Florida voters dislike the new health reform law so much that President Obama and the state’s top Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, are paying a hefty political price, according to a new survey and analysis by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Only 34 percent of Florida voters support the new law while 54 percent are opposed – well outside of the 4 percent error-margin for the poll of 625 registered voters.
Opposition is even stronger among the two crucial voting blocs in Florida: voters older than 65 and voters with no party affiliation. Seniors disfavor the bill by a 65-25 percent margin, while independent voters oppose the law 62-34.
The poll also shows that, by a 15 percentage-point margin, more Floridians have a negative view of Obama than a positive one. And they oppose his so-called “cap-and-trade” global warming legislation as well as the new healthcare law.
The “eye-popping” numbers in the poll concerned health care, seniors and Sen. Nelson, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said. He said elder voters were once a reliable base of support for Sen. Nelson, but no more.
“The only saving grace for Bill Nelson is that his election is in 2012 and some of the anger might die down by then,” Coker said. “But he probably can’t escape the damage completely.”
The percentage of voters who have an unfavorable opinion of Nelson -- 34 percent -- is just 2 percentage points higher than those who have an unfavorable view of him. Since his 2006 re-election, Nelson’s popularity has nose-dived 18 percentage points, the poll shows.
Because Florida is such a crucial swing state with so many seniors, Nelson’s troubles are a shot across the bow for Democrats everywhere, Coker said. The poll shows Nelson would lose to Republicans in theoretical match-ups against former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Charlie Crist and his current U.S. Senate opponent Marco Rubio.
“If Bill Nelson’s getting hurt by this, you can imagine what damage there is to other Democrats across the country,” Coker said.
A spokesman and top advisor to Nelson, Dan McLaughlin, acknowledged that times have been tough for Democrats. But he said Nelson has been unfairly punished by the very group he sought to help, seniors.
Nelson successfully amended an early version of the health bill to soften cuts to Medicare Advantage, a privatized Medicare program. But the effort was denigrated by Republicans as a special deal, backroom deal for Florida that was nicknamed “Gator Aid.”
“If there’s a dip in the polls, it’s due to this inaccurate and unfair bashing for sticking up for these seniors,” McLaughlin said.
Since Nelson will be appearing on the same ballot as Obama in two years, Coker said, it’ll be interesting to watch whether the senator distance himself from the increasingly unpopular president.
For months, Nelson has been a hold out against Obama’s so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation designed to reduce carbon emissions to halt the effects of climate change. Nelson is particularly opposed to an effort to change the bill to open up the waters off Florida to oil drilling.
But the entire premise of the legislation might be misguided in the public mind, according to the poll. Only 35 percent believe global warming is proven, while 57 percent say it isn’t an established fact. By a 34-50 percent spread, voters oppose the cap and trade legislation. And five times as many voters believe the legislation will raise the cost of fuel.
One reason the cap-and-trade legislation is failing is because voters are losing faith in Obama in Florida, a victim of their dislike over health reform.
The big winner in all of the anger, Coker said, could be Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican who’s running for governor. McCollum on Tuesday sued the federal government to block the healthcare bill, claiming it violated constitutional principles over federal powers.
Coker said a poll on the governor’s race will be released next week. Coker said McCollum’s Democratic rival, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, has been wise to avoid healthcare on the campaign trail and focus on jobs.
“She’s fortunate she didn’t have to vote for healthcare,” Coker said. “The story is: here’s an unpopular piece of legislation and their senator voted for it,” Coker said. “Unlike other votes people didn’t like, this didn’t go unnoticed.”