Poll: Gloomy outlook on national direction tempered by voters’ sunnier view of Florida

Sunrise in Miami
The U.S. as a whole is much worse off than Florida, say likely voters in the Sunshine State.

Three-quarters of Florida voters have a downright dismal view of how America is doing today, but they’re far more optimistic about the Sunshine State, according to a new report detailing the statewide mood pre-election.

A whopping 76% of Floridians who are likely to vote in the Nov. 8 General Election told pollsters last month that the country is headed down the wrong path. Money proved a major issue, with 53% saying the national economy isn’t working well for them and 63% expressing worry about their personal finances.

They had a much brighter — but still negative — outlook on the Sunshine State, with 49% of adult respondents saying Florida is on its way to doing better.

Working on behalf of AARP Florida, the bipartisan polling team of Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research interviewed 1,626 likely Florida voters statewide Aug. 24-31. The sample included 500 likely voters and oversamples of 550 likely voters 50 and older, 262 Hispanic likely voters 50 and older, and 314 Black likely voters 50 and older.

The margin of error for the 500-person statewide sample was 4.4%. For voters 50 and older, it was 3.3% overall and 4.9% for 50-plus voters Black and Hispanic.

Eight in 10 Republicans and 67% of independents polled said they were concerned about their financial well-being. In fact, more than half the members of every demographical and political group — from men and women, young Floridians, and those age 50-plus to Black, Hispanic and White voters — said they had financial concerns except one: Democrats. Just 43% said they fretted about money.

Views on Florida’s well-being varied drastically along political lines as well. Just 11% of Democrats 50 and older said they felt the state was headed in a positive direction compared to 83% of Republicans and 46% of independents.

Older men mostly saw conditions in Florida as good, with 53% saying the state was on its way to more prosperity. Women in the same age range differed at an identical rate, with 53% of female respondents saying Florida is headed toward darker days.

Contrasted with voter opinions from other states, Florida deserves its nickname. Its 49% approval rating ranked best among six states the AARP has given election surveys this year, according to spokesperson Jamie Champion Mongiovi.

Michigan was second-best with 44% of voters there saying things were going well and getting better, followed by 43% in Maine, 41% in Georgia, 38% in Nevada, and 23% in Pennsylvania.

The question of whether a state is headed in the right or wrong direction has more bearing today on a gubernatorial race than on federal contests in most cases, but that may not be the case with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic challenger, former Governor and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, a founding principal at Fabrizio Ward.

Rather, it’s the contest between U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, where those figures will be most relevant.

“No one’s opinion of Charlie’s changing and probably no one’s opinion of DeSantis is changing,” he said. “In the Senate race (it’s) not 100% sure, because there’s a universe that doesn’t know about Demings.”

And it’s a large universe at that, according to Democratic pollster John Anzalone, founder of Impact Research.

“But the fact Rubio is underwater and still overperforming where he is relative to his image and Charlie, in the Governor’s race, is doing the same thing is really a function of the extreme polarization that we’re seeing in these numbers,” he said.

Anzalone’s company released its first post-Primary poll on the Governor’s race last week, and the data was encouraging for Democrats, showing DeSantis with a 5-percentage-point lead more than two months from Election Day. Impact Research also found Demings trailed Rubio by just 3 percentage points, well within the 3.5% margin of error.

Most voters already have their minds made up about whom they intend to vote for in this year’s midterm. In the Governor’s race, 49% of voters 50 and older said they will “definitely” cast ballots for DeSantis compared to 40% who were immovably aligned with Crist.

Of the 11% “persuadable” voters remaining, 68% said Florida is headed in the wrong direction and 63% voiced worry over their finances.

In the U.S. Senate race, meanwhile, 42% of voters were Rubio stalwarts while 39% said they were a lock for Demings. That leaves 19% of persuadable voters, 80% of whom disapproved of the direction the country is headed. Sixty-six percent said they have financial concerns.

Nine out of 10 voters aged 50 and up said they were “extremely motivated” to participate in the General Election races for Governor, U.S. Senate, and Congress. That’s a very high figure and just slightly less enthusiastic than voters nationwide in the lead-up to the 2020 General Election.

Pollsters conducted the survey with 35% by cellphone, 35% by online text, and 30% by landline. Of those surveyed, 54% were female, 46% were male, 72% were White, 15% were Hispanic, 10% were Black and 3% identified as “other.”

Fifty-five percent were 65 or older, while 45% were between 50 and 65. Fifty-eight percent lived in a suburban area, while 26% lived in an urban environment and 12% resided in a rural region. Just over half were retired, while 42% were employed, 3% were unemployed and 3% said their work status fell into another category.

Party-wise, 44% were Republican, 36% were Democratic and 20% were independent. Nearly two-thirds had less than a four-year college degree.

Thirty-four percent of voters 50 and older plan to vote in person on Election Day, while 31% intend to vote by mail and 26% said they’ll take advantage of early in-person voting options.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

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