Florida Poll: Trump’s Economy Could Cost Him Florida’s Support

September 24, 2019


New polling about Florida voters’ views on Trump’s handling of the economy and their own personal financial experiences shows Trump’s grip on the economy as a winning issue slipping away from him. Yet Democrats have much to do to dominate the messaging on this issue.

Forty-seven percent of Florida’s voters surveyed said that what they’ve seen and heard lately about Donald Trump has made them less favorable toward him, while only twenty-six percent said it had made them more favorable. When they were asked to report what they had heard about Trump that made them feel less favorable to him, the most common complaints respondents offered were about his temperament and personality: they cited his tweets, his racist remarks, and his lying and not being a good person.

While these are important actions to hold him accountable on both electorally and morally, persuadable voters need to hear much more about issues that affect them personally, like health care, wages, and the ability to find a good-paying job. This is particularly true for women who report that their incomes are not keeping up with the rising costs of living. This will likely only become more important if troubling economic trends for working families continue.

While 56% of Floridians approve of how Trump is handling the economy, only 39% feel that they have personally benefited from Trump’s economic policies a lot or some. Nearly half of Floridians feel that they haven’t benefited at all from Trump’s economic policies (47%) and another 14% say they  have benefited very little..  Democrats must continue to make the argument that an economy that doesn’t work for most is not a working economy.

Democrats must spend time and money to make the case that Donald Trump’s agenda is leaving middle-class Americans and working families behind. If Democrats don’t make this case in earned and paid media, many voters in Florida may be inclined to give Trump the benefit of the doubt based on the economy again, handing the key battleground state to him again in 2020.

The State of the Race in Florida 

In 2016, Donald Trump won Florida by 1.2% of the votes, and in 2018, Republicans very narrowly won an open seat for Governor and defeated a sitting Democratic senator by just over 10,000 votes. And now, against a generic Democratic candidate for president, Donald Trump trails by just four points: 47% for the Democrat, 43% for the president, with 9% undecided. This is the same margin from our July polling, which showed Floridians voting at 45% for the Democrat, 41% for the president, and 14% undecided.

This slight deficit reflects voters’ overall opinion of the president. 44% of Floridians see wages and the cost of living as a reason to elect someone who will have a different approach, while 38% see it as a reason to reelect President Trump. And 42% of Floridians see drug companies and the cost of prescriptions as a reason to elect someone who will have a different approach, while37% see it as a reason to reelect President Trump.

Predictably, Trump’s electoral strength lies in Republicans (84% hold a favorable view of him versus 12% who view him unfavorably), white voters (50% favorable/45% favorable), and white men (56% among non-college graduates and 50% among college graduates) in particular. Democrats must continue to run a robust persuasion program to communicate to voters that Trump’s actions have harmed people like them, while putting big corporations and the wealthy first.

However, Trump is particularly unpopular among independents (57% view him unfavorably), voters in the Miami-Dade/Broward area (57% view him unfavorably), and Floridians under 35 (59% have an unfavorable opinion of him).

Danger signs exist for Democrats on the question meant to measure voters’ enthusiasm around the 2020 elections. The survey shows that 61% of younger voters, 55% of African-Americans, 63% of Latinx voters, and 63% of voters in the Miami-Dade/Broward area are highly motivated to vote in 2020. As a point of comparison, 72% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans report being highly motivated to vote. Democrats have more to do to make sure these important voters participate in 2020.

Key Issues in Florida

Health care dominated the 2018 midterms and the issue is set to be at the top of voters’ minds once again in 2020. In Florida, 50% of voters cite health care in their top four issues. Gun violence came second with 39%, followed by national security at 28%. “Wages keeping up with the cost of living” and “corruption in government” tied for fourth with 27%.

Health care was particularly salient with voters between 50-64 (57% selected it as a top issue), non-college white women (55%) and Latinx voters (53%). Notably, gun violence was  more likely to be selected by Latinx voters (46%) and African-Americans (48%). Among younger voters, gun violence was tied as most frequently selected with health care (both issues were selected by 42% of voters under 35).

Health care also remains one of the Democrats’ biggest advantages against Trump. By a 15-point margin (49 percent to 34 percent), voters think Trump’s handling of health care is more of a reason to elect someone else, rather than reelect him. In addition to health care, voters are more inclined to vote for someone else when thinking about Trump’s handling of  race relations, gun violence, and climate change, an issue that hits close to home for many Floridians who have been enduring a series of destructive storms in the last few hurricane seasons. What’s more, out of the 13 tested issues, only two issues (the economy and jobs) afforded Trump the advantage.

