Polling trends continue to favor U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in his Republican gubernatorial primary fight with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
A poll released Wednesday by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative showed DeSantis leading Putnam by a margin of 36 percent to 27 percent among Republican voters in the Aug. 28 primary, with 23 percent undecided and the remainder going to other candidates. A May survey by FAU gave DeSantis a one percentage point lead over Putnam.
The FAU poll is in line with other polls that have shown movement in favor of DeSantis, a three-term congressman from Northeast Florida, after Putnam, a two-term member of the state Cabinet, led earlier in the race.
A key factor in DeSantis’ favor among Republican voters has been his endorsement by President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to appear with the congressman Tuesday at a Tampa rally.
“President Trump’s backing of Congressman DeSantis appears to have pushed the congressman past the early favorite Adam Putnam in the Republican primary,” said Kevin Wagner, a FAU political-science professor involved with the polling institute.
But while Trump remains popular among Republican voters, the FAU poll showed his approval rating among all Florida voters is “upside down,” with 47 percent disapproving and 41 percent approving.
“While the president can help Congressman DeSantis in the primary, Mr. Trump’s underwater approval ratings may be a drag in the general election,” Wagner said.
The FAU poll, which was conducted Friday and Saturday, showed the impact of Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene’s entry into the crowded Democratic field in the party’s gubernatorial primary.
Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee was leading former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine by a margin of 20 percent to 16 percent, with Greene claiming 14 percent, the poll showed. Winter Park businessman Chris King was at 9 percent, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 7 percent, with 31 percent of voters undecided.
“It appears that the Greene candidacy is a game-changer in the race for the Democratic nomination,” said Monica Escalera, director of FAU’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative. “In May, without Greene running, Levine and Graham were the front runners, now Greene is in the top tier of candidates.”
In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott had a 44 percent to 40 percent lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, with 16.5 percent undecided, the poll showed.
In other survey questions, 86 percent of voters said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about toxic algae blooms that are impacting Florida’s southern coastal communities.
More than 60 percent of the voters said they were concerned that Russia may try to interfere in the 2018 elections, with 39 percent of that group saying they were “very concerned.”
The top issues for voters were immigration (29 percent), health care (26 percent) and the economy (13 percent), the poll showed.
The FAU poll surveyed 800 registered Florida voters, with an overall margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. The margin of error for the gubernatorial primary voters was about 6 percentage points.