Two new polls show Democrat Gillum leads, however both overlook historical turnout

Rick Scott holds narrow lead over Bill Nelson in Senate race showdown

Two new polls out Wednesday either show a “blue wave” coming or ignore historical turnout giving Democrats an electoral advantage in November.

A poll by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows Democrat Andrew Gillum leading Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor 41.3 percent to 38.5 percent with 15.3% undecided. However the survey appears to have under sampled Republicans. It gives Democrats a +2 turnout advantage over Republicans (37 to 35 with 28% independents). That’s an electorate not seen in Florida in recent times. Even factoring in an expected surge of African-American voters to the polls isn’t likely to give Democrats that sizable of an advantage, according to experienced pollsters. What’s even more confusing about the FAU poll is that independents break for DeSantis over Gillum 36% to 30%, but that DeSantis still trails.

What that means is the nearly 3-point lead for Gillum is likely skewed in his favor because historical turnout models weren’t factored into this poll. In the past three midterm election cycles, Florida Republican voters have turned out in higher numbers than Democrats even in 2006, the last “blue wave” year.

In 2014, it was +3 Republican, 2010 +6 Republican and 2006 +4 Republican. If FAU’s model is correct, Democrats should sweep both the U.S. Senate and Governor’s races.

In the August primary, 100,000 more Republicans voted than Democrats, even though Democrats hold the advantage in party registration.

The FAU poll comes on the heels of a Thompson Reuters, Ipsos and the University of Virginia Center for Politics poll that shows Gillum leading DeSantis by 7%. A Democrat hasn’t won a competitive statewide race in Florida by that wide of a lead since Bill Nelson handily defeated Katherine Harris in the 2006 U.S. Senate race.

Not All Polls Measure Up

If the primary election taught us anything, it’s the polls are all over the place. Just one week before the Republican Primary, the same FAU poll had Ron DeSantis leading Adam Putnam by just one-point, 32 to 31 percent. It also showed Gillum tied for third at 11%.

DeSantis told FLA News that polls should be ignored at this point in the race. “Ten days before my primary St. Leo had a poll saying I was down by 9, Florida Atlantic said I was up by 1. I won by 20. There were polls in the Democratic primary and not one had him (Gillum) winning and he obviously won,” DeSantis said. “So I don’t think they matter right now. We are in the process of letting people know about my agenda and, obviously, people need to know about him. He never got any scrutiny in the primary. That is going to change now and he’s going to have to defend these positions.”

Senate Race

The same FAU poll that gives Democrat Gillum a lead in the governor’s race, gives Republican Rick Scott a narrow, one-point lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson — 42 percent to 41.3 percent. Scott maintains a higher approval rating than Nelson and can likely attribute his lead to a stronger hold on his Republican base than Nelson has on his Democratic base. Just over 81% of Republicans support Scott’s campaign while 80% of Democrats support Nelson. That 1 percent margin is the difference in the Senate race, according to the FAU poll.

Political forecaster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight lists Nelson as the most vulnerable Democrat Senator up for reelection this year. In his analysis, Silver says because of Florida’s diverse electorate the power of incumbency plays less of a factor at reelection time.

Nelson and Scott have been locked in a tight battle since the start of this race and that isn’t expected to change between Election Day.


David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.