U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist narrowly leads Gov. Ron DeSantis in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls.
The results come as DeSantis continues to face criticism for his COVID-19 response amid a major surge in cases and hospitalizations that is making Florida the epicenter of the pandemic.
While his lead is barely within the poll’s 1.6% margin of error, 45% of respondents indicated they’d vote for Crist, a Democrat who formerly served as Governor as a Republican, while just 44% said they’d cast a ballot for DeSantis. Another 11% are still undecided.
That’s a big step up for Crist who, in previous polls, was trailing DeSantis by as much as double digits.
A previous St. Pete Polls survey taken in late May found Crist in a much weaker position. Asked about Crist’s chances of beating DeSantis at the time, about 30% of voters gave the Congressman better than even odds to unseat the Republican incumbent. Another 38% gave him a 50/50 chance of winning, while 27% saw only a small chance of victory for Crist.
The poll also confirms previous ones showing Crist likely has a better shot at unseating the Republican Governor than his Democratic opposition, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
In the same St. Pete Polls survey, Fried received 42% support while DeSantis came in at 45% with 13% of respondents still undecided. That’s outside the poll’s margin of error, but far better than Fried has performed in previous polls.
Crist’s boost is carried largely by independent voters. Of those, 46% prefer Crist while just 40% would vote for DeSantis. Crist also performs well among White voters, even if DeSantis still has that bloc cornered, with 40% indicating support for the Democrat compared to 51.5% for DeSantis. But Crist is carrying a giant chunk of the Black vote against DeSantis, with 68% support to the incumbent’s 16%.
Crist also leads among both men and women, at 46% to 45% among men and 44% to 43% among women.
Broken down by age, Crist performs best among the youngest voters, those age 18-29, at 50% support, 10 points ahead of DeSantis. DeSantis doesn’t hit that 50% threshold among any age demographic, even within his strongest showing among the 70 and up bloc at 49% support. That’s the only age demographic in which DeSantis leads Crist.
Perhaps surprisingly, Crist trails DeSantis in his home media market in the Tampa Bay area, with DeSantis pulling 47% support to Crist’s 45%. DeSantis also leads in the Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville markets, all in north Florida, a typical Republican stronghold. His strongest performance is in the Panama City market, with 73% support.
Crist, meanwhile, is carrying much of South Florida, with 51% support in West Palm Beach and 57.5% in Miami. DeSantis carries Southwest Florida with 53% support in the Fort Myers area, another Republican stronghold.
Central Florida shows Crist with an edge in the college town of Gainesville and in a statistical tie with DeSantis in the Orlando market.
Comparing Crist’s performance in the latest poll to Fried’s shows she is failing to capture independent voters and is capturing fewer Republican voters. Among independents, Fried is tied with DeSantis at 41% and she claims just 17% support among Republicans, nearly three points less than Crist.
The poll is the first look at the 2022 Governor’s race since Florida’s COVID-19 case numbers began to skyrocket, shattering records set last summer in both daily new cases and hospitalizations. Friday alone saw 21,000 new cases of the virus reported. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 11,515 hospitalizations in a single day.
The St. Pete Polls survey reached 3,952 respondents over the phone.
Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight include St. Pete Polls in their polling aggregations.