Florida Southern College has inaugurated a new polling center with a survey that shows U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio way more popular in his home state than fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.

With the Florida primary five weeks away, Rubio polled 20.4 percent among likely Republican voters surveyed, second only to Donald Trump with 27.4 percent in the Florida Southern College Poll, released today.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush came in a distant fifth with 3.7 percent.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who bested Trump in the Iowa caucuses last week, ranked third, trailing significantly at 12.4 percent, and Ben Carson polled at 6 percent. (See poll highlights below.)


The poll was conducted last week, the same week Cruz nearly tied Trump in the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa results had little or no effect on the Florida poll because trends were largely the same before and after the caucuses, according to FSC political science professor Bruce Anderson, director of the FSC Poll.

FSC students supervised by field director Bill Rufty, former Ledger political editor, surveyed 608 likely voters by phone for the survey. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. Results were analyzed by Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler of Boise State University with assistance from Anderson.

Floridians registered as Democrats and Republicans go to the polls March 15 to vote in party primaries. Between now and then, primaries will be held in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was the clear favorite of those polled, with 43 percent saying they would vote for her, compared with 26 percent for Sanders.

However, Sanders outperformed Clinton when respondents were asked about hypothetical matchups.

Clinton prevailed in hypothetical matchups over Trump 44.6 percent to 37.6 percent and over Cruz 44.9 percent to 41.7 percent but was bested by Rubio 45.2 percent to 42.7 percent and Bush 45 percent to 41.7 percent.

In his hypothetical matchups, Saunders came out on top against the four Republicans tested:

  • 48 percent to 38.8 percent over Trump
  • 44.3 percent to 43 percent over Rubio
  • 46.1 percent to 36.7 percent over Cruz
  • 45.2 percent to 40.8 percent over Bush

“It shows Hillary is the preference (of Democrats) but not the right candidate in most of these races,” Anderson said.

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The new center, formally called the Florida Southern College Center for Polling and Policy Research, grew out of a 2013 poll of the Lakeland mayor’s race between Gow Fields and Howard Wiggs.

“President (Anne) Kerr noticed that other colleges and universities were doing polling and asked, ‘Could we?’ ” Anderson said. The mayoral poll, which was funded by The Ledger, went well, he said, and the center was born.

“The purpose from the beginning was to train students,” Anderson said, noting that the political science department has a focus on applied work.

Senior Steven Bramley told an FSC student reporter that polling was important in political campaigns he has participated in. “A lot of us are going to end up working on running campaigns, and one of the things you really need to know are the polls,” he said.

The roughly 15 students who got hands-on experience with the new poll were freshmen; they were paid minimum wage for the evenings they called landline and wireless numbers selected at random by a computer programmed to ensure all areas of Florida were called.

Call-room supervisor Kassidy Watkins of Wichita, Kan., said the learning experience included setting up a spreadsheet to track the team’s work. Was there anything else?

“I learned how mean people can be on the phone!” she said, adding she and her fellow pollsters learned quickly how to convince people they weren’t telemarketers.

Poll summary

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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