Share of likely voters who say Donald Trump’s handling of each issue is more a reason to vote for someone else with a different approach, vs. more a reason to reelect him:

  • Climate change: Reason to elect someone else, 49%; To reelect Trump, 24% (+25)

  • Race relations: Reason to elect someone else, 50%; To reelect Trump, 27% (+23)

  • Gun violence:  Reason to elect someone else, 47%; To reelect Trump, 31% (+16)

  • Health care: Reason to elect someone else, 49%; To reelect Trump, 34% (+15)

  • Wages and cost of living: Reason to elect someone else, 44%; To reelect Trump, 38% (+6)

  • Immigration: Reason to elect someone else, 47%; To reelect Trump, 43% (+4)

  • The economy: Reason to elect someone else, 37%; To reelect Trump, 44% (-7)

  • Jobs: Reason to elect someone else, 39%; To reelect Trump, 45% (-6)

In another sign that Trump’s economy is not delivering results for everyday Floridians, when asked whether they think the economic situation for them and their family is getting better or worse, 34% of voters think it’s getting worse, while only 26% think it’s getting better. Similarly, when asked whether they think wages and incomes keeping up with the cost of living is getting better or worse, 47% of voters think it’s getting worse while only 25% think it’s getting better.
This further demonstrates how important it is for Democrats to continue to make the case that the president is part of the problem when it comes to Floridians’ personal economic grievances. 

However, it’s worth noting that, Trump’s approval on the economy is slightly higher in Florida relative to the three other battleground states polled (PA, WI, and MI), presenting unique challenges on the economic argument.

Economic Insights

While Trump likes to boast about the growing economy and low unemployment numbers, in Florida, many voters aren’t personally feeling the effects of this so-called strong economy. 49% of Floridians feel that, compared with a few years ago, things in the country have changed for the worse, (while 42% think that things have changed for the better). Almost half of voters in Florida report that their personal income is falling behind the cost of living.

When making the connection directly to Trump, the picture is clear. Forty-seven percent of Floridian voters feel they have not benefited at all from Donald Trump’s economic policies. Only sixteen percent of voters say they have benefited a lot.

When asked about specific aspects of the economy, the majority of voters feel that things are getting better for people who are already wealthy, but only a quarter believe that things are improving for their families.  The rising cost of both healthcare and education are other issues that voters feel are getting worse.
Democrats need to combat the argument that Trump has been good on the economy by expressing to persuadable voters that Trump’s policies are benefitting the ultra-wealthy and harming working families.

In Florida, women are much more likely to believe that things in the country are changing for the worse. Compared with the 42% of men who say things in the country are getting worse, 55% of women in Florida say things are changing for the worse, including 54% of white women college graduates. While African-Americans are also more downbeat on the direction of the country (62% say worse), white voters and Latinx voters are more split.

Women are also more likely to report struggling in Trump’s economy, with 55% saying their income is falling behind the cost of living. Voters between 50-64 (56%) and non-college white voters (55% for men and 59% for women) are also more likely to report their income falling behind the cost of living.

Despite economic concerns, when asked what they’d seen or heard lately about Donald Trump that made them less favorable toward him, voters cited his tweets, racist remarks and general behavior. With such relatively little talk of pocketbook issues in the national conversation compared to that of Trump’s tweets, etc., it’s crucial that we drill down on messaging about these issues with persuadable voters.

Conclusion and Next Steps

While Trump’s Twitter habits and racist and bigoted remarks are contributing to his relatively weak standing with voters, this poll shows that in order to reject him in 2020, Floridians still need to hear more about how his policies affect their day-to-day pocketbook issues. From rising health care costs to losing faith in the ability to get ahead under Trump’s economic policies, Democrats should focus on the issues that affect hard-working families across the state — the issues that voters care most about.

Donald Trump is losing favorability among women, perhaps due in part to his handling of economic issues, which are disproportionately harming women. If Trump can’t improve his standing with these voters, he’ll likely be forced to rely on rallying his base, abandoning attempts to reach persuadable voters. Democrats need to seize this potential opening with strong communication about pocketbook issues and how Trump’s policies are harming working families.

With health care being a significant source of anxiety for Floridian voters, Democrats will also need to continue connecting the dots about how Donald Trump’s health care policies are bad for Floridian families’ bottom lines, illustrating how Trump’s actions contribute to higher premiums and less coverage.

About This Poll

Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll online August 13-25, 2019, with a total sample of 805 voters in Florida. The distribution of voters across demographic, geographic, and political factors reflect the expected composition of the 2020 electorate for Florida.