MIAMI Governor Rick Scott is better known and better-liked than Senator Bill Nelson among Puerto Ricans in Florida, according to a new poll that means trouble for the incumbent as this Democrat-leaning group leans against About 75 percent have a good opinion of Scott, while only 18 percent do not, according to the new survey of 1,000 Puerto Ricans in the Florida International University commissioned by the Republican Challengers.
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Only 7 percent did not know enough about Scott to risk an opinion of him – a sign of the governor's seven trips to Puerto Rico and his aggressive campaign that left refugees from the island after Hurricane Maria Welcomes
Nelson's figures: 62 percent prefer him, 26 percent do not, and 13 percent do not know enough to voice an opinion, according to the survey.
Calculated differently, Scott's net score is 57 percent and Nelson's is 36 percent among Puerto Ricans. This puts the Republican around 21 percentage points ahead of the Democrat.
The figures are even more striking, with 57 percent of respondents saying that they are registered as Democrats; only 12 percent are Republicans. And nearly 57 percent said they would vote for a generic Democrat, while only 7 percent would vote for an unnamed Republican.
"This is not necessarily the best news for Democrats," analyzed FIU professor Eduardo Gamarra's survey data to his colleague Jorge Duany – POLITICO said. "It's not necessarily ideological, I think they thought that this man [Scott] was really interested in their welfare."
The survey – which has a margin of 3.1 percentage points and people in the Orlando, Tampa Miami and Fort Lauderdale interviewed – was not affected However, I'm not testing a head-to-head race between Nelson and Scott because all the Puerto Ricans in the state who arrived both before and after the hurricane were investigated. About 75 percent of respondents said that they have registered for election and most are planning to vote.
The polls are even more worrying about Nelson's Hispanic Democrats, and specifically Puerto Rican, Outreach, after POLITICO has reported the depths of his struggles. In some focus groups of Puerto Ricans in Central Florida, few knew much about Nelson. Many knew and appreciated Scott.
This is a great danger for Nelson and a big advantage for Scott because historically the Democrats count on the growing Puerto Rican vote in Central Florida as a counterbalance to the Cuba-based Republicans in South Florida. Puerto Ricans are now the largest Hispanic group in Florida, with more than 1.1 million inhabitants, and experts estimate that there are about 500,000 voters.
But Cuban-American turnout is among the highest in the state, experts say, while Puerto Rican turnout fluctuates with other non-Cuban Hispanics, who are also Democratic and whose electoral turnout has historically collapsed in the midterm elections. Scott won his last two elections, during the midterms, by 1.2 and 1 percentage points, respectively, among the poor turnout of non-Cuban Hispanics in counties with major Puerto Rican communities.
However, Nelson has a less secret weapon he can use against Scott: the name of President Donald Trump, who is deeply disapproved of by the Puerto Ricans for his quiet response to Hurricane Maria. Trump urged Scott to run for the Senate, and Scott raised money for Trump's presidential election. Focus groups showed that Scott agreed when he was bound to Trump.
Only 18 percent agree with the president and 72 percent disapprove of him. Its net rating is minus 53 percent. So Scott is 104 percentage points better than the president of his own party among the voters of Puerto Rico.
Jose Parra, a Democratic strategist and CEO of consultancy Prospero Latino, said Nelson could change things with voters in Puerto Rico. But the time is short.
"That's a problem solvable if it's done now, if you do that two months before the election, it's too late, we're getting close," Parra said. "The fact that you point out that the Trump numbers are so low is more than a piece of light for Nelson, it's a huge flash of light, but they must aggressively act on it and now react to it."
Parra said Nelson has a good record for most Hispano voters and Puerto Ricans, but the Democrats "have to take his file and make it weaponless, and they have not done so to this point."
Scott, for his part, said Nelson did failed to perform for Latinos and Floridians. "I did not see him near the state," Scott said recently.
Nelson and Scott also have a better number among the Puerto Ricans than the bilingual Senator Marco Rubio, whose net score is 33 percent.
Scott, who learns Spanish and conducts Spanish-language interviews more often than Nelson, has traveled to Puerto Rico seven times since Hurricane Maria. Nelson has been there three times.
Among the Puerto Ricans who have come to Florida since 2017, more than 37 percent have a "very good" opinion of Scott. Just over 10 percent of the newcomers share the opinion of Nelson. Newcomers are also the most independent voters. While 57 percent of respondents are still registered as Democrats, this trend is declining for newcomers. A quarter of those who emigrated to Florida last year are independently registered – the largest group in this category.
Pollster Gamarra pointed out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing financial assistance to displaced Puerto Ricans looking for work. They will leak out on Saturday and say, "They will lose their benefits and no longer stay in their hotels for free. " If they were expelled again, he added, their positive opinion of Scott could turn.
Island evacuees living in central Florida have set up a "tent city" this week to protest the expiration date of the coupon program. Scott asks her for shelter, Orlando Weekly reported.
Around 90 percent of respondents have received public support. About 61 percent were able to find work soon after their arrival in Florida. Those in Florida for the longest report of more employment: 53 percent of those who arrived in 2017 said they were employed and about 69 percent of those who were in that state longest reported employment.
About 56 percent of Puerto Ricans plan to stay "indefinitely" in Florida. But nearly 18 percent said they had difficulty learning English, and about 17 percent said finding work was a problem, the second highest challenge for respondents.
The survey found that the main reason for leaving the island or moving to Florida was economic conditions or work, with 57 percent referring to the difficult conditions in Puerto Rico or the lure of jobs in the Sunshine State. Less than 11 percent called the hurricane.
The Puerto Rican alliance of Florida paid for the poll and will present its results on Saturday together with the FIU and the Puerto Rican Leadership Council of South Florida at a symposium "Nuestro Futuro" representing business, politics, academia and media.