A new poll from the University of North Florida puts Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried ahead of Charlie Crist in the Aug. 23 gubernatorial Democratic Primary Election.
The poll says Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis would beat either one of them if the General Election were held now. But UNF pollsters also said either hypothetical contest appears much closer today than when UNF last checked, in February.
The same poll also finds Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings cakewalks her Democratic Primary Election for the U.S. Senate, and then would be leading Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in a General Election, if it were held today.
The findings of the survey of 1,624 registered Florida voters who said they are likely Primary Election Voters, conducted online Aug. 8-12 by UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab, are starkly different from what has been found in most other recent polls. Others have found Crist comfortably ahead of Fried, and Rubio and Demings in a dead heat.
The UNF poll has Fried drawing 47% and Crist just 43% of Democratic likely Primary Election voters.
“Fried seems to have reversed the eight-point lead that Crist had when we asked registered Democrats about vote choice in February,” Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science, said in a new release.
The UNF survey says if the General Election were held today, DeSantis would beat Fried 50% to 43%. He would beat Crist 50% to 42%. Binder said both potential matchups are much closer than they appeared in February, when DeSantis was up by over 20 points.
It says Demings will take 80% of the vote in Democratic U.S. Senate Primary Election and that she leads Rubio 48% to 44%.
UNF said the poll has a margin of error of just over 3 points.
“It is important to keep in mind that these are registered voters, and Republicans are generally more likely to turn out in November,” Binder cautioned.
Historically, UNF polls have been faulted for frequently finding Democrats ahead in statewide races they wound up losing, though the margins of error usually absorbed much of the differences.
In the fall of 2016, for example, two UNF polls showed Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in Florida, the second poll with her lead within the margin of error. Trump won by just over 1 point. In the early fall of 2018, UNF pollsters had Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum leading DeSantis 47% to 43%, with a 4-point margin of error. DeSantis won by a fraction of a point. UNF also had then-Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a dead heat in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, and Scott won by a fraction.
For this poll, UNF described fine-tuning that included stratifying Florida into 18 demographic-geographic areas, instead of 10 markets, and walking the data through three steps of weighting to match samples with Florida demographics.