For the first time since the Great Recession began in 2007, more than 50 percent of Floridians are more optimistic than pessimistic about the state's direction, according to a Florida Chamber poll just completed.
Not only do Floridians have a positive feeling about the path their state is taking (52 percent to 27 percent), but they approve of the job Gov. Rick Scott is doing (53 percent to 40 percent).
In this, the Florida Chamber Political Institute's first statewide poll since Election 2016 ended and eighth for the year, Floridians were surveyed on a number of issues as the nation enters a Donald Trump presidency.
The approval of Scott's job performance has widened, but it doesn't mark any significant change, the Chamber notes. Throughout his term as governor, "Scott has mostly been seen as doing a good job, even if voters sometimes don't have a favorable opinion of him." This poll shows 44 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Scott, 42 percent an unfavorable opinion.
Jobs and the economy remain the No. 1 concern among Florida voters at 19 percent, followed by healthcare/Affordable Care Act at 10 percent and education at 9 percent.
Global warming and immigration are issues that have risen during the last year and still concern Florida voters with 8 percent choosing global warming and 7 percent immigration.
Looking at gender differences in issue preferences, though they aren't as great in Florida as in some states: Men say jobs and the economy are most important at 20 percent, followed by education at 10 percent, healthcare at 8 percent, global warming at 8 percent and immigration at 7 percent. Women also believe jobs and the economy are most important at 17 percent, followed by healthcare at 11 percent, education at 9 percent, global warming at 8 percent and immigration at 6 percent.
At present -- since the election ended -- there are 12.9 million registered voters in Florida, with 4.9 million Democrats, 4.6 million Republicans, and 3.1 million No Party Affiliates (NPAs).
Republicans and NPAs are especially optimistic, with 72 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of NPAs saying things are heading in the right direction. Only 35 percent of Democrats are optimistic.
Florida voters for the first time have a more positive than negative view of President-Elect Donald Trump (46 percent to 44 percent).
Party breakdown on Trump: 76 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of NPAs/others have a favorable opinion of Trump; 64 percent of Democrats have a more unfavorable opinion.
Looking ahead to the 2018 governor’s race, Democratic voters are mostly undecided.
If the Democratic primary were held today, it would be a tight race between former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and trial lawyer John Morgan. In the Democratic primary for governor the Chamber poll finds 45 percent undecided; 16 percent for Graham; 15 percent for Morgan; 8 percent for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; 5 percent for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; 5 percent for Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; 4 percent for "someone else".
Looking to the 2016 Republican primary for governor, Republicans put Adam Putnam at the top, though an overwhelming majority remains undecided:
In the Republican primary for governor, 64 percent are undecided and 22 percent are for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The poll gives the hypothetical head-to-head matchup for governor to Adam Putnam, with a small lead over the top two Democrats: Putnam leads Graham, 39 percent to 36 percent; Putnam leads Morgan, 40 percent to 37 percent.
Florida voters overwhelmingly say they would rather see a business person as governor than a personal injury trial lawyer (67 percent to 9 percent).
"It may seem that we have a long time before we need to address the election for governor and cabinet," says Marian Anderson, executive director of the Florida Chamber Political Institute. "But time will fly by and before we know it, we will be in the midst of campaigns that will affect Florida’s future. We will be polling continuously to see what the early perceptions of voters are and provide analysis on trends in an effort to help guide the business community as we march onward to secure Florida’s future."
DID YOU KNOW? Only two Florida Senate seats are term-limited in 2018 -- the two belonging to Rene Garcia and Jack Latvala. Also in 2018, 20 Senate seats will be on the ballot, as well as 120 House seats -- Marian Johnson.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith