though it’s very early in the 2018 election season, Nelson’s six-point lead is meaningful,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the UNF PORL. “This race is going to get national attention and Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year.”

Although Donald Trump won the state in the presidential election, the majority of Florida’s registered voters -- 51 percent -- disapprove. Only 44 percent approve of the way Trump’s handling his job as president.

“Trump’s soft job-approval numbers could have huge implications during the midterm races. Just ask all the Democrats that lost in 2010 when Obama’s numbers were the lowest they had been to that point, and Republicans that ran in 2006, when Bush’s popularity was plummeting,” noted Binder.

An even greater percentage of Florida registered voters -- 65 percent -- disapprove of the way the U.S. Congress is handling its job, while 28 percent approve. When asked about Marco Rubio, 48 percent of Florida registered voters disapprove of the way he’s handling his job as U.S. senator, while 40 percent approve and 12 percent don’t know.

“Even though Rubio was able to win re-election in November, he’s continued to have low job-approval numbers,” Binder said. “It will be interesting to see how his latest interactions with protestors affects his approval going forward.”

For Bill Nelson, 42 percent of Florida registered voters approve of his job performance as U.S. Senator, 28 percent disapprove and 29 percent don’t know.

“A 42 percent job approval isn’t a number an incumbent is usually happy about, but with only 28 percent of the electorate disapproving of the job he’s doing, Nelson is a net positive 14 points. That difference in approval is greater than Rubio, Trump and his likely re-election opponent, Scott,” said Binder.

The majority -- 51 percent -- of Florida registered voters disapprove, while 46 percent approve of Trump’s travel ban executive order, which prohibits travel to the U.S. for the next three months by citizens of seven majority Muslim countries. It also suspends the U.S. refugee program. Following national trends, Florida opposes the Trump immigration ban, but the state is divided, according to Binder.

For all of the controversy surrounding transgender rights, 62 percent of registered Florida voters don’t think using the same bathroom as a transgender individual would make them uneasy. The overwhelming majority -- 79 percent -- don’t think transgender individuals are a sexual threat to children and women.

“Hopefully, findings like these can change the way the debate over the rights of transgender people is presented in the media,” said Dr. Curtis Phills, UNF associate professor of psychology. “Too often, which bathroom a transgender person uses is presented as controversial when, in fact, most people aren't concerned.”