For Rick Scott, a Tough Road to Reform

Governor prioritizes campaign promises over popularity, poll reveals
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: July 13, 2011 3:55 AM

Governor Rick Scott Poll
Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 58 percent disapproval rating may be scary to Republicans, but it's neither surprising nor necessarily lethal, a new Sunshine State News Poll finds.

"It's obviously horrible, and it makes perfect sense," says Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service, which conducted the July 5-7 statewide poll.

"Other [polling] firms have said he has the 'lowest' approval rating of any governor in the nation. While it may be true, it’s not hard to understand when you consider that Scott only won with 49 percent of the vote last year," Lee said.

Reflecting on the ups and downs of another first-term governor, Lee noted that Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett suffered from an anemic 35 percent approval rating shortly after he unveiled an unpopular state budget blueprint in March. Corbett won election with 55 percent of the vote last year.

"This means Scott is down 22 points compared to his re-election margin, while Corbett is down 20," Lee said.

Lee noted, "Corbett and Scott balanced budgets by relying on unpopular funding cuts to public education and other safety-net programs as a way to keep their campaign pledges and avoid raising taxes, so they are clearly paying the price politically for budgets that appear to have not spread the pain 'fairly.'

But the pollster acknowledged that Scott, with a 27 percent approval rate, faces a steeper climb back.

"The one difference between Scott and Corbett is that Scott has alienated more in his own party, since GOP voters give him only a 48-34 approval rating, while a solid majority of Pennsylvania Republicans still approve of Corbett," Lee reported.

Florida's Democrats and independents disapprove of Scott’s job by 83-7 and 59-21 margins, respectively.

Mired with an overall approval score of just 27 percent in the survey of 1,000 registered likely voters, Scott has been pilloried by the left and the right.

The venom spreads across both genders and all corners of the state. Even Scott's conservative home base of Southwest Florida rated him 36-50 approve/disapprove.

The VSS poll was conducted just days after the governor angered elements of his base by approving the controversial SunRail commuter train project. Tea party groups called it a sellout to business lobbyists -- notably CSX -- and provincial interests in Central Florida.

A longtime RPOF state committeeman, speaking on background, said he hoped that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam would run for governor in 2014. Putnam, a former GOP congressman from Polk County, has said he has no plans to do so.

Left-wing activists have assailed Scott from day one for his budget cuts. His prickly, or nonresponsive, relations with the press haven't helped his cause.

Some pollsters, including the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, have suggested that Scott's high negatives could doom the Republican Party's prospects for carrying Florida in the 2012 presidential election.

But other analysts downplay the connection.

"I do not believe that Rick Scott's poor performance will directly lead to a significant number of Obama votes," said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida.

Amplifying on that skepticism, national political strategist Stuart Rothenberg wrote recently:

"I don’t know who will carry the Sunshine State in the 2012 election. But to argue that the Florida governor will cost the Republicans the state in 2012 is to argue that Scott will be more important than the presidential candidates, the issues and all of the media coverage surrounding the contest.

"If you believe that, you don’t understand campaigns and elections."

The editor of the Rothenberg Political Report concluded:

"After debates, national conventions, millions of dollars of TV spots and weeks of nonstop news coverage about the candidates, voters will go to the polls to pick the nation’s next leader. When they do so, Scott will constitute only a microscopic part of their information as they consider their vote ... even if Democrats spend millions of dollars in Florida to try to make the presidential election about Scott."

Patricia Sullivan, head of the Tea Party Network in Florida, said the polls "reflect a passionate electorate, a dialogue that wasn't taking place two years ago, and an elected official who is making decisions based on his conscience instead of the direction of the wind.

"I'm glad the pot is being stirred and I expect the tea party movement will continue to elect public servants who will act differently than 'establishment' candidates who typically are more concerned with popularity and the next election than what is best for the next generation."

Billie Tucker, leader of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, also stuck by the governor:

"Governor Scott is doing what we sent him to Tallahassee to do. He is working on keeping his promises. It is hard work and he cannot make everyone happy. His promise to bring jobs and prosperity back to Florida is his ultimate goal and we trust what he is doing. The end game will result in jobs."

On the other hand, Damien Filer of Progress Florida said, "Rick Scott is prioritizing his image and poll numbers over the real problems of middle-class Floridians. Ask working families in Florida what they care more about -- Rick Scott's poll numbers or the number of jobs he's cut."

As for Scott himself, spokesman Lane Wright said, "The governor is not here to win a popularity contest, but to do what he said he would do during the campaign -- help the private sector get Floridians back to work."

