PPP poll: Rick Scott’s approval ratings on rise, now trails Charlie Crist in hypothetical race by just 3 points

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Rick Scott, long the most toxic of the raft of Tea Party governors that swept into office two years ago, has seen his approval numbers jump considerably in recent months, much like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and other Republican chief executives who were once massively unpopular.

Make no mistake–Scott is still among the least popular governors in the country, tied for sixth least liked out of 36 we have polled on since the start of 2011.  39% approve of his job performance and 51% disapprove–still not good numbers, but the best we’ve ever found for him.  That is up from a 31-56 spread just a month earlier.  He reached lows in the mid-20s last year.  Now Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett is the least popular of the first-term Tea Partiers, and Rick Perry (R-TX), Dan Malloy (D-CT), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), and Bev Perdue (D-NC) are all more reviled with their constituents than Scott is with his.

Scott’s improvement is a combination of a rise in his support from independents and his own party.  Independents now split on him, 43-43, when they were at 26-60 in June.  That is over half his improvement.  The rest comes from Republicans, who now sit at 64-27 on their governor, versus 53-31.  He has still upset too many of his own partisans, but he is coming back to safer territory.  Democrats have not budged at all and probably won’t ever; they fall at 13-77.

Scott was so unpopular in June that he was down 12 points to an almost unknown challenger who has already announced her bid to oppose him in 2014 (Nan Rich).  And we have routinely found him trailing badly to his predecessor Charlie Crist, if he were to become a Democrat, which he is quite clearly in the process of doing.  But now Scott has pulled to within three points of Crist in a hypothetical match-up (44-41).

Even though Democrats are the most enthusiastic about Crist becoming a Democrat–56% of them think he should, versus 31% of Republicans and 32% of independents–and though they like Crist (50-31 favorability) a lot more than they do Scott, Scott still slightly outperforms his approval numbers across the aisle when pitted against Crist.  He gets 16% of their vote, versus 13% approval.  He was only getting 7% of Democrats against Rich.

Crist does get a bit more crossover support than Scott does, at 19% of his former party.  But Scott leads 43-40 with independents.  When we last polled the two head-to-head eight months ago, Crist wholloped Scott by 23 points (55-32), thanks to Crist’s 25% of Republicans and a 20-point lead with independents (52-32).

Part of Crist’s decline against Scott is his own personal numbers.  His 41-41 favorability split overall is down from 48-33 last November.  That includes declines across the board, but particularly with the independents who now favor Scott.  He has slipped 17 points on the margin with them, and they now actually dislike him, 36-44.

As for Scott’s lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll, who was recently accused of having an affair with a female staffer, most voters have no idea who she is.  73% have no opinion of her, and those who do split at 14% favorable and 13% unfavorable.

Outspoken Attorney General Pam Bondi is better-known but still not that well-recognized.  53% cannot say how they feel about her, and the rest break down at 28-19.  Republicans fall at 42-9, Democrats at 17-25, and independents at 28-25.

CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a GOP rising star, are as little-known as Carroll.

Democrats have a razor-thin one-point edge in the generic Congressional ballot in our first likely-voter test of that measure.  45% of voters prefer the unnamed Democrat in their district, to 44% who side with the Republican.  That is similar to June’s 46-44.  The two parties are polarized, but the GOP leads 45-30 with independents.

Floridians are moderately happy that the Miami Heat won the NBA title, but 53% don’t care.  32% say they’re happy about the outcome, and 9% unhappy.  These are better numbers than in June when we asked whether voters were rooting for the Heat or not.  Then, 36% said they were, and 28% said they weren’t.

LeBron James’ personal numberes have not moved at all since becoming a champion.  32% see him favorably and 19% unfavorably, exactly as in June.

Black voters are the most happy the Heat won, and they see James far better than white or Hispanic voters do.  African Americans are happy by a 61-5 margin, versus 37-10 for Hispanics and 26-11 for whites.  They also give LeBron a 65-13 favorability spread, as opposed to 25-20 among whites and 36-22 among Hispanics.

Chick-fil-A is not nearly as esteemed in Florida as in North Carolina.  54% see it favorably and 20% unfavorably, as compared to 68-22 in N.C.  Democrats, Republicans, and independents in N.C. all like the fast-food chicken joint a lot more than their Florida counterparts do.

Full results here

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.