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Politics

Poll Finds Florida Voters Overwhelmingly Back RESTORE Act

December 11, 2011 - 6:00pm

A poll unveiled on Monday at a media event in Tallahassee by Hamilton Campaigns and Ayres McHenry & Associates revealed that Floridians from both parties and all parts of the Sunshine State overwhelmingly wanted to see monies collected from the federal government in penalties from the BP oil spill stay on the Gulf states instead of going to Washington.

Environmental activists and business leaders held a media event in Tallahassee on Monday to announce the poll results and urge Congress to pass the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2011. A study of 140 businesses released last week from Duke University found they would flourish and add jobs under the RESTORE Act.

The RESTORE Act would ensure that 80 percent of the fines from the BP oil spill last year would go to restore the Gulf region. The measure has already moved through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has the backing of both Sunshine State senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., in the House, the RESTORE Act is being co-sponsored by nine Republicans from the Florida delegation: Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, David Rivera, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland and Allen West.

The poll -- commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America -- found that 84 percent of Floridians favored the RESTORE Act, while only 11 percent wanted to see the fines BP pays out go to Washington.

Voters havent forgotten the BP oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history because our ecosystem and economy are still recovering from it a year-and-a-half later, said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward in a statement released on Monday. They recognize that the BP oil spill fines would dramatically accelerate our recovery.

The poll found support for the bill was high across the entire state and across the political spectrum. Eighty-eight percent of independents, 83 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans in the Sunshine State backed the measure. Supporters of the tea party movement and likely Republican primary voters strongly approved of the RESTORE Act with 84 percent of each group backing it. Three-quarters of those surveyed -- 75 percent -- said they were more likely to back candidates who supported the measure.

Regardless of political party or region of the state, this is an issue that unites Florida voters, when so many other issues divide them, said Dave Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns, who usually supports Democratic candidates. There is broad, bipartisan support for ensuring that fines paid by BP and any other parties responsible for the spill actually are targeted to the Gulf Coast states hurt by the spill.

The pollsters noted that Florida voters -- including fiscal conservatives and deficit hawks -- backed the measure instead of having the fines be used to reduce the federal deficit or be spent by Washington. Seventy-nine percent of voters wanted to see the fines be used to pay for Gulf Coast restoration while 12 percent wanted to see them used to lower the federal deficit.

Support for this proposal cuts across traditional partisan lines, said Whit Ayres, the founder and president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates Inc., the Republican pollster whose clients include Rubio.

Members of Congress from both parties have an opportunity to put aside their differences and pass this bipartisan bill -- which doesnt spend any taxpayer funds -- and has huge public support, said Michael Davis, the vice president and principal of Keith and Schnars, an environmental and engineering consulting firm with offices across the state. The RESTORE Act will help right the wrong of the BP oil disaster by funding restoration projects that will trigger a value-added chain that goes far beyond planning and design firms like mine, benefiting contractors and equipment manufacturers as well.

The poll gave mixed marks to the efforts from both BP and the federal government to clean up the oil spill. Fifty percent of those surveyed have positive views of the way BP has handled the cleanup while 44 percent have negative views of the company. Forty-six percent have a positive view of the federal governments cleanup efforts, while 48 percent see them in a negative light.

The poll did contain troubling news for both President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Scott, as well as members of Congress.

Both Obama and Scott are upside down in the new poll. Forty-four percent of those surveyed see Obama in a favorable light while 53 percent view him unfavorably. On the whole, 26 percent see Obama as very favorable, 18 percent as somewhat favorable, 13 percent as somewhat unfavorable while 40 percent see him as very unfavorable. Thirty-nine percent see Scott as favorable, while 47 percent view him as unfavorable. Fourteen percent see Scott as very favorable, 25 percent as somewhat favorable, 13 percent as somewhat unfavorable and 34 percent as very unfavorable.

The poll also found that Florida voters held Congress in very low regard. Only 12 percent of the Floridians surveyed gave Congress positive marks for the way they are handling the nations business while 85 percent gave them negative marks.

The poll of 700 Florida voters was taken Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.

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

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