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DeSantis approval ticks upward in new poll

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is starting off 2021 politically above water in his home state. 

A new survey from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy shows the first-term governor with an approval rating of 53 percent among Florida voters. His disapproval, meanwhile, stands at 42 percent.

That's a strong showing for DeSantis, who is up for reelection next year and has been floated as a potential 2024 contender for the Republican presidential nomination. A Mason-Dixon poll out last July found his job performance rating 4 points underwater, with 45 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving.

The poll also suggests that DeSantis is on track to head into his 2022 reelection bid in a strong position. 

In hypothetical match-ups against two of his best-known potential Democratic rivals, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), DeSantis holds solid leads. Paired with Fried, the GOP governor leads 51 percent to 42 percent, with only 7 percent of respondents undecided. 

Crist fairs slightly worse against DeSantis, trailing the governor by 11 points - 52 percent to 41 percent - in a hypothetical match-up, according to the Mason-Dixon poll. 

Still, Fried remains relatively unknown to Florida voters - something that could change should she mount a challenge to DeSantis in 2022. More than one-third of respondents - 37 percent - said that they do not recognize Fried's name. For DeSantis, only 4 percent said they did not recognize him.

Meanwhile, Crist, a former Republican who served as governor for four years, remains well known in the state, with only 10 percent saying they do not recognize him. But impressions of Crist were more negative than positive, according to the Mason-Dixon poll. Forty-one percent said they identify Crist unfavorably, while 27 percent said they have a positive impression of him.

DeSantis has seen his political star rise among conservatives over much of the past year as he eschewed the toughest COVID-19 restrictions and echoed former President Trump's at-times laissez-faire approach to the pandemic. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando on Friday, DeSantis touted Florida as an "oasis of freedom."

CPAC was moved from its usual location in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., to Orlando because of Florida's looser policies toward the coronavirus pandemic.

A straw poll conducted at CPAC over the weekend found Trump as far and away the top pick among attendees for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination. DeSantis, however, placed second, with 21 percent support. Without Trump in the race, DeSantis's support shot up to 43 percent.

But while DeSantis has retained strong support among conservatives, the Mason-Dixon poll shows him with the edge among independent voters, as well. 

In a hypothetical match-up against Fried, DeSantis leads 58 percent to 29 percent among voters without a party affiliation. Against Crist, that lead increases to 60 percent to 28 percent.

The Mason-Dixon poll is based on responses from 625 registered Florida voters gathered by telephone from Feb. 24-28. It has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

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