Bill Nelson holds narrow lead over Rick Scott in poll of Florida Latino voters

A survey of 400 Latino voters in Florida conducted earlier this month shows Democrat Bill Nelson with a narrow, 44% to 41% lead over Rick Scott in the U.S. Senate contest that will be decided in November.

The study, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, shows that nearly half of the Latino electorate in the state is now made up of people of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent (28% and 22% respectively), which the pollster says is due in part to the recent migration of Puerto Ricans to Florida following the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on the island last fall.

Among Puerto Rican voters, the survey indicates that there’s a huge gender gap in the Senate contest. Puerto Ricans females back Nelson by a 54%-27% margin with 19% undecided, while Rick Scott leads among Puerto Rican males by a 49%-31% margin with 20% undecided.

Most alarming for Nelson is that even after nearly 18 years of serving the Sunshine State, two of every five Latino voters (40%) still don’t know enough about him to rate his performance, while only one in five are too unfamiliar with Scott to rate his performance as governor (19%).
The poll indicates that Scott is not suffering too much from his association with President Trump when it comes to the question of whether the two Republicans have done enough to welcome Puerto Ricans to the state following the devastating hurricane.

While both Scott and Nelson get similar positive scores on the question of whether they have done enough to welcome Puerto Ricans to Florida following Hurricane Maria, Trump does not, with 58% saying he has not done enough. When Puerto Ricans by themselves were asked that question, the answer was 72% who said Trump didn’t work hard enough to address the crisis.

“Eleven months after Maria, Puerto Rico and its thousands of displaced families are still in crisis,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, campaign director for Power 4 Puerto Rico, one of the groups who commissioned the poll. “This survey shows that for Puerto Rican voters – a critically important voting block? in Florida – Trump’s epic failure and disregard in responding to Hurricane Maria is very present in their minds and will affect how they cast their ballots. Our community is listening and watching intently, and will make electoral decisions based on who has concretely rallied for the well-being and future of Puerto Rican families and who has not.”

Immigration is by far the most important issue to Florida Latino voters (with 22% ranking it as a top concern), followed by concerns about jobs and the economy – which 9% of people interviewed ranked as a top concern. Seven percent of those surveyed ranked health care as
a top concern.

However, when asked specifically what the next U.S. Senator from Florida should concentrate on, 83% said creating jobs has to be the highest priority. Expanding health care is of high importance to 76% of all Latino voters, and 61% said the state has not done enough on affordable housing.

On climate change, 77% of all Latinos surveyed believe it is happening, and that includes a majority (56%) Latino Republicans.

The survey by the Global Strategy Group was conducted on behalf of the Hispanic Federation, Latino Victory Fund, Alianza for Progress and the Power 4 Puerto Rico coalition.

The pollsters surveyed 400 registered Latino voters statewide in Florida, and did144 interviews in the Orlando area between July 30- August 6. The margin of error is +/-4.9 percent. Interviews were conducted in Spanish and English, and made to both cell phones and landlines.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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