Scott's office previously reported that Florida added 28,000 jobs in May, 2,000 more than in all 49 other states combined. The state's unemployment rate dipped to 10.6 percent for the month, the latest for which data were available.

Richard Johnston, a Palm Beach County-based Republican consultant, said Scott's high poll negatives are par for the course this year.

"Really, is anyone doing well out there?" he asks. "The economy drives the numbers, and Florida is having a harder time digging a path to recovery."

Johnston said Scott is dealt a double-whammy because he is shaking up the status-quo.

"Any place you have reform, that creates negativity as well. Look at Jeb [Bush]. He was despised at the time for education reform. But look at it now -- Florida has dug itself out of the basement on just about every criteria. It's a byproduct of leadership."

Methodology: This statewide poll was conducted July 5-7 for Sunshine State News with 1,000 registered likely voters. Only voters with prior vote history in general elections 2006 and/or 2008 were contacted. Interviews are randomly selected and conducted from a statewide voter file using our IVR (or automated) polling software which uses a prerecorded voice to ask the questions, with respondents then instructed to score their answers by using their telephone key pads. Interviews are closely monitored to ensure a representative sample of Florida's electorate is achieved based on geography, party affiliation, gender, age and other demographics; results are sometimes statistically weighted. The margin of error for a sample size of 1,000 interviews is +/- 3.10 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, but higher for subgroups of respondents.

See cross tabs in the attachment below.

On Thursday: Sunshine State News Poll looks at the favorability ratings of Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and Charlie Crist.


Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 559-4719.


Comments (23)

6:08AM NOV 7TH 2011
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11:10AM JUL 16TH 2011
I'd like to thank Patricia Sullivan for her Tea Party support. Glad to see that she understands I must destroy the current generation in order to preserve Florida for the "next generation." I do feel bad that the "next generation" will have to attend schools with terrible teachers because the state will not be able to find qualified teachers to work for extremely low salaries and little hope of job security. I also hope the "next generation," doesn't mind living in a state that is ugly and polluted but I had to take away environmental regulations and growth ordinances in order to give Florida away to companies that pay no taxes and offer plenty of minimum wage jobs. On the bright side,..... um, let me get back to you on a bright side.
8:14AM JUL 27TH 2011
Thank you Mr Scott for all the jobs and growth you have cut from the State of Florida! With your great leadership Florida will be ready for all the $7.00 an hour jobs you can provide. Keep it up Mr. Scott! Of course you do not care for us little people. Keep courting developers who want to pave over the state into one concrete slab. Of course they bring jobs! All the $7.00 an hour retail jobs that a person can handle. Thank you again!
11:10AM JUL 16TH 2011
I'd like to thank Patricia Sullivan for her Tea Party support. Glad to see that she understands I must destroy the current generation in order to preserve Florida for the "next generation." I do feel bad that the "next generation" will have to attend schools with terrible teachers because the state will not be able to find qualified teachers to work for extremely low salaries and little hope of job security. I also hope the "next generation," doesn't mind living in a state that is ugly and polluted but I had to take away environmental regulations and growth ordinances in order to give Florida away to companies that pay no taxes and offer plenty of minimum wage jobs. On the bright side,..... um, let me get back to you on a bright side.
7:32PM JUL 13TH 2011
Rick Scott is the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic party in Florida. Although I normally vote Independent, I will vote for any Democrat who runs for any office as long as Scott is Governor. If we all do this, they will get the message!
Vicki Santini
10:30PM JUL 13TH 2011
I totally agree
6:27PM JUL 13TH 2011
Public education is "safety-net program"? Since when?
Devils Advocate
6:20PM JUL 13TH 2011
Hating, selfish, liberals who believe that government should provide every for those too lazy to provide for themselves. Just the comments here provide a small sample of that hate.
Ol Froth
12:19PM JUL 14TH 2011
Right wing projection again, I see.
Herman S. Paul
4:18PM JUL 13TH 2011
4:12PM JUL 13TH 2011
For someone to say i don't like ricky because he's changing things is just plain silly. I could list 20 things he's changed and people don't like it because it's not in their best interest or that of the state of florida. 70 % of the people don't like it that's way past a majority. Ricky will cost republicans plenty at the polls in 2012 because people will turn out and vote for their own interest and they wouldn't vote for anyone associated with ricky and his policies. That happens to be the republican party of florida. Let the republican party of florida do again the kinds of things they did in the past legislative session and you will see the fastest turn from republican control to democractic control in the history of the state.
8:22AM JUL 27TH 2011
Why would I vote Republican? Let me count the reasons.
1. Cut Social Security -all of it-Why have this useless social program. Let old people work till they drop dead. If they are to disabled to work let them rot and die.
2. Cut Medicare-Another useless social program that only prolongs these old geezers life. Let them all die before they are 65 or if they live past 65 if they die because they get cancer, have a heart attack or have kidney failure or diabetes who cares-Just another useless old person that has died that is not contributing to society-
3. With all these programs stopped we will solve all our debt problems and all the millionaires and billionaires will not have to increase their taxes to pay for these useless programs.
4. Stop Medicaid-If people are poor it is their own dam fault. Should have studied harder in school or gone into the armed services.

