A new poll of Florida Republican primary voters by Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute
finds that the race is tightening between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
In a theoretical head-to-head matchup with no other Republican candidates, Rubio beats Bush by 8 percentage points, 48 percent to 40 percent.
When other Republicans are included, the poll shows that Bush has 30 percent support among likely Republican voters in Florida while Rubio is coming up fast with 24 percent —
a surge of 8 points for the junior senator since St. Leo’s last poll in March.
Rubio continues to do well in Florida as a strong second choice for primary voters —
29 percent call him their second choice. Bush, who is set to declare his candidacy next week after widely being considered a frontrunner with strong financial backing, comes behind with 12 percent listing him as their second choice.
Rubio declared his candidacy in April.
"The surge for Senator Rubio is significant and is easily the most interesting finding in our recent politics poll," said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. "Bush is still holding off Rubio in Florida, but the only factor keeping Rubio from the lead is the large number of conservative candidates who have siphoned his support."
Bush is more popular with moderates, while Rubio gets the support of conservatives, Orlando said.
The poll also shows that more Floridians now believe Rubio has a chance of getting the Republican nomination than they did three months ago. In March, only 9 percent believed Rubio was likely to take the GOP crown, but in June that number had tripled to 27 percent.
In the same period, the number of Floridians who thought Bush would win the nomination dropped from 38 percent to 34 percent.
The poll findings:
March June Candidate
31 % 30 % Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
16 % 24 % U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
10 % 7 % Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
9 % 7 % Dr. Ben Carson
7 % 7 % U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky
4 % 6 % Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
The poll of 535 Florida adults was conducted between May 25 and May 31. The margin of error on political questions (which only talked to likely voters) is about 4.5 percent with a 95 percent confidence level. The poll used an online questionnaire.
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