A new statewide poll conducted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Florida Chamber Political Institute finds Floridians comfortable that the state is headed in the right direction and give Gov. Rick Scott some of his highest approval ratings, with usual splits on those opinions between Republicans and Democrats.

The poll finds Republican Adam Putnam and Democrat Gwen Graham are leading their parties’ gubernatorial races, though half or more of the likely voters surveyed in each party have not made up their minds.

The Florida Chamber Political Institute also found voters are most concerned about education, followed by the economy and health care, but really aren’t all that concerned about issues involving guns, terrorism, or marijuana.

The poll sets the table for 2018 elections, which also will likely include numerous proposed constitutional amendments. The first two teed up, involving homestead exemptions and property taxes, already are over or close to the 60 percent approval thresholds needed to be approved, the poll found.

“Voters will elect a new governor, all new members of the Florida Cabinet and 140 members to the Florida House and Senate. It’s still very early in what will be a busy 2018 election cycle. In the coming months, voters will begin to take a much closer look at the candidates for office,” Marian Johnson, senior vice president for political operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, stated in a news release.

In the institute’s first statewide poll of the new year:

– 56 percent of likely voters believe Florida is headed in the right direction. Republicans are especially optimistic at 76 percent, while more than half of voters with no party affiliations [56 percent] believe Florida is moving in the right direction. Less than half of Democrats [34 percent] believe Florida is headed in the right direction.

– 57 percent of all registered voters approve of Scott’s job performance. Republicans approve by 82 percent, while 30 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of NPA voters approve.

– Among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Graham leads with 14 percent, however 64 percent of voters remain undecided. Philip Levine garners 7 percent; Andrew Gillum, 6 percent; and Chris King, just 1 percent.

– On the Republican side,  Putnam gets 23 percent and Ron DeSantis 18 percent, with 50 percent undecided.

Among issues that matter most to voters, education was tops with 17 percent; jobs and economy drew 13 percent; health care, 12 percent; immigration, 5 percent; and global warming, 5 percent. Guns, terrorism and marijuana barely registered, the institute reported.

Amendment 1, calling for increasing the homestead exemption, got 61 percent overall, with the spread from Democrats, NPA voters and Republicans fairly tight, from 52 to 69 percent. Amendment 2, making permanent a cap annual non-homeastead property tax increases, has 54 percent overall support, with the party spread ranging from 60 to 58 percent.

The poll also found trends showing the greater potency of independent voters: 42 percent of all new voters in the past year registered without a party affiliation, while Democrats and Republicans each captured 27 percent of new voters. Among new Hispanic voters, 54 percent signed up without a party, 32 percent registered as Democrats, and 14 percent as Republicans.

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