TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Gov. Rick Scott likes to say he wants to be the most successful chief executive, not the most popular.
A new poll today indicates that Scott doesn't have to worry about the second half of that idea.
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The Quinnipiac University Poll said the governor's approval rating is 35 percent -- compared to 48 percent who said they hold a negative view of him in a recent statewide survey. The 13-point gap is a reversal of Scott's like-dislike ratio in February, when Quinnipiac gave him a positive rating of 35 to 22 percent.
"While his approval rating is unchanged, Gov. Rick Scott's disapproval rating has jumped from 22 to 48 percent, perhaps not surprising given the magnitude of the changes he is proposing," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Today, Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters, but political popularity can change in time."
Brown noted that ex-Gov. Charlie Crist had 70 percent approval during his first months in the job. But he wound up leaving the Republican Party and losing a U.S. Senate race last year. Brown said the Quinnipiac poll showed the state Legislature's approval rating at the same level as Scott's -- 35 percent -- with 47 percent disapproving of the job lawmakers are doing.
The poll was conducted March 29-April 4 among 1,499 registered voters. It has an error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
The root of Scott's reversal in the poll is apparently the state budget. He proposed about $4 billion in spending reductions, along with $2 billion in tax cuts. Quinnipiac said 53 percent of those surveyed considered the budget unfair to them, while only 37 percent saw it as fair.
Brown said 47 percent felt the budget cuts go too far, while 16 percent believed they didn't go far enough.
"One piece of good news for Gov. Scott seems to be that voters agree with his no-new-taxes strategy," Brown said. "Actually, there's another piece of good news: He has almost four years left to turn around public opinion."
The poll indicated that 95 percent of voters consider Florida's budget problems very serious. But they disagree about whether Scott's solution is fair to them.
Bill Cotterell, Florida Capital Bureau