UNF Pollster: New Poll Showing Nelson Up By 6 Points Not Reflective Of Fla. Electorate

Oct 22, 2018

A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson with a six point lead over his Republican challenger, Florida Governor Rick Scott, but a prominent University of North Florida pollster says that result is skewed because the poll’s sample of likely voters has too many self identified independents and non-party affiliated voters.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University on Monday, October 22, shows that Nelson leads Scott 52 percent to 46 percent among likely voters. In a September 25 survey released by the university, Sen. Nelson led 53 to 46 percent.

According to Quinnipiac, women, black, Hispanic and independent voters are the main factors driving Nelson’s lead.

"At this point, Sen. Nelson's six-point overall lead is built on his large margin among independent voters, 60 - 38 percent,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “If that margin holds up, the senator will be difficult to beat. Moreover, Sen. Nelson's 20-point advantage among women is twice Gov. Scott's 10-point edge among men."

Results from Quinnipiac's most recent poll on Florida's U.S. Senate race.
Credit https//poll.qu.edu / Quinnipiac University

Mike Binder, the head of the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab, has been critical of Quinnipiac’s polling methods.

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“A poll like Quinnipiac that doesn’t use a voter file list and asks people party identification and they have upwards of 30 percent of independents or non-partisan affiliates in there, that’s not going to be reflective of the general electorate that turns out on November 6th,” he said. “So you have to take those with a huge grain of salt.”

Comparison of Quinnipiac's pool of likely voters in September poll vs. October poll.

“NPAs and others are breaking heavily for [Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew] Gillum and not quite as heavily, but they are breaking for Nelson. And if you have a disproportionate amount of those people in the survey it’s going to alter your election results,” Binder said. “When you start putting out numbers that include close to 30 percent of NPAs, when during general elections you're lucky to get 23 or 24 percent and in midterms closer to 20 or 21, I just don’t think that’s a reasonable poll to put much stock into.”

According to Quinnipiac, 1,161 Florida likely voters were surveyed from October 17 - 21 for this poll and Nelson’s lead falls outside of the poll’s stated 3.5 percent margin of error.

An average of public polls from Real Clear Politics has Nelson leading Scott by 2.4 percent.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.