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Poll: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trounces potential Democratic challengers in head-to-head matchups

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey of Florida residents found that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis enjoys a sizable lead over several potential gubernatorial election rivals.

When the poll pitted DeSantis against Democrat Nikki Fried, the state's Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, DeSantis scored 50.6% support compared to Fried's 27%, while 22.4% of respondents were unsure.

In a matchup against U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.), who previously served as Florida governor from early 2007 until early 2011, 49.2% indicated they would support DeSantis, while just 32.8% opted for Crist, and 18% were unsure. Crist was a Republican when he was elected to serve as governor, but later lost a 2010 U.S. Senate bid while running as an independent — he is now a Democrat.

And between DeSantis and Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D), 48.6% picked DeSantis, while just 29.6% chose Taddeo, and 21.8% were unsure.

Respondents were given names, but were not supplied with descriptions or party affiliations, according to the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. The online poll occurred between Feb. 28 and March 12, and has a 4.5% margin of error.

"Being close to 50 percent in all three of the races means that he is in relatively powerful position moving forward, but we should expect tightening once the Dems pick their nominee," said Saint Leo University Polling Institute director Frank Orlando.

The poll also found that DeSantis has a 58.8% job approval rating — while 37.4% strongly approve, 21.4% somewhat approve, 11.4% somewhat disapprove, and 25.4% strongly disapprove.

The poll results indicate that DeSantis, who is running for re-election this year, is poised to trounce his competition during the upcoming gubernatorial contest.

"While he gets lots of national attention for provoking the ire of liberals on things like masking, it doesn’t seem to hurt him in Florida, and in fact continues to raise his national profile," Orlando said.

On Monday, DeSantis signed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, which includes a provision that prohibits teaching children about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

"Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," the text states.

Critics have been decrying the legislation.

Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, claimed that DeSantis had signed legislation making it unlawful to recognize the "existence" of LGBT people.

Disney issued a statement vowing to push for the legislation to either be repealed by the state legislature or overturned in the courts.

"This state is governed by the interests of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state. They do not control this state," DeSantis declared on Tuesday.

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