The race for Florida’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District is one of the most compelling contests this election cycle, with two incumbent Congressmen — Republican Rep. Neal Dunn and Democratic Rep. Al Lawson — battling for its seat.
But while new polling figures from Sachs Media suggest that their showdown will indeed be close, several signs indicate the race could swing slightly in the Republican’s favor.
Of 400 registered and likely voters within the district Sachs polled over three days this month, 43% said they support Dunn. Lawson enjoyed 40% of voter support, well within the margin of error (+/- 5%). The remaining 17% of voters were undecided.
Among those who have already decided whom they’ll vote for, 52% sided with Dunn compared to 48% for Lawson.
Dunn and Lawson share roughly the same level of name recognition. Sachs found that two-thirds of voters are familiar with Dunn, particularly those in Bay County, where he has lived since 1990. Meanwhile, 62% know of Lawson, especially those in Democratic-heavy Leon County, which includes his hometown of Tallahassee.
Of voter who knew of the candidates, 61% expressed favorability for Lawson compared to 59% for Dunn. Neither appeared to have a familiarity edge among voters in the district’s more rural counties.
“The district, hailed as competitive, could very well prove to be so,” Sachs personnel wrote.
But the priorities voters cited as most important, combined with their general unhappiness with President Joe Biden’s job performance, suggest that Dunn may enjoy an advantage at the polls in November.
Fifty-three percent of voters said inflation was their greatest concern — an issue many lay at the current President’s feet — followed by poverty and affordable housing (33%), immigration (30%), gun reform (26%), health care (23), racial justice (22%), national security (18%) and education (16%).
Asked about their approval of Biden, 41% said they were either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the job he’s done. More than half said they are “very dissatisfied.”
Even Democrats in the district expressed displeasure with the President. Fewer than half (46%) said they were “very satisfied” with him. Among non-partisan voters, satisfaction with Biden sat at about 20%.
Early this month, the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear arguments about the state’s new congressional map, which staffers from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office drew up. Shortly after the Court’s refusal to take up the issue, Lawson declared he would seek re-election in CD 2, which Dunn represents.
Lawson has represented Florida’s 5th Congressional District since 2017, the same year Dunn won his CD 2 seat.
DeSantis’ new map blends parts of the two prior districts to create one with “somewhat of a split personality,” Sachs personnel wrote. The western portion of the district includes Dunn’s home base of Bay County and is a stretch of mostly rural areas. But it also contains Leon and Gadsden counties, two of the state’s most Democratic-leaning areas that Lawson represented for years in the Florida Legislature.
Accordingly, that divide is reflected by the district’s electorate. Within the new CD 2, 40% of voters are Republican, 40% are Democrats and the remainder are unaffiliated.
“Between the relative unpopularity of his party’s leaders, lower historic Democratic turnout in midterm elections and voters’ concerns over inflation, Lawson could be sailing into strong headwinds, with just 19 weeks until Election Day,” Sachs personnel wrote. “That said, Dunn’s lead over Lawson among CD 2 voters is significantly smaller than the lead held by Gov. DeSantis, and Lawson’s favorability rating among these constituents is a full 20 points greater than President Biden’s.”
While the GOP has historically enjoyed better turnout rates during midterms than Democrats, nonpartisan voters in the district “tend to act somewhat more like Democrats — at least in the data we’re seeing,” Sachs personnel wrote.
This dichotomy was evidenced in some of the poll’s other findings. When asked whom they’d vote for if the election for Governor happened today, 94% of Republicans and 16% of Democrats in the district said they’d pick DeSantis.
Nonpartisan voters sided more with Democrats, with just 29% saying they’d vote for DeSantis compared to 42% for U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and 29% who said they are undecided.
Sachs did not say what voters’ opinions were of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also running for Governor, or whether they even polled CD 2 voters about her candidacy.