A new statewide poll of Florida conducted by Saint Leo University shows across-the-board support for Republican governor Ron DeSantis, including consistently high approval ratings among minority voters.
The poll found that DeSantis’s overall approval rating is up to 68.2 percent, seven points higher than it was in April and clearly ahead of those of Florida senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. According to a demographic breakdown of the poll shared on Twitter, DeSantis polled at 67 percent approval among Hispanics and 63 percent among African Americans.
While the governor’s Hispanic support has remained consistently positive over the last three statewide polls, the new St. Leo poll shows the highest level of black support for DeSantis so far recorded. In an August St. Petersburg poll, DeSantis hit 32 percent approval among African Americans, while an October University of North Florida poll put DeSantis at 50 percent. Earlier this year, black support was at 44 and 39 percent in two other polls, respectively.
DeSantis, who defeated African American Andrew Gillum by a mere 32,000 votes in November 2018, was accused by Gillum of pandering to racists during a debate. “He has the ability to go to the far right when he has to — and do it with a smile,” Florida Democrat Evan Jenne told The Palm Beach Post in July.
DeSantis is also a reliable ally of President Trump, who currently polls at 10 percent nationally among black voters, according to Gallup.
In a statement to National Review, Frank Orlando, the Saint Leo polling director, gave his thoughts on the disparity between DeSantis’s and Trump’s approval ratings.
“I think it shows that candidates can evolve as they become office holders,” Orlando said in an email. “Governor DeSantis ran and won the Republican primary as the ‘Trump’ candidate, but he hasn’t governed as President Trump has. He has still acted as a conservative governor on a lot of policy issues, but his rhetoric has been muted.”
Orlando added that DeSantis has taken symbolic approaches to boost popularity. “He has made the easy moves that were supported by large numbers of voters, such as suspending Sheriff Israel and recently putting forward a budget that increases teacher pay,” Orlando added. “He’s made some symbolic and policy gestures to court African American voters, including pardoning the Groveland Four and appointing several African Americans to his administration. He’s made Jeanette Nunez a visible part of his administration.”