Philip Levine tops polls in Tampa Bay, South Florida

Philip Levine

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the four-way Democratic Primary for Governor in the state’s two largest media markets, according to a pair of new polls.

The Public Policy Polling surveys, commissioned by Levine senior adviser Christian Ulvert, show Levine with 32 percent support among Tampa Bay-area Democrats and 42 percent support among party faithful in South Florida.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham took the No. 2 spot in both regions, scoring 18 percent support among Tampa Bay voters and 15 percent in South Florida, while Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King scored in the single digits.

The polls also include a hypothetical head-to-head between Graham and Levine, which Levine wins 36-23 in the Tampa Bay poll and 47-21 in the South Florida poll.

Both polls were conducted before the hour-long televised primary debate aired on Tampa Bay’s Fox 13 news station Wednesday. An April 12 statewide poll of the primary race, also commissioned by Ulvert, found Levine with 29 percent support followed by Graham at 23 percent and Gillum and King still in the single digits.

“For the first time in four cycles, although Tampa Bay doesn’t have a local candidate, new polling shows a new favorite has emerged. Voters there give Philip Levine a 14-point advantage over Gwen Graham,” the Levine campaign said in a statement accompanying the polls.

“The latest polling not only reflects Philip’s message and media campaign, but also his decision to invest heavily and early in a regional field and outreach program. With Levine for Governor being the only campaign with regional offices in the Tampa Bay area, we remain best positioned to reach voters through every medium.”

Levine’s early media buys – more than $6 million so far – are certainly being noticed in Tampa Bay, where 46 percent of Democrats said they’ve seen one of Levine’s many ads over the last several months.

To that end, the South Florida Democrat has the strongest name ID in the region at 48 percent, followed by Graham at 35 percent, Gillum at 27 percent and King at 15 percent.

Among the voters who offered their opinions on the candidates, Levine’s favorability was plus-32, Graham’s was plus-13, Gillum’s was plus-7 and King’s was minus-3.

In the South Florida poll, where 59 percent said they’d seen some Levine’s ads, his name ID score shoots up to 57, Graham’s fell to 33, Gillum’s to 20, and King’s edged up slightly to 17.

Levine scored a plus-47 in favorability on his home turf, which put Graham at plus-21, Gillum at plus-8 and King at plus-3.

After the polls were released, the Gillum campaign’s communications director, Geoff Burgan, sent out an email deriding it and Levine for being “out of touch.”

“Mayor Levine can buy all the robo-polls he wants, but nothing changes the fact that he’s out of touch with Floridians. During Wednesday’s debate, he didn’t know our House Democratic Leader or the size of our state education budget, and most glaringly said he was running for Governor because he ‘ran out of things to do,’” Burgan said.

”He’s out of touch with everyday Floridians’ reality: nearly half our households struggle to make ends meet, and they need a Governor who shares their life experiences and is prepared to tackle their challenges.”

The PPP polls also included questions on Florida Democrats views on President Donald Trump and the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Among Bay-area voters, Trump had a minus-83 favorability rating though nearly two-thirds said they Mueller to complete his investigation before Congress takes any steps toward impeaching the president. South Florida voters rate Trump at minus-80, with 56 percent saying they want the Mueller probe in the can before any talk of impeachment.

In both polls, 90 percent of respondents said they were certain to vote and 10 percent said they would probably vote.

The Tampa Bay poll was conducted by phone April 15-16 and took responses from 520 Democratic voters, two-thirds within Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the rest split between Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco.

Nearly half of respondents were over 65 years old, while 38 percent were in the 45-65 bracket and 14 percent were aged 18 to 45. Women made up 57 percent of those polled; the sample was 68 percent white, 16 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic.

The South Florida poll was conducted by phone April 6-7 and took responses from 641 Democratic voters. The gender split matched the Tampa Bay poll, while the race breakdown was 48 percent white, 32 percent black and 15 percent Hispanic. Voters over 65 made up 45 percent of those polled, followed by 45-65 at 38 percent and 18-45 at 17 percent.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.



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