TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's no secret that Governor Ron DeSantis has surprised voters both across the state and across party lines.
A new poll sponsored by U.S. Term Limits and performed by Pulse Opinion Research found 64 percent of Florida voters approve of the job DeSantis is doing as governor. The poll found that 24 percent disapprove and 12 percent were unsure.
"Support for DeSantis is broad across nearly all political and demographic groups," the poll also reports. "DeSantis’ high marks, along with a net approval of 30 points, would place him among the most popular governors in America per Morning Consult quarterly governor ratings."
A newly released poll from Saint Leo University also found DeSantis' approval rating to be at 63.8 percent among more than half of Independents and a majority of Republicans. Out of 500 respondents, 27.8 percent said they 'strongly approved' of his performance while 36 percent 'somewhat approve.'
The overall key themes when discussing DeSantis' approval rating with political experts and leaders are his decisiveness, quick responses to concerns and an apparent willingness to act in a bipartisan and firm manner.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken firm -- and often bipartisan -- stances in office.
Despite being a vocal Trump supporter during the campaign, recent decisions have placed him in a seemingly more favorable light for Democrats. These include his lawsuit to block oil drilling in the Florida Everglades along with his push for the environment, and a push to legalize smokeable medical marijuana. He has appointed Democrats to key positions and pardoned four men accused of raping a woman nearly 70 years ago.
"He pardoned the Groveland four during his first cabinet meeting, and he removed elected officials in South Florida," Susan MacManus, retired Political Science professor at the University of South Florida, said. "He's tackled things that are obvious problems and exceeded expectations by minimizing his [President] Trump connection and maximized connections to Florida issues."
DeSantis has also played a recent role in pushing for attention to cleaning up the beaches following red tide.
"We finally have someone in the governors' mansion where science has a role to play in issues like cleaner air quality, cleaning our beaches, understanding the effects of climate change in Florida - that's a big deal," Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ione Townsend said.
Moderate and Independent voters are also good indicators of DeSantis' approval rating across spectrums.
"[DeSantis] has done things in a non-ideological fashion, when people have expected him to be on the far right," MacManus added. "People want to see elected officials work together across party lines. They're tired of polarization."
DeSantis' decision to open up the process of making medical marijuana legal has been a huge win for libertarians and other pro-marijuana voters as well. His push for vocational education has also appealed to moderate voters.
"[Vocational education] is an educational issue [voters] can all agree on, which is a big, smart move on his part," said Barry Edwards, former trustee and financial director of the Democratic party of Florida.
On the conservative end of the spectrum, he continues to champion the Republican ideologies, showing both accountability and visibility.
"He’s making himself visible, accomplishing what he said he would do," Chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party Jim Waurishuk said. "In the campaign, he said he would push for three conservative judges for Florida Supreme Court and he has – so far everything he promises he’s come through with."
Comparing and contrasting with Governor Rick Scott
While Governor Scott was known for his passion for bringing jobs and new businesses to Florida, DeSantis appears to have brought in additional traits across party lines.
"The big thing is you're always measured by who you follow, and Governor Rick Scott was not as favorable [as DeSantis]," Edwards said. "DeSantis has been a lot more easy to work with, which is a contrast to Governor Scott. DeSantis gets in there and answers questions. He's willing to work with the legislature, much more acceptable to the public and press; he's willing to have press conferences."
While Republicans are less critical of Scott's performance, they are giving DeSantis a lot of credit.
"I think he’s going to be a little bit more hands-on in some areas than Governor Scott," Waruishuk said. "Scott was really business-focused, and I think we’ll see Ron DeSantis a little bit more party and Republican focused."
Waruishuk adds that the Republican party sees DeSantis as a '"continuation of the party" just as Scott was and that the amount of support received at the grassroots level has been promising.
The 24 percent
While 64 percent is high, discussing the 12 percent who disapprove of DeSantis is also noteworthy.
While it's expected that partisan views may cloud a voter's perception, there are a few key decisions and potential issues some see for DeSantis. One of the more divisive issues DeSantis has pushed for is the end to sanctuary cities in Florida.
"Desantis announcing the statewide ban will reinforce him with his base; this helps him secure his right flank, and it will lock him back to the right," said Edwards. "[The announcement] will really inflame the left, it's going to trump the fondness of him along with other budget items."
Townsend doesn't think the governor should be making sanctuary cities a priority.
"I don't think he should pay any attention to [sanctuary cities] -- we don't have any sanctuary jails in Tampa," Townsend said. "To say to Tampa, we can't be a sanctuary city, it's not even appropriate. It's a dog whistle that Republicans use, and I don't think he should even be talking about it."
Townsend also said that some Democrats may not be happy with DeSantis' decision to place Richard Corcoran as Education Commissioner.
"We know he's going to try redirecting money from public schools to charter schools, when 90 percent of our kids go to our public schools," Townsend added. "Too much money is being diverted to charter schools, there are too many loopholes in the charter school laws, and we don't think the money should be funneled until the loopholes are closed."
Where do we go from here?
DeSantis has been off to a strong start just a few months into the Governors Mansion. But will the widely-positive view of DeSantis hold true over time?
"The longer he's in office, the more he will be perceived through partisan lenses," MacManus said. "There's an old saying in politics where you hit the ground running, defy negative expectations, and take advantage of the honeymoon period, which is right when you take office and people are wanting to see something different."
For Townsend and the local Democratic party, "the report card is still out," and she says she's waiting to see how DeSantis works through the upcoming legislature.
Even Democrats who voted for nominee Andrew Gillum may be finding solace in DeSantis' win.
"If there's buyers remorse, there's nothing positive coming out about Andrew Gillum right now," Edwards said. "There is more stuff coming out that questions his ethics and even Democratic voters said he should have been more ethical and honest about the Hamilton, airline tickets, hotels - that all helps DeSantis."
DeSantis' performance in Florida could also play a key role on a national level for Republicans, primarily in getting President Trump re-elected.
"Most people will need to understand he’s going to have a major role in Donald Trump being re-elected in Florida, especially if he does well," Waurishuk said.
His approval rating and performance could also play a role even here at a local level with getting local-level leaders and mayors elected. In Tampa, in particular, where voters will choose a new mayoral candidate from a sea of Democrats, this could sway votes.
"There are 62,000 Republican voters and how they view the candidates for mayor will certainly have an impact on their vote," Waurishuk added. "There are seven candidates [for mayor of Tampa] and all of them are Democrat, so they are going to be beholden to the votes. They have presented their positions based on the city, based on the voters, and that’s going to have an impact on [who wins]."
10News has reached out for comment from DeSantis' office but has not heard back.
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