Suffolk University/USA TODAY Florida Poll

DeSantis and Trump would defeat Biden in Sunshine State

Florida voters would choose Governor Ron DeSantis for president in 2024, if he were the Republican nominee, over President Biden by 52%-44%, a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY network poll of Florida voters likely to vote in midterm elections finds.

The poll finds that Florida voters would also prefer former President Donald Trump over Biden (47%-44%) in what appears to be a tighter matchup.

Despite DeSantis’ larger lead over Biden, in a hypothetical Republican primary between Trump and DeSantis, Trump leads the Florida governor by 7 points (47%-40%).

Biden’s low approval ratings not only indicate vulnerability in the 2024 general election in Florida, but also in a Democratic primary in that state. In a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup between former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Biden, Clinton edges Biden 46%-43%. Both DeSantis and Trump would defeat Clinton by 13 and 7 points, respectively.

“Ironically, this 2024 Florida case study could be the narrative of the 2022 midterms: party nominees, who are strong within their party but less popular among the general electorate, could win their respective party primaries but falter in the general election,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

Florida Midterm Ballot Tests
Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll February 1, 2022

Gubernatorial and senate races

In the 2022 race for governor, DeSantis (49%) leads former Governor Charlie Crist (43%) with 8% undecided. DeSantis (51%) also leads Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried (40%) with 9% undecided.

In the race for United States Senate, incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (49%) leads Congresswoman Val Demings (41%) with 10% undecided. Rubio enjoys wider margins over Demings among men (57%-37%), white voters (56%-37%), and Hispanic voters (53%-33%), while Demings heavily carries Black voters (71%-16%). Demings trails partly due to a name recognition problem. Among all voters, 29% had never heard of her and 29% had heard her name but not formed an opinion. However, Demings leads Rubio (51%-42%) among those familiar with both candidates.

“On the surface, it looks like a longshot bid for Val Demings, who trails by 8 points with just 10% undecided,” Paleologos said. “But the familiar-with-both candidates data point suggests that as Demings introduces herself to more voters, her deficit could narrow, giving her the potential to flip the seat.”

COVID-19

A slight majority (52%) of voters support the state’s ban on vaccine requirements and more voters feel that Florida’s COVID-19 policies have helped the Florida economy (49%) than hurt it (38%). However, only 46% rated the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as excellent/good while 53% rated it fair/poor.

Economy

Economic conditions in Florida were rated as excellent/good (47%) versus fair/poor (50%). Jobs/economy (20%) was also the top issue overall, followed by immigration policy (15%), inflation (13%), COVID-19 and crime/guns (tied at 9%), and schools/education (8%).

Mental health crisis

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of likely midterm voters say there is a mental health crisis today, tracking the findings in the Suffolk University/USA TODAY national poll released in early January, in which 88% indicated there is a mental health crisis in the country.

Direction of country and President Biden

Florida voters by a 30-point margin believe the country is on the wrong track (28% right, 58% wrong), with President Biden’s approval rating at 39% approve and 53% disapprove. Biden’s approval rating for his handling of the pandemic was closer at 45% approve, 48% disapprove. However, voters panned his handling of the economy (36% approve, 57% disapprove).

Methodology

This statewide survey of 500 likely Florida voters was conducted January 26-29 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were very or somewhat likely to vote in the November 2022 general election for governor. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. The subset of 164 likely 2024 Democratic Primary voters for president has a margin of error of +/-7.6 percentage points and the subset of 176 likely 2024 Republican Primary voters for president has a margin of error of +/-7.4 percentage points. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website: www.suffolk.edu/SUPRC. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected].

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