Mr Scott I am sure you will agree with the above proposals. Hey can I invite you and your wife to a party at my home in the Villages. We would love to have you!
What's wrong with Floridians
12:59PM JUL 13TH 2011
Why is Florida so ass backwards when compared to other states? Whenever something immensly stupid or ignorant occurs, it always happens in Florida. It's like Florida is the world center for people with no common sense.
Scott will destroy Florida
12:43PM JUL 13TH 2011
High Speed rail would have cost Florida taxpayers nothing, SunRail will cost Florida taxpayers billions. Scott vetos the free money and approves the additional taxes to Florida's citizens. This guy is not looking out for Florida taxpayers.
FloriDUH loves corruption
12:36PM JUL 13TH 2011
All the while Scott is cutting government positions, he is increasing the pay and size of his staff and advisors to double and triple that of other states. No money is being saved, he is redistributing the money from the working class to his corporate buddies. This guy is a crook.
Scott's redistribution of wealth
1:05PM JUL 13TH 2011
Corporations run the United States and exploit taxpaying citizens. Rick Scott loves stealing from taxpayers and will do whatever it takes to make Florida the corporate headquarters for taxpayer exploitation.
9:18AM JUL 13TH 2011
It's not about popularity, it's about doing what's best for the state, not what's best for a few corporations or a tea party. Rick hasn't learned that yet and I don't know that he ever will. Yeah, he's doing things differently - implementing things that have already been tried before and failed. Can you say hard-headed? He's costing us more and delivering less, especially where jobs and the enviornment are concerned.
8:24AM JUL 13TH 2011
Bob Freeman
8:01AM JUL 13TH 2011
Rick Scott is not Jeb Bush. He is more like Mel Martinez, someone who needs to keep moving to hide his lack of leadership in public office. Rick Scott may have entered the Political arena for the right reasons, but he has to be a man of his word. The left wing Media will never give Jeb Bush credit for being Florida's best Governor, but he led with conviction, honor and confidence.
12:49PM JUL 13TH 2011
Jeb Bush lined his and his family's pockets with Florida taxpayer dollars while in office. The "leadership" of Jeb did nothing to improve the state of Florida when he was in office, that is clear by the state of Florida right now. Florida is at or near the bottom of every aspect when compared to other states.
9:46AM JUL 13TH 2011
Bob Freeman is right.
Stick a fork in Rick Scott, he's done.
Citizen Kane
6:09AM JUL 13TH 2011
This is about what I expected. To put all this in plain English is pretty simple.

The left wing media has done nothing but negative reporting and most of the time it has been no reporting just opinion writing.

Then you look at the Republicans. Most of this group wanted McCollum, not because he was better, but because they could manipulate him to do their bidding. Fasano, Altman, Haridopolos and Cannon come to mind here.

Then you have the Tea Party that believes that Scott should do ONLY what they want and nothing else. When he does (High Speed Rail) he is a hero. When he does not (SunRail) he is a goat. They refuse to look at the Florida Constitution yet preach follow the Constitution.

Next come the unions. This self serving group believe they are the almighty answer to all our problems. They refuse to sacrifice as those in the public sector have done for the past several years.

Finally, you have Scott's own press department. Not sure where they are getting their orders for getting the information out but they are doing a very poor job. They prefer to Tweet when they should be visible and get the facts out in a way that all can understand.

I believe the bottom line is this. Voters are unhappy with the way things have been going in our country and state for years. However, when change does come, when different methods are tried, they are out of their comfort zone and rebel. Not because they do not want change, but because they are afraid of change.

Just think of your children when they were two and you told them, NO.
10:09PM JUL 13TH 2011
Approving the sunrail boondoggle was a killer for Scott.

I'm pulling for a Doug Ax the tax Guetzloe and Paula Dockery ticket!

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