Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has a five-point lead over Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in the state's contentious governor's race, a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll reveals, but voters said they don't trust either candidate.
"This is not a case in which we've got two gubernatorial candidates who are captivating voters by their integrity and their leadership," David Colburn, interim director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, told The Tampa Bay Times
. "The voters are troubled by these candidates, and it seems to me anything can happen over the last two months."
Out of 814 registered voters, all of whom are expected to vote in November, 40.9 percent said they'd vote for Scott; 35.7 percent for former governor Crist, and 6.3 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. When Wyllie was left out of the equation, Scott received 43.7 percent of the vote to Crist's 37.6 percent.
Crist has a comfortable lead among independent voters, with 35 percent of them choosing him compared to 27 percent for Scott and 6 percent for Wyllie.
But Crist and Scott are tied among women voters, with 37 percent for Crist and 38.5 percent for Scott. Further, only 12 percent of Republicans said they'd back Crist, while 15 percent of Democrats said they back Scott.
The survey was conducted Aug. 27-31, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Crist switched party affiliations
after his term as Florida governor ended in 2011. In 2010, as his term was coming to an end, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, but after Marco Rubio, the tea party-aligned Republican, led him in the polls for the Senate race, Crist switched his party affiliation to an independent. He still lost to Rubio in the general election, and became a Democrat in 2012.
But the switch, along with a fierce advertising campaign by Scott, appears to have left Florida voters wary of Crist, with 53 percent of the voters saying he is not honest and ethical, while 35.4 percent believe in his honesty. Another 53 percent said Crist can't be trusted, including 29 percent of the Democrats polled.
Scott's numbers were also low, however, with 50.7 percent saying he is not ethical and honest, compared to 39 percent saying he is. They were almost equally divided on his trustworthiness, with 45.5 percent saying he can't be trusted and 44.3 percent saying he can. About one in four of the Republican voters said Scott is not honest and can't be trusted.
The candidates' campaigns are spending millions on increasingly negative ad campaigns. Scott's side has spent about $25.6 million on television ads, while Crist's has spent about $9.6 million.
Meanwhile, Florida voters said they are optimistic about the state's economy, with 48.7 percent saying it is improving and another 25.2 percent believing recovery is coming soon.
"If I were Rick Scott, I'd be playing up the economy as he has been. I would take this poll result and I would run with it," Dr. Christopher McCarty, director of the UF Survey Research Center and director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, told The Tampa Bay Times.
The voters were divided on the candidates' performances as governor, with 46 percent saying they approved of Crist and 47 percent of Scott.
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