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DeSantis enjoys healthy election lead, poll finds

Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis Campaign / Twitter

Gov. Ron DeSantis easily leads Democratic gubernatorial candidates Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist in a new poll from the University of North Florida.

DeSantis would beat Crist 55% to 34% if the election were held today, according to the poll released by the PUblic Opinion Research Lab at UNF on Thursday. Eleven percent were undecided or refused to answer.

The incumbent governor would beat Fried 55% to 32%, with 12% undecided or not answering.

"We're seeing a very wide margin for DeSantis against both top Democratic candidates — Crist and Fried," said Michael Binder, director of the lab and a professor of political science. "A lot of Democratic voters still don't know who they would vote for, so I would expect that lead to narrow between now and November."

The UNF poll mirrored polls by other organizations. A Mason-Dixon poll earlier this month found DeSantis leading Crist by 51% to 43%. He led Fried by 53% to 42%.

UNF also found that DeSantis narrowly edged out former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical primary for the Republican presidential nomination — 44% to 41%. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.74 percentage points, so the race could go either way.

"With a lot of speculation about a possible presidential bid from DeSantis, we thought this would be an interesting hypothetical," Binder said. "With both of them calling Florida home, this is a pivotal state and an outlier compared to national polling on this race."

UNF polled 685 registered Florida voters by phone from Feb. 7 through 20. The sample included 36% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 29% no party affiliation or other.

Democrats chose Crist over Fried by 27% to 19% in a primary, with 4% picking state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami and 4% businessman David Nelson Freeman.

"Crist has eight points on Fried in the governor's primary, but we still have 38% of registered Democrats in this survey who are undecided," Binder said. "These folks likely won't make up their minds for a while, so this will be a pretty muddled picture until later in the summer."

In other findings:

  • Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio topped Democrat Val Demings by 46% to 34%. Seventeen percent were undecided.
  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly disapprove of President Job Biden's job performance. Thirty-six percent said they somewhat or strongly approve.
  • DeSantis got a better rating. Fifty-eight percent somewhat or strongly approved of DeSantis' performance, compared with 37% who somewhat or strongly disapproved. DeSantis' approval is up by 10 percentage points since a UNF poll in October 2020, Binder said.
  • Asked who they feel won the 2020 presidential election, 58% said Biden definitely or probably won. Thirty-four percent said Trump. Almost two-thirds of Republicans believe that Trump was the true winner.