Poll: Nelson, Scott running neck and neck in potential Florida Senate match-up

Poll: Nelson, Scott running neck and neck in potential Florida Senate match-up
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A new poll finds that Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.) would be in a close race with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) if Scott decides to mount a Senate bid in 2018.

According to the University of North Florida (UNF) poll, Nelson has a 1-percentage point lead over Scott, 37 to 36 percent, which is within the poll's margin of error. Twenty percent of registered voters are undecided.

“Like most statewide races in Florida, the Senate race between Nelson and Scott is going to be too close to call all the way until Election Day,” said Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF.

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Pollsters found that 59 percent of Florida voters say they either strongly or somewhat approve of the job Scott is doing. But the governor, who’s been publicly encouraged to run for Senate by President Trump, has come under fire from Democrats over his response to the 14 people who died at a Florida nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Nelson, meanwhile, has an approval rating of 35 percent, with 15 percent who disapprove of the senator's performance. But nearly half of voters “don’t know how he’s handling his job as senator.” He's been serving in the Senate since 2001 and was a lawmaker in the House prior to that.

“The one major concern for Democrats has to be the public’s lack of awareness of Nelson,” Binder said. “When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.”

Trump, who won Florida by just over 1 point last November, also has an underwater approval rating in the Sunshine State. Thirty-seven percent of voters approve of the job he's doing, while 59 percent either strongly or somewhat disapprove.

Florida’s Senate race will be a marquee race in the 2018 midterms, and it’s one of 10 seats in which Democrats will need to defend its incumbents in states that Trump carried in 2016. It’s unclear when Scott will make a decision about whether or not he’s running.

The new poll was conducted from Oct. 11 to 17 via live callers and surveyed 838 registered voters in Florida. Its margin of error is 3.4 percentage points.