Voters leaning Crist, Davis

A poll shows that the candidates for governor hold big leads over their primary opponents. Even so, Davis can't rest easy.

Published August 4, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Republican Charlie Crist and Democrat Jim Davis hold double-digit leads over their rivals in party primaries for governor, but the Democratic race remains wide open with nearly two-thirds of voters undecided, a new poll shows.

The statewide telephone survey was conducted July 24-25 by the Republican polling firm McLaughlin & Associates for a unit of Associated Industries of Florida, a statewide lobbying group representing 11,000 businesses.

The poll of 600 people covered policy questions such as property insurance, immigration and offshore oil drilling and included smaller samples of Republicans and Democrats who said they were likely to vote in the Sept. 5 primary.

In the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, Attorney General Crist leads Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, 42 percent to 24 percent, with 34 percent undecided. Among voters who identified themselves as conservatives, Crist led 44 percent to 24 percent.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Davis leads state Sen. Rod Smith, 25 percent to 11 percent, with 64 percent undecided. With the start of early voting 2½ weeks away, 40 percent of Democrats said they did not recognize Smith's name and 33 percent said they had never heard of Davis.

"The Democratic primary for governor is wide open," pollster Jim McLaughlin wrote in a six-page memo to AIF. "Neither candidate has a significant name recognition advantage."

Three other statewide races are also wide open, the poll suggests.

In the Republican primary for chief financial officer, 78 percent of voters are undecided. Senate President Tom Lee leads Rep. Randy Johnson, 12 percent to 8 percent, with 2 percent for Milt Bauguess.

A hypothetical general election matchup for CFO gives Democrat Alex Sink a 4-point lead over Lee and 6 points over Johnson, with 56 percent undecided in both matchups.

In the campaign for attorney general, Democratic state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell leads former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, 28 percent to 27 percent, with 45 percent undecided.

The agriculture commissioner's race shows Republican Charlie Bronson leading Democrat Eric Copeland, 27 percent to 23 percent, with 50 percent undecided.

By a margin of 76 percent to 13 percent, voters support deregulation of the property insurance market as a way to promote competition and attract more companies to the state.

The poll showed mixed opinions on proposals in Congress to reduce the flow of illegal immigration. Slightly more voters, 37 percent, favored the more aggressive House version than the Senate plan 31 percent, which includes temporary worker permits for undocumented workers.

On drilling, 50 percent said no drilling should be allowed within 125 miles of Florida's coast, and another 24 percent opposed drilling anywhere off Florida. About one in five voters, 19 percent, support drilling anywhere.

The margin of error for the Republican sample is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points and 6 points for the Democratic sample. The margin of error for the policy questions is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or bousquet@sptimes.com.