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Gubernatorial candidates suffer from low name recognition, new survey says

Whether Republican or Democrat, Florida’s gubernatorial candidates have an existential problem

Florida voters really don’t know who they are.

A new survey released by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab lays out the name identification problem for the field in sharp relief.

“It’s a little surprising that so few people have heard of the candidates, particularly Adam Putnam who has won two statewide races, and Gwen Graham, who is a former member of Congress and the daughter of former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF. “These results highlight both the opportunities for the candidates to shape the voters’ perception of them and the challenges they face in getting out their message.”

The poll of 619 registered F;prod voters asked respondents to opine on gubernatorial hopefuls: Democrats Graham, Phillip Levine, Andrew Gillum, and Republicans Richard Corcoran, Ron DeSantis and Putnam.

The percentage of total respondents who had never heard of the Democrats ranges from 73 percent for Levine to 81 percent for Gillum. Graham had 11 percent favorable and four percent unfavorable toward her, while 78 percent had never heard of her. Gillum had seven percent favorable against four unfavorable, and Levine (who has bought television ads for months) had eight percent favorable and five percent unfavorable.

The landscape is almost as bleak with Democratic respondents for the party’s candidates.

The total respondents who hadn’t heard of the candidates: 65 percent for Levine, 75 percent for Graham, and 78 percent for Gillum. Of the candidates, Graham was in the best shape with the party members who responded, at 15 percent favorable and three percent unfavorable.

Republican candidates likewise have room to define themselves to voters: 67 percent of all respondents had never heard of Putnam, 72 percent of DeSantis and 78 percent of Corcoran. Putnam, with 14 percent viewing him favorably and 7 percent unfavorably, fared the best with total voters. DeSantis was at 10 percent favorable and five percent unfavorable, and Corcoran was at just five percent favorable and six percent unfavorable.

Among registered Republican voters, there was some daylight between Putnam and the others. Putnam stood at 22 percent favorable against two percent unfavorable with voters of his own party, which compares well to DeSantis (14 favorable to three unfavorable), and Corcoran (six to five).

Methodology: The University of North Florida (UNF), Florida Statewide Poll was conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at UNF Monday, January 29, through Sunday, February 4, by live callers via the telephone, and calls were made from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. 

The margin of sampling error for the total sample of 619 registered voters is +/- 3.9 percentage points. The breakdown of completed responses on a landline phone to a cell phone was 27 to 73 percent.

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