Poll gives Scott slight lead in Senate showdown

With both candidates receiving solid support from their political bases, Gov. Rick Scott has opened a small lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in their high-stakes battle for a U.S. Senate seat, a new poll shows.

Scott leads Nelson by a margin of 47 percent to 44 percent, with 9 percent of voters remaining undecided heading toward the Nov. 6 general election, according to the poll released Tuesday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy.

The race, which could help determine control of the U.S. Senate, has been tight for the past year, though the new poll was the first Mason-Dixon survey to show Scott with a lead. A Mason-Dixon poll in October showed the race tied, while a February poll gave Nelson a one-point edge.

“The overall trend line is running in Scott’s favor, as his support has slowly but steadily increased over the last 17 months, while Nelson’s has remained static,” Mason-Dixon said in analysis accompanying the poll results.

Mason-Dixon, which has long conducted polls in Florida, surveyed 625 registered voters who said they were likely to vote in the November election. The poll, conducted July 24 and July 25, has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Scott received support from 84 percent of registered Republicans, while Nelson got backing from 80 percent of registered Democrats. With such a partisan split, independent voters likely will be a key to the race. The poll showed Scott leading among independents by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Along with the partisan split, the poll also showed sharp divides along regional, gender, age and racial lines.

For example, Scott led by a whopping margin of 59 percent to 33 percent in Republican-friendly Southwest Florida and by a margin of 56 percent to 38 percent in largely conservative North Florida. Nelson, meanwhile, ran up a huge margin, 57 percent to 31 percent, in Democrat-rich Southeast Florida.

Similarly, the poll showed Scott with a 21-point lead among male voters, while Nelson had a 15-point lead among women. Scott led by 22 points among white voters, while Nelson led by a margin of 83 percent to 4 percent among black voters. Among Hispanic voters, Nelson led by a margin of 44 percent to 39 percent --- though 17 percent remained undecided.

The ages of voