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Bush's grades stay up

Most voters polled give the outgoing governor an A or B.

By JONI JAMES
Published October 28, 2006


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His older brother’s approval ratings may be abysmal, but a new poll shows Florida Gov. Jeb Bush likely will leave office in January as popular as ever.

In the St. Petersburg Times poll, voters were asked to rate the two-term Republican governor’s performance by assigning a letter grade. Fifty-six percent of likely Florida voters gave him an A or B.

Another 23 percent gave him an average — or C — grade, and 10 percent a D. Only 7 percent failed him by assigning an F.

“Florida really is the tale of two Bushes,” said pollster Kellyanne Conway. Voters have “high, deep gratitude and praise for Jeb Bush.”

The results come from a statewide telephone survey of 800 voters conducted Oct. 22-25 for the Times by Conway’s Republican firm, the Polling Company, and a Democratic firm, Schroth/Eldon & Associates. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Hialeah Republican Gloria Evans, 73, awards the governor an A: “I think he’s sincere. He has integrity. Anything he’s done has been for the good of Florida.”

For years, Jeb Bush’s approval ratings have tracked higher than those of the president, particularly in 2005 when his steadfast response to two years of eight hurricanes was in sharp contrast with Washington’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

But the new poll shows the governor remains popular among Republicans and independents, both genders, all age groups, and whites and Hispanics, even as his most prominent policy position — reliance on the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to give letter grades to public schools — continues to lose favor across all voter groups.

Not all agree

It’s the reason independent voter Jefferey  Kelley, 55, a disabled engineer in Seffner, gives the governor a D. His wife is a teacher.

“I see what she goes through,” Kelley said. There is a disconnect between the test material and the rest of what students are learning in the classroom, he said. “I don’t have fond memories of him. I’ll be looking forward to seeing him go.”

Other voters give Gov. Bush credit for trying.

“It stunk back before he got here but he made an effort. It’s an effort in the right direction,” said independent voter Sharon Kinkead, 64, of Port Orange. She gives him a B-plus.

As expected, Bush’s approval ratings are highest among Republicans: 70 percent give him an A or B and only 1 percent give him an F.

He also enjoys a loyal following among independent voters, with 66 percent giving him an A or B, and among Hispanics, with 62 percent awarding an A or B. Bush is fluent in Spanish.

A B-minus average

Among Democrats, only 32 percent give Bush an A or B. Another 33 percent give him a C.

One of them was not Democrat John Boggs, 50, a self-employed mover in Riviera Beach, who said the governor hasn’t kept his promise to be a governor for everyone.

“I don’t think he’s honored a lot of middle-class working people,” he said.

Democratic pollster Thomas Eldon noted that across all voters, more people give Bush a C (23 percent) than an A (21 percent), saying that means the governor averages a B-minus grade.

Conway, however, said Bush’s showing is impressive after eight years of controversial leadership.

“The fact that 65 percent of Democrats give him an A, B or C is remarkable in modern politics.”

Times staff writers Alisa Ulferts, Anita Kumar, Adam C. Smith and Wes Allison contributed to this report.

[Last modified October 28, 2006, 20:53:06]


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