Bush plummets to single digits in new Florida poll
MIAMI — For the first time, former Florida governor Jeb Bush has fallen into single digits in a home-state Republican primary poll that shows Donald Trump still in front, trailed by Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Jeb Bush’s 9-percent, fourth-place showing in the University of North Florida poll is his worst showing in any survey of likely Florida Republican voters.
The poll also shows that 54 percent of those voters favor various immigration policies that allow “unauthorized immigrants” the ability to legally stay in the United States.
Both Bush and his former protégé and friend, Rubio, favor policies that legalize some undocumented immigrants. But Rubio is more popular than Bush and runs in third, with 14.9 percent of the GOP vote. Carson, a West Palm Beach resident, is at 19.3 percent. Trump, a part-time Palm Beach resident, is at 21.7 percent.
This is the ninth consecutive poll showing Trump on top since early August. But Trump has his narrowest lead yet.
What makes the UNF poll different from the other surveys is its relatively large size — 641 Republicans — and its methodology, which used bilingual live-callers to phone actual voters who had cast ballots in 70 percent of the previous elections. No other Florida poll has gone to such lengths to capture a snapshot of the Republican electorate that’s likely to turn out for the March 15 primaries. The margin of error is 3.87 percentage points for the poll, conducted from Oct. 8 to Oct. 13.
“Are these results the fact that our sample is different from other polls, or is this the shine starting to wear off of Trump? We’ll have to see,” said UNF pollster and political science professor Michael Binder.
Binder noted that Florida voters, who often mirror the nation in their voting patterns, are souring on Bush, as he struggles nationwide and in many early state polls.
Voters appear to be favoring Rubio more and more, but he hasn’t skyrocketed the way political outsiders Carson or Trump have. Like many political science professors, pundits and operatives, Binder says he still finds it tough to believe that either Carson or Trump would win Florida or the GOP nomination.
“Rubio is doing OK,” Binder said. “If you’re third behind Carson or Trump, that's a good place to be. ... Jeb has been gone for a little while now. He needs to start connecting with voters somehow.”
The poll also suggests Bush may be trailing Rubio in Miami-Dade County, where both men reside. More than 72 percent of the registered Republicans in the county are Hispanic, and Rubio leads 31-26 percent over Bush with Hispanic Republicans statewide. (The poll did not measure results by county.)
Asked to state their second choice, 20.1 percent of all likely GOP voters said Rubio, followed by Carson at 14.9 percent, and Carly Fiorina at 11.1 percent. (In first-choice preferences, Fiorina polled in sixth place at 6.5 percent behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.) Bush, again, came in fourth place as a second choice, at 10.2 percent.
And despite his frontrunner status, Trump is the second-choice candidate of only 6 percent.
Rubio is also better-liked than Bush or Trump, with 81.1 percent having a favorable impression of the senator, while only 13 percent had an unfavorable view, for a net-favorability rating of 68.1 percent. Bush’s net favorability stands at 36.1 percent, with 64.9 percent viewing him favorably and 28.8 percent unfavorably. Trump, the only other candidate for whom this question was asked, had the worst net favorability of the three, 12.6 percent, with 52.5 percent holding a favorable impression and 39.9 percent an unfavorable impression.
“Rubio looks a little stronger with the second choice number — Trump weakens with the second choice considered,” Binder’s UNF political science colleague, Matthew Corrigan said via email. “Jeb has work to do — but Carson and Trump have to hold up.”
Corrigan, author of "Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida," said he found the immigration question interesting because more than half of the Republicans surveyed said illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States in some way. Here’s how GOP opinion split concerning the undocumented:
* 38.5 percent: Allow them to stay in the U.S. and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship after paying back taxes and fines.
* 23.4 percent: Allow them to stay in the U.S. as guest workers for a limited amount of time.
* 19.0 percent: Make them all felons and send them back to their home country.
* 8.4 percent: Allow them to stay in the U.S. as guest workers for an unlimited amount of time, but not allow them to obtain citizenship.
* 7.1 percent: Allow them to stay in the U.S. and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship without penalties.
View the poll results here: http://politi.co/1Gf7NCA