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Q Poll: Charlie Crist, fueled by independents, leads Rick Scott 43-40 percent overall

@MarcACaputo

Charlie Crist has slightly nudged ahead of Gov. Rick Scott in Quinnipiac University's latest poll that shows the Democrat picks up 43 percent support from likely voters to the incumbent's 40 percent.

That apparent 3 percentage point lead for Crist is essentially a tie because it's within the poll's margin of error, however the poll of 800 likely voters indicates Crist has some momentum on his side.

Last week, Quinnipiac surveyed the governor's race and found it dead even between Crist and Scott, with each getting 42 percent. So the contested has shifted a net 3 percentage points in Crist's favor or a net 5 points compared to Quinnipiac's September survey that showed Scott with a negligible lead.

Boosting Crist: the strong support of self-identified independents, who favor the Democrat over Scott by a spread of 47-29 percent.

“Independent voters are often the difference in swing states like Florida, but the size of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s lead among them is truly remarkable,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a written statement.

Crist's advantage with independents in Quinnipiac's poll is also somewhat of an outlier; no other major publicly released survey has shown such an advantage.

The day before Quinnipiac's survey was released, a group of Florida businessmen gave The Miami Herald a copy of an 800-likely voter poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by SEA Polling & Strategic Design that showed Scott getting 45 percent of the vote to Crist's 43 percent overall.

That, too, was essentially a tie.

In the SEA poll, Crist led slightly among independents, 37-33 percent. Scott led Crist among Republicans 84-10 percent; Crist led Scott among Democrats 80-11 percent.

In Quinnipiac's survey, Scott led Crist among Republicans 81-8 percent; Crist led Scott among Democrats 83-7 percent.

Quinnipiac found Libertarian Adrian Wyllie drawing 8 percent of the overall vote and SEA had Wyllie at 5 percent.

Quinnipiac and SEA -- a top polling firm that often surveys for Democrats -- use slightly different methods to poll Floridians. Quinnipiac called thousands of Floridians who self-identify their party affiliation and their likelihood to vote. About 33 percent identified as Republicans; 31 percent as Democrats; 27 percent as independents.

SEA called thousands of pre-identified Florida voters from a list that indicated their likelihood of voting. The respondents then self-identified their likelihood of casting a ballot. About 43 percent were Republicans; 41 percent as Democrats and 16 percent as independents.

But regardless of the difference in technique, both polls essentially show the same thing: a tie.

Amid all the polling, Floridians are voting. As of Wednesday morning, more than 2.2 million ballots had been cast either by absentee or in-person early ballot. Republicans had a lead over Democrats of 141,000 ballots cast, 45-38 percent. No-party and third-party voters, typically referred to as independents, had cast about 17 percent of the ballots.

While Republicans have the lead in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrats have a bigger pool of voters from which to draw. They lead Republicans by about 455,000 registered voters. Despite the Democratic edge over Republicans in the raw number of voters, though, Democrats tend to disproportionately stay home in mid-term elections, hence the slight edge among Republican respondents in the polls.

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