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Crist riding wave of popularity, new poll shows

The new governor's bipartisan initiatives are credited for his overwhelming voter support.

Published February 7, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - New Gov. Charlie Crist, who has led bipartisan efforts to lower property insurance rates and replace touch screen voting machines, is getting overwhelming support from voters, a poll released Tuesday shows.

More than two-thirds of Floridians, 69 percent, sampled in a random telephone survey by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute approve of the way their new governor has taken to his duties while only 6 percent disapprove.

Even an overwhelming majority of Democrats applaud the Republican's performance, with 65 percent giving a thumbs up and just 7 percent disapproving.

"It's very gratifying, but what's most important is to continue to serve the people," said Crist, who was traveling in the tornado-ravaged central Florida area Tuesday.

"The paper trail, insurance reform, it's the right thing to do," Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski said Tuesday. "He (Crist) has taken a lot of Democratic ideas and pushed them to the forefront, which is a lot more than we expected."

More than half of the survey, taken between Jan. 29 and Sunday, was completed by the time the tornadoes tore through central Florida. Quinnipiac said the poll of 1,003 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush's top rating came in September 2004 after a series of destructive hurricanes when 62 percent approved of his performance compared with 30 percent who didn't. Quinnipiac wasn't polling in Florida in early 1999 when Bush took office.

Two-thirds of the respondents in the new No poll believe Crist has kept his campaign promises and three of five believe he'll get homeowners insurance rates and property taxes reduced. Crist worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature last month to pass a bill aimed at lowering insurance rates.

He also appeared with Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler to announce a proposal that would replace touch screen voting machines, which have no paper trail, with optical scan machines, which count paper ballots.

"He has made a very strong first impression," said Peter Brown, assistant polling director for Quinnipiac. "It's Charlie Crist's show."

By comparison, Sen. Bill Nelson, who won re-election the same day Crist was elected, has a 54 percent approval rating compared to 18 percent who said they don't like how the Democrat is handling his job.

Florida's junior senator, Republican Mel Martinez, was at 48 percent favorable to 22 percent unfavorable.

According to the poll, 59 percent said owners of homes of equal value should pay the same amount of property tax no matter how long they've resided in the home. Seventy-seven percent support the governor's call to double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000.

Florida voters, however, were not enthused about moving up the date of its early March presidential primary to increase the state's presence in picking the eventual nominees.

While Democratic voters were slightly more amenable to the idea, just 46 percent overall said they liked the idea compared with 36 percent opposed to it and 19 percent unsure.

"It's hard to get people excited about political maneuvering," Brown said.

By the numbers

69% Charlie Crist's approval rating according to a survey conducted by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute

65% Crist's approval rate among Democrats.

62% The highest approval rating measured for Jeb Bush while he was governor, during the 2004 hurricanes.

54% The approval rating given to Sen. Bill Nelson according to the Quinnipiac poll.

48% Sen. Mel Martinez's approval rating in the same poll.

[Last modified February 7, 2007, 05:50:07]

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