New Q-Poll Shows Barack Obama and Bill Nelson Rolling in Florida

President's numbers improve after bin Laden killed while Republicans looking to beat Nelson are largely unknown
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 26, 2011 7:58 AM
Senator Bill Nelson and President Barack Obama

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and President Barack Obama

A poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University found that President Barack Obama is starting to regain ground in Florida, while U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is leading three Republican challengers in his bid for a third term.

The poll finds a slim majority of Floridians -- 51 percent -- approves of Obama’s performance in office and 43 percent disapprove. When the last Quinnipiac poll was released April 7, Obama was upside down in the Sunshine State, with 44 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.

The president is making strides among independent voters, now winning the approval of 47 percent of them, while 45 percent disapprove. In the last poll, 55 percent of independents disapproved of the president while 39 percent approved. The April 7 poll was taken before American forces found and killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

"Whether these numbers represent a 'bin Laden bounce,' President Barack Obama's popularity is up in Florida, which will be a crucial state for him in the 2012 campaign," said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "The good news for the president is that, by 50 to 44 percent, Florida voters say Obama deserves a second term in the Oval Office, compared to April when they said, 51 to 42 percent, that he did not."

The poll finds Obama leads a nameless Republican in Florida, taking 44 percent to the Republican’s 37 percent. In the April 7 poll, the generic Republican candidate took 41 percent while Obama trailed with 38 percent.

Nelson leads over three Republican candidates who remain unknown to many voters. Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux came closest to beating Nelson, taking 27 percent, while the Democrat leads with 47 percent. Nelson garnered 47 percent against state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who took 26 percent. Nelson fared best against former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, beating the Republican 48 percent to 23 percent.

"Senator Bill Nelson appears to be in strong shape looking toward his 2012 re-election," said Brown. "When matched against any of three possible GOP challengers, however, Nelson is short of the key 50 percent mark, the magic threshold that signals that an incumbent is going to be very difficult to beat. His strength apparently lies in voter satisfaction with his performance in office. He has a job approval of 51 to 24 percent, and by 48 to 30 percent voters say he deserves another term in the Senate.”

According to the poll, most Republicans are undecided on who they want to take on Nelson. LeMieux took 14 percent, Haridopolos 13 percent and Hasner 4 percent -- but those figures are dwarfed by the 64 percent of Republicans surveyed who are up in the air.

"At this point, there is no real separation among the Republican candidates in terms of running against Nelson or in a primary matchup. They are all pretty far back," said Brown. "And given that almost two-thirds of Republican voters haven't picked a candidate in the primary face-off, the race for the GOP nomination remains wide open."

Like Nelson, freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio garnered high marks, winning the approval of 49 percent of voters and disapproval of 26 percent.

While Republicans had little to cheer in the strong showings Obama and Nelson made in the poll, the poll did have some good news for them. A strong plurality of Floridians -- 49 percent -- want to repeal the Obama-backed federal health-care law, while 41 percent favor it. A strong majority -- 61 percent -- wants to expand offshore drilling while 34 percent oppose it. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed want the U.S. to end military operations in Afghanistan and 57 percent wanted to pull the plug on operations in Libya. Only 34 percent wanted to see continued American operations in Afghanistan and 33 percent want continued military involvement in Libya.

The poll of 1,196 registered voters was taken between May 17-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent. The Republican primary question was asked of 463 Republicans and had a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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