One of the first major polls conducted of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the novel coronavirus shows that a narrow majority – 51 percent – support his handling of the pandemic, while 46 percent disapprove.

The survey of 3,244 registered Florida voters was conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida (UNF) last week. 

While the governor still enjoys a majority of support from Floridians, his stellar approval ratings have taken a hit while dealing with the pandemic. A poll taken by UNF in February showed DeSantis with 64 percent of Floridians supporting him, with just 21 percent disapproving. 

DeSantis is doing better with Florida voters than President Trump is in the survey. The UNF poll shows 45 percent of Floridians strongly or somewhat approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis, while 53 percent disapprove.

The highest approval ratings that Floridians have for their elected officials comes at the local level, as the survey asked local residents in four of Florida’s biggest cities what they of how their mayors have performed during the crisis.

The survey shows that 78 percent of Tampa residents approve of Mayor Jane Castor’s handling of the pandemic, with only 8 percent disapproving. In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry had 70 percent approval and only 24 percent disapproval. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has 68 percent approval and 15 percent disapproval from Miami residents. And in Orlando, 61 percent of residents there approve of Mayor Buddy Dyer, with 19 percent disapproving (the survey did not poll St. Petersburg residents about Mayor Rick Kriseman).

“Relative to Trump and DeSantis’ support, mayors and local government have filled the leadership void and been rewarded with high levels of support,” said Dr. Michael Binder, UNF associate professor of political science. “Even though this job approval was asked specifically about the COVID-19 response, a mayor like Curry who has had a really tough year, has at least turned public opinion on this issue.”

Of all the figures and organizations listed in the survey, Dr. Anthony Fauci , the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, received the highest ratings from Floridians at 85 percent approval and just 6 percent disapprove. 

Florida’s two GOP U.S. Senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, did not get nearly that robust of support in the survey. 

Scott is underwater in the survey at 37 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval. Rubio gets 38 percent support, and 35 percent disapprove of his handling of the situation to date.

The survey also asked Floridians who they would support for president in November. If Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, 46 percent said they would vote for him, while 40 percent indicating that they would vote for President Trump. 

“I would exercise caution when looking at these numbers, first these are registered voters – not likely voters; second, the campaign season has screeched to a grinding halt and people are rightly less focused on politics,” Binder said. “Although, this same sample of voters when asked who they voted for in 2016, indicated a very slight advantage for Trump, suggesting that something may be changing in Florida ahead of the election.” 

The survey consisted of 3,244 registered voters. The margin of sampling error for the total sample is +/-1.7 percentage points.