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Latest poll: Scott lead over Crist widening

TALLAHASSEE — Most recent numbers have shown Gov. Rick Scott opening a lead over Democrat Charlie Crist, a trend continued in a poll conducted by Associated Industries of Florida.

The group’s most recent survey has Scott topping Crist by a 47-41 margin when those two are the only candidates included. That lead shrinks to a 44-41 margin, within the poll’s 3.1 percent margin of error, when Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, candidates with no party affiliation, and undecided voters are included.

Associated Industries of Florida, which has endorsed Scott, is one of the state’s largest business lobbies. It conducts regular polls, but has a track record of only sharing the results privately with members. Officials declined to comment on the most recent survey, obtained by the Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau.

Like other recent public polls, the numbers show Crist’s popularity has slipped with nearly all demographics. It’s a likely byproduct of the Scott camp spending $30 million in often negative television ads. By comparison, Crist’s camp has spent roughly $10 million on television spots.

The deluge of negative ads has soured voters on both major candidates. Polling data has consistently shown there are more voters who view them unfavorably than those who view them favorably.

Only 41 percent of respondents view Crist favorably; 54 percent view him unfavorably, a trend that holds with key groups of voters.

Crist’s favorable-unfavorable numbers with Hispanics are 36-59, down significantly from an Associated Industries of Florida poll in May that had the former Republican governor at 58-33. In May, his favorable-unfavorable numbers with voters that have no major party affiliation was 42-47, a gap that has widened to 35-57.

With just Scott and Crist on the ballot, the incumbent governor leads with Hispanics by a 51-36 margin and voters not with a major party by a 41-31 margin. When other candidates are included, Scott’s lead with those voters sits at 50-37 and 36-28, respectively.

Scott’s favorable numbers have increased slightly, with 47 percent of respondents viewing him favorably versus 49 percent who view him unfavorably. Most polls have had his favorability number around 40 percent.

Associated Industries of Florida polled 1,000 likely voters from Sept. 4-7. Of those, 25 percent were contacted by cell phone. Polling cell phone users is more expensive, but deemed more accurate with younger voters who are using landlines with less regularity.

The poll’s sample includes 42 percent Republican, 39 percent Democrats and 19 percent with no major party affiliation. There are more registered Democrats in Florida, but during midterm elections Republicans historically vote in higher numbers.

In recent weeks, polls have consistently shown that Scott has overtaken Crist’s early lead and now holds a slight advantage. For the most part, though, public polling has had the race a statistical dead heat.

A poll commissioned earlier this month by a handful of media organizations did have Scott up 41-36, which was the first time he was leading outside the margin of error. That trend continues with Associated Industries of Florida’s new numbers.

A poll released Tuesday by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling had Crist up 42-39. It’s not the first time the firm has differed from other polls in Florida gubernatorial races. In 2010, it was one of the few polling firms that had Scott beating former Attorney General Bill McCollum in the GOP primary.

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