What a difference a year makes.
Throughout the 2018 election, far-left Democrats attacked Republican Ron DeSantis as a divisive racist. Today, he may just be the most popular governor in the country.
According to a newly released poll by the University of North Florida, 72 percent of Sunshine State voters approve of the job DeSantis is doing as governor. This includes 91 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of independents, and a striking 56 percent of Democrats. Only 17 percent of respondents indicated they disapprove of his performance thus far.
How's he doing it?
The data show that DeSantis' popularity is driven by strong support from a diverse coalition of voters in the crucial swing state. For instance, his popularity is highest among Hispanics, 82 percent of whom approve of the job he's doing as governor, as well as 72 percent of whites and 50 percent of blacks.
According to Dr. Michael Binder, the head of Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, the Florida Republican's popularity is rare.
"This is the highest gubernatorial approval in recent history," the pollster said. "Working on bipartisan issues and acting in a reasonable fashion during the recent hurricane season are contributing to his popularity in a state where the governor isn't historically popular across parties."
Other conservative leaders and issues faring well
The UNF poll also found other Republican leaders faring well with Florida's electorate. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated they approve of the job Sen. Marco Rubio is doing, compared to 34 percent who disapprove. Similarly, 49 percent of voters back Sen. Rick Scott's performance, while 32 percent disapprove.
Conservative legislative initiatives enjoy broad support, too. Seventy-one percent of voters indicated they support laws that would require businesses in the state to use a federal immigration database, known as E-Verify, to ensure workers are eligible for employment, including 63 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Hispanics.
"The bipartisan support for E-Verify could buoy this issue during [the legislative] session, but business interests are often opposed to state level action on immigration verification systems," Binder noted.
Meanwhile, over half of Floridians (55 percent) said they support a bill signed by Gov. DeSantis that redefined voting restoration qualifications for Floridians with felony convictions to now include payment of court-ordered fines, fees, and restitution.
Separately, voters were asked about allowing recreational marijuana, and 64 percent said they support legalization, while 33 percent oppose. Although support for the measure is higher among Democrats (74 percent), more than half of Republicans (54 percent) also support the change.
The UNF Florida statewide poll was conducted Oct. 14-20. The researchers interviewed 669 Florida voters, yielding a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.