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No, Florida Is Not Redder Than Texas

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The 2018 election saw some remarkable performances by Democrats — including, prominently, in the red state of Texas, where Democrat Beto O’Rourke came close to defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. But in Florida, which is usually considered a swing state, Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis won the Senate and gubernatorial races (albeit by razor-thin margins), respectively, even as the national political environment favored Democrats by almost 9 percentage points. This gave rise to a narrative among political observers that Florida may now be further out of Democrats’ reach than Texas is. But this … has never made a lot of sense to me, and a new poll has given my side of the argument some ammunition.

This week, Quinnipiac University released a survey of Florida voters that included six possible 2020 general-election matchups between President Trump and different Democratic candidates. It found Trump trailing his Democratic opponent in each case, with margins ranging from 1 to 9 percentage points. As luck would have it, Quinnipiac three weeks ago asked Texas voters about those six general-election matchups. In that poll, five of the six Democrats trailed Trump — only former Vice President Joe Biden beat him (by 4 points).

Now, to be clear, I’m not asking you to put a lot of stock in those individual matchup results — as my colleague Perry Bacon Jr. wrote in this space last week, polls of general-election matchups at this point in the election cycle aren’t terribly predictive of the eventual results. However, we can compare the results of the Texas and Florida polls with a recent national Quinnipiac survey that asked about five of the matchups to get a sense of how much more Republican each state is than the nation as a whole.

And as you can see in the table below, if we compare Quinnipiac’s Florida poll to the pollster’s national survey, it implies that the Sunshine State is about 4 points more Republican-leaning than the nation. Meanwhile, the Texas poll suggests that the Lone Star State is about 10 points more Republican-leaning than the country. So according to Quinnipiac at least (and to be fair, it’s just one pollster’s read on the landscape), Florida is still left of Texas in the national partisan pecking order.

Florida is still bluer than Texas

How five presidential candidates performed against Trump in hypothetical general-election matchups in Florida and Texas vs. nationally

Trump vs. National (June 6-10) Florida (June 12-17) Florida Difference
Biden D+13 D+9 R+4
Sanders D+9 D+6 R+3
Warren D+7 D+4 R+3
Harris D+8 D+1 R+7
Buttigieg D+5 D+1 R+4
Average R+4
Trump vs. National (June 6-10) Texas (May 29-June 4) texas Difference
Biden D+13 D+4 R+9
Sanders D+9 R+3 R+12
Warren D+7 R+1 R+8
Harris D+8 R+4 R+12
Buttigieg D+5 R+2 R+7
Average R+10

Source: Quinnipiac University

I think the reason people have rushed to re-shade Florida from purple to red has to do with misplaced perceptions. Florida went blue in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and red in 2016, leading many to think of it as a bellwether state. But in each of those years, the Democratic presidential candidate did worse in Florida than they did in the national popular vote, so the state was actually a bit red relative to the country as a whole. The results in 2018 were consistent with that.

It’s not that I don’t agree that Florida is a Republican-leaning state — I do think it is light red. But I fear that people are overcompensating for (wrongly) considering it perfectly purple before 2018 by now considering it stubbornly Republican. And while Texas appears to be drifting toward the middle, for now at least, both polling and election results suggest that it is still redder than Florida.

Other polling bites

  • For all the ink spilled about the rules for qualifying for the Democratic presidential debates, a Politico/Morning Consult poll reveals that most Democrats are tuning out the griping. Sixty-one percent of voters who plan to participate in the Democratic primaries said they haven’t heard much, if anything, about some candidates’ criticisms of the debate rules. Instead, many seem content to trust the Democratic National Committee — 54 percent said the DNC is doing a “very” or “somewhat” fair job at running the debates, 33 percent didn’t know or had no opinion, and 13 percent thought the process was being handled “somewhat” or “very” unfairly.
  • Most Democratic presidential candidates — and most Americans — support “Medicare for All,” but there’s a lot of ambiguity in what that term means. According to a poll conducted by Global Strategy Group, 60 percent think it refers to a “plan that lets anyone buy Medicare instead of their current private insurance, if they want to,” while 40 percent believe it “makes everyone get rid of their current private insurance and switch over to Medicare.”
  • In reaction to the May 31 shooting in Virginia Beach, Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session of the Virginia legislature to enact gun control legislation. And a new Public Policy Polling survey sponsored by a pro-gun control group found that among Virginians in four key Republican-held legislative districts, 62 percent of respondents supported a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles, and 63 percent favored a ban on high-capacity magazines (one of which was used in the Virginia Beach shooting).
  • In hopes of eating into Biden’s polling lead, some campaign rivals have tried to attack Biden over his support for the 1994 crime bill that many now argue contributed to the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S. However, a HuffPost/YouGov survey reveals why that might not work: Many Democrats simply don’t seem to know much about the law. Forty-one percent said they are “not very” or “not at all” familiar with the crime bill, and 58 percent said they were not sure which 2020 candidates supported it.
  • Chances are the “song of the summer” has already been released, so Ipsos is asking Americans what they think it will be. Out of 13 options, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Old Town Road” came in first place, with 20 percent of respondents naming it; in second was “ME!” by Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie, garnering 10 percent of the vote.
  • Across the pond, YouGov asked members of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party what they would be willing to risk in order to realize the country’s exit from the European Union. Respondents said they were willing to endure significant damage to the U.K. economy (61 percent to 29 percent) and even the destruction of the Conservative Party itself (54 percent to 36 percent). However, there was a line that Tories were unwilling to cross. Respondents said 51 percent to 39 percent that they were not willing to achieve Brexit if it meant electing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.5 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.6 points). At this time last week, 42.3 percent approved and 52.9 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -10.6 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.3 percent, for a net approval rating of -11.5 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.2 percentage points (46.0 percent to 39.8 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.2 points (46.1 percent to 39.9 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 5.0 points (45.4 percent to 40.4 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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