Q&A – How Floridians Feel About Governor Ron DeSantis

placeholder image

Q&A – How Floridians Feel About Governor Ron DeSantis 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.       

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com      

Social: @brianmuddradio     

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.        

Today’s Entry: Brian, you made a comment that DeSantis has gotten back to being a good governor since he dropped out of the presidential race. My question is about his standing with Florida’s voters. Wasn’t he at one time the most popular governor in the country (hence the nickname America’s Governor)? There was a lot of reporting near the end of his presidential campaign that he’d lost standing nationally and within the state of Florida. How true is that and is there an indication that’s he’s started to rebound? I would think his ability to quickly turn the page would be important for a potential 2028 presidential run.  

Bottom Line: You’ve made good points and I do have some answers for you that will serve to at least paint the picture as to Governor DeSantis’ standing. Today’s note is on the back of my top takeaway on Friday which was... DeSantis won the week. As mentioned... It’s been a great week for Governor DeSantis. Legislatively he’s signed numerous new laws which will make a meaningful impact within the state including instituting parental rights over social media accounts for those under the age of 16 and the strongest-in-the-nation law to combat squatters infiltrating properties. Legally he’s also had two huge wins. First, he had the settlement of all outstanding legal matters with Disney, which left everything he instituted in that dispute in place – including the Central Florida Tourism Board which will govern Disney – as opposed to Disney effectively governing Disney. Next, he won with his congressional map. Governor DeSantis won a record reelection two years ago because he was a great governor – not because most Floridians wanted him to be the next president. Ever since he dropped out of the presidential race, he’s gotten back to what he’s great at doing – governing the state of Florida with good policy. So, let’s break DeSantis’ standing down. 

With quick action that generally pleased Floridians, including the removal of numerous corrupt and/or incompetent public officials a la Susan Bucher as Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County, DeSantis became an instantly popular governor. DeSantis’ bitterly divisive 2018 gubernatorial campaign, which led to a win by less than one-half of one percent over Andrew Gillum, almost instantly became one of the state’s most popular on record. Early in 2019, at the time of his first approval polling, DeSantis had a net positive approval rating of 29% - meaning 29% more Floridians approved of his performance than disapproved. Notably, that was far higher than the 6% net positive approval rating Rick Scott held within the state at the time he won election to the senate in that same 2018 cycle. In fact, DeSantis’ initial approval rating was higher than Rick Scott ever held within the state.  

After that strong start Governor DeSantis’ approval only grew. Prior to the pandemic his approval rating had reached a net positive 36% which made him one of the most popular governors with his constituents, but not the highest. At his peak of popularity, DeSantis had the 7th highest net approval rating among governors in the country – though his popularity was easily the highest of any large state governor. For comparison’s sake, his west coast rival Gavin Newsom, had a net approval rating of only 7% at that time. Then COVID came. You may recall the twists and turns of the pandemic and DeSantis’ role within it. During 2020, when he made bold calls to quickly reopen the state, and to get back to classroom education, his popularity quickly dwindled as Democrats who’d been won over by his pre-pandemic policies, began to turn on him. This was due to the Democrat Party line policy on COVID having been the exact opposite of what DeSantis enacted in Florida. By late 2020 Governor DeSantis’ approval rating had turned negative for the first time during his administration with FAU pollsters finding that he had a net negative 1% rating. It was what came next that led to DeSantis becoming known as America’s Governor.  

Following the most successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country (in the state with the most vulnerable population due to older demographics) – one that prioritized seniors for access to the vaccines during the early months – DeSantis’ popularity began to rebound. Shortly thereafter, as lockdown policies continued in much of the country, followed by vaccine mandates for employees to remain employed, and in some states even for children to go to school, DeSantis’ popularity surged once again as he banned vaccine mandates within the state among other related policies. Entering the 2022 election year he was known as America’s Governor and his net approval rating had rebounded to a positive 16%. That’s essentially where it stayed prior to the 2022 midterm election which proved to be strong enough for a historic reelection win that year. On Election Day 2022, DeSantis’ net approval rating was 13%, while Charlie Crist, his opponent in that election, held a negative 8% rating statewide. Fast forward to what’s happened over the past year.  

Following the bold and controversial 2023 state legislative session, at the time DeSantis officially announced his bid for president, his approval rating had rebounded to a positive 18% rating- which btw, in the grand scheme of wondering just how slanted news coverage of Florida’s public policy really is, this example is illustrative. Think of how Florida’s Parental rights in education laws were covered. Ditto Florida’s election integrity measures and laws limiting abortions within the state. Consider the outrage at Florida’s “bathroom” law mandating that public restrooms must be used according to one’s biological sex. And yet DeSantis’ approval rose consistently throughout that two-year public policy cycle to the highest level of approval he’d had since prior to the pandemic. And that takes us to where we’ve been most recently.  

On the day that DeSantis dropped out of the presidential race earlier this year his approval rating among Floridians was a positive 6%. DeSantis lost 12% of his support within Florida during his presidential bid. Now, the good news for him is that most Floridians still approved of him even at the end of the presidential campaign and we’ve seen him rebound significantly before – including having recovered from a negative approval rating at the peak of the pandemic. History suggests it could happen again. I haven’t come across current approval polling on DeSantis to know if he’s gained status among Floridians in the 2+ months since his presidential bid – though it likely won’t be long at this point. Typically, approval polls are taken shortly after the completion of the state’s legislative cycle. Based on how the session went and how DeSantis has led and conducted himself since – I'd expect that we’ll see a sharp increase back to double-digit approval for DeSantis. And if maintained throughout the remaining 2+ years of his administration – would position him well for another presidential bid in four years.  

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content