Floridians like senators; mixed on Obama

TALLAHASSEE -- A majority of Floridians approve of the job performance of their two U.S. senators, but are split on their opinions about President Barack Obama, a poll released Thursday shows.

Forty-two percent of 1,160 registered voters surveyed by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University favored an unnamed Republican challenger for president next year compared to 40 percent who prefer Obama.

Democrats favored Obama by 83 percent to 12 percent, but Republicans opposed him 84 percent to 14 percent. Independents were split. Obama won the independent vote in 2008.

Although 49 percent said they have a favorable opinion of Obama, 48 percent said he does not deserve to be re-elected while 45 percent favored the country’s first African-American president for a second term.

The poll results are a snapshot of voters’ feelings if the election was held now. With 29 electoral votes, Florida will again be a key battleground state next year.

Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat seeking a third term in the Senate, and newly elected Republican Marco Rubio enjoyed a 2-to-1 favorable to unfavorable standing among Florida voters.

But the news wasn’t entirely good for Nelson, a career politician who was elected to the Senate in 2000. Despite Nelson’s respectable 45-21 job approval rating, only 43 percent said the Melbourne Democrat deserved re-election. He was, however, favored by 41 percent to 36 percent for an unnamed Republican challenger in next year’s general election.

“History shows that when only 43 percent of voters say an incumbent deserves another term, that incumbent sometimes doesn’t get another term,” said Peter Brown, assistant director at Quinnipiac. “His fate may rest with how President Barack Obama does in 2012 as Florida voters see the two men similarly on the issues.”

Almost half, 46 percent, said Nelson shares the same views with Obama and 44 percent of the key independents agreed while just 17 percent believed the two had differences.

Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House whose successful Senate campaign chased former Gov. Charlie Crist out of office and out of the Republican Party, was given a favorable job approval by 42 percent after his first month in office compared to 20 percent who graded him unfavorably.

Fifty percent said they’re opposed to the federal government’s health care overhaul compared to 43 percent who favor it and 54 percent opposed the country’s military involvement in Afghanistan while 38 percent support the war.

Quinnipiac’s random telephone survey taken by land line and cell phone between Jan. 25-31 had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.