A new poll shows Gov. Ron DeSantis narrowly leading all three high-profile Democrats he may face next November. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist boasts the best chance at winning the Democratic nomination for Governor and — just barely — puts up the best showing against DeSantis.
Victory Insights, a national polling firm with a presence in Naples, polled more than 600 Floridians on Tuesday, the same day Crist announced he would run for Governor this cycle. But the firm also surveyed voters’ thoughts on two other likely Democratic candidates: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Val Demings.
DeSantis leads all three candidates in head-to-head matchups. His narrowest lead came against Crist, a former Republican Governor-turned-Democratic Congressman. The poll found DeSantis up 53% to Crist’s 47% in a hypothetical matchup. That still falls within the poll’s 4.1% margin of error, but demonstrates a clear lead for the Republican Governor.
Fried, Florida’s only Democrat holding statewide office, performed at almost the same level as Crist. The poll finds DeSantis leads Fried about 53% to 47%, with a fine look at the numbers showing Fried getting just 0.3% less support from survey respondents than Crist.
Both do better than Demings. The poll finds DeSantis beating the Orlando Democrat 54% to 46%.
While the three Democrats perform at roughly the same level in the head-to-heads, Crist goes into a hypothetical Democratic primary with a clear edge, according to the poll. Just the Democrats were polled on their preference between the three candidates, and 53% supported Crist, compared to 30% who favor Demings and 17% who like Fried.
The polling with the smaller pool of voters had a 7% margin of error, but Crist still holds a lead outside that.
Two big takeaways from the polling stand out.
The first is that pretty much any major Democrat holds the same standing against DeSantis, indicating the race for the moment remains a referendum on the incumbent. There, DeSantis enters the campaign a favorite for reelection, but not necessarily a lock.
The second is that Crist starts a likely primary with far greater name recognition than his possible competitors. That’s bolstered by approval numbers on all four candidates included in the poll. More than who voters like or don’t like, the most striking element there comes among those with no opinion on some candidates.
A full 40% of those polled feel neutral about Fried, and 38% hold no opinion on Demings. That shows many haven’t heard of or paid any significant attention to those Democratic candidates. By comparison, only 7% had no opinion on Crist. Just 2% had nothing to say about DeSantis.
Crist has the strongest favorables among the Democrats, with 55% of those surveyed holding a somewhat or very favorable opinion of him. But he also has the strongest unfavorables, with 39% giving a somewhat or very bad score.
By comparison, Demings had 32% give her a very favorable rating, higher than Crist or Fried, with another 17% giving her a somewhat favorable rating. Just 13% rated her somewhat unfavorably and not one person polled rated Demings as very unfavorable.
About 37% of those polled gave Fried a very or somewhat favorable rating and 24% graded her as somewhat or very unfavorable.
As for DeSantis, the poll showed the Governor a polarizing figure, but suggests he’s benefiting from that. About 49% of those polled view DeSantis very favorably, nearly a majority in its own right. Another 8% grade him somewhat favorably. He also elicits strong feelings on the other end, with 28% grading him very unfavorably and 13% somewhat unfavorably.
Unsurprising, the partisan breakdown shows DeSantis performing best with his base. About 76% of Republicans polled give him the highest marks. Meanwhile, only 43% of Democrats do the same for Crist or Demings, and 26% give top marks to Fried.