Exit Polls: Mixed voter feelings on Scott, Crist

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A majority of Florida voters had an unfavorable view of incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and believe Democratic challenger Charlie Crist switched parties for political expediency, according to data from preliminary exit polling conducted in Florida for The Associated Press and the television networks.

A majority of voters disapproved of how Scott responded to health care reform, the polling showed. While a majority of voters had a favorable view of Crist, 6 in 10 say the former GOP governor switched parties to win elections rather than to reflect his own beliefs. Overall, Florida voters expressed worry about the economy and overwhelmingly believe the nation is on the wrong track.

Here are some highlights of voters’ views from Tuesday’s elections based on the exit-polling interviews:

WHO LIKED CRIST: Crist appealed to blacks, Hispanics, moderates and younger voters. African-Americans supported Crist over Scott by an almost 8-to-1 margin, and Crist’s support among Hispanics was almost 20 points higher than it was for Scott. In fact, Scott’s support among Hispanics dropped by around a dozen points compared to the 2010 gubernatorial race. Crist also appealed to voters under the age of 40, and also voters who identified themselves as “moderate.” Voters in South Florida and central Florida preferred Crist over Scott, as did voters in cities.

WHO LIKED SCOTT: White voters overwhelmingly supported Scott. While senior citizens supported Scott, the incumbent governor lost support among late middle-aged voters compared to the 2010 gubernatorial election. Scott’s appeal to voters who identify as “independent” also dropped by about 10 percentage points compared to four years ago. Voters without a college degree favored Scott over Crist, as did voters earning more than $100,000 a year and Catholic and Protestant voters. Voters in the Panhandle and along Florida’s Gulf Coast preferred Scott over Crist, as did voters in the suburbs and rural areas.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Although 60 percent approval is needed to pass, support for the medical marijuana amendment crossed racial, economic and educational boundaries. It appealed to voters from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, income levels and educational attainment. Democrats and voters who identify as independent also supported the proposed amendment. The only voters who opposed legalizing medical marijuana were senior citizens and Republicans.

TOP ISSUES: Florida voters are worried about the economy. By a 3-to-1 margin, voters said they are worried about the direction of the nation’s economy than not worried about it, and the economy was their top issue of concern. By a 2-1 margin, voters approve of the U.S. military action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq than disapprove. Florida voters are evenly split on whether the state should recognize same-sex marriage, and a plurality of voters believe health care reform went too far.

2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE: With two native sons, being talked about as possible Republican presidential candidates in 2016, Florida voters were less than enthusiastic about their running. About half say Jeb Bush would not make a good president, four in 10 say he would, and the state’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, fares about the same, with half saying he wouldn’t be a good president while just under four in 10 say he would.

The survey of Florida voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as 1,861 voters left a random sample of 33 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 773 voters who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.