The St. Pete Polls survey found Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, was the pick for just over 50 percent of likely voters in CD 16 while Shapiro, a Siesta Key Democrat, earned a hair over 43 percent support. The remaining 6 percent said they were undecided, giving each candidate room to grow in the five weeks between now and Election Day.
The new poll shows Buchanan much further ahead than internal numbers circulated by Team Shapiro a month ago that put the attorney within striking distance of flipping the Manatee and Sarasota-based seat. Still, the new measure shows the race is slightly tighter than it was in the summer, when St. Pete Polls found Buchanan with a 10-point edge, 44-34 percent.
The new survey shows both men with strong support from their respective bases, with Shapiro holding a slight lead among unaffiliated and third-party voters, 46.2 percent to 45.5 percent. Demographically, Buchanan holds a 54-41 percent lead among white voters while Shapiro pulls about two-thirds of black voters to Buchanan’s 21 percent. Hispanic voters prefer Shapiro by double digits, 49-39 percent.
Buchanan’s lead with white voters is significant as they made up nearly 80 percent of the district’s electorate according to data from when the seat was redrawn ahead of the 2016 election.
By gender, Buchanan holds a 9-point edge among male voters, while that lead shrinks to 4 points among women. Buchanan also holds a 10-point lead among Gen Xers, a 3-point lead among younger Baby Boomers and a 13-point lead among voters over 70. Shapiro’s only edge is among Millennials, where tops Buchanan 48-45 percent.
St. Pete Polls also measured the favorability rating of both candidates and found some good news for the incumbent: 46 percent of likely voters have a positive view of the sixth-term congressman compared to 38 percent who view him negatively, leading to a plus-8 in favorability. The remaining sixth said they were unsure.
Shapiro, by comparison, is underwater. About 38 percent of CD 16 voters said they had a favorable opinion of the trial lawyer while 42 percent said they had an unfavorable view, giving him a negative-4 on the fave/unfave measure. The remaining fifth of voters were unsure about the Democratic nominee.
Those favorability scores come after months of negative campaigning from both sides.
Buchanan has slammed Shapiro for his investments in gun companies, opioid drug companies, and companies tied to the Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil disaster, though for the most part those investments are part of index funds where the owner doesn’t have direct control of the exchange traded fund’s contents.
Shapiro has hammered Buchanan over the timing of a multimillion-dollar yacht purchase, which came on the same day he voted for the for the first draft of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” That story, first reported by Florida Politics, got another twist in late August, when it was discovered that a foreign bank that lobbied the U.S. House — but not Buchanan directly — financed the yacht purchase.
Buchanan won re-election to the House with nearly 60 percent of the vote two years ago. The same cycle, President Donald Trump carried the Congressional district over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 54-43 percent.
In 2018, most forecasters predict that Buchanan will hold on to his seat for another term. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight currently pegs his chances at 7 in 8, while the Cook Political Report lists and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball each rate CD 16 as “lean Republican.”
The St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, was conducted via an automated polling system on Oct. 1. It received responses from 1,248 registered voters who said they planned to vote in the upcoming election. Republicans made up 45 percent of the sample while Democrats made up a third.
The top-line results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.