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St. Leo poll: DeSantis holds double-digit leads over Democratic opponents for governor

The Florida governor also has an edge among other Republicans who may vie for the presidency in 2024 — if former President Trump isn't in the race.
Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

ST LEO, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a commanding lead over the field of Democratic candidates hoping to unseat him, a new poll found.

The Republican governor has a few things going in his favor at the moment, according to the survey released Wednesday by the St. Leo University Polling Institute. One includes his rising job approval, which sits at about 58.8 percent — a 2.4 percent increase from the fall.

It's also expected Republicans on ballots nationwide generally will fare better than Democrats. Politico reports more people disapprove of President Joe Biden's performance and people are concerned about ongoing inflation issues. And in recent years, the majority party in power at the federal level (right now, Democrats) ends up suffering losses.

The St. Leo poll surveyed 500 residents online in Florida between Feb. 28 and Mar. 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The institution notes the poll was conducted at a time when DeSantis described mask-wearing as COVID theater during an event at the University of South Florida.

About 38 percent of respondents say they "strongly approve" of the way he's handling the COVID pandemic versus 26.8 percent of respondents who strongly disapprove.

In terms of the Democratic competition:

  • 48.6 percent of respondents chose DeSantis over Democratic State Rep. Annette Taddeo at 29.6 percent; 21.8 percent were unsure.
  • 49.2 percent picked DeSantis over U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat who served as the Republican governor of Florida from 2007-11. He received 32.8 percent and 18 percent were unsure.
  • 50.6 percent chose DeSantis over Agriculture Commissioner and Democrat Nikki Fried at 27 percent; 22.4 percent were unsure.

The people surveyed were provided only with the names of the candidates and no descriptions or party designations.

"As long as the governor's approval ratings remain in the upper 50s [percentage], it's hard to see him losing in 2022, which promises to be a strong year for Republicans nationwide," said Frank Orlando, director of the polling institute in a statement. "Due to increased name ID, it's important to look at the percentage of respondents supporting the incumbent.

"Being close to 50 percent in all three of the races means that he is in relatively powerful position moving forward, but we should expect tightening once the Dems pick their nominee."

DeSantis also holds good standing among Republican respondents' choices for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 but if he wants the job — and he says he wants to focus on being governor of Florida, he has some work to do. Former President Donald Trump is the top choice at 64.3 percent whereas DeSantis is at 55.5 percent.

With Trump out of the mix, DeSantis climbs to 65.9 percent with former Vice President Mike Pence at 26.9 percent. Another 23.6 percent of respondents would like to see Donald Trump Jr. run for president, the St. Leo poll found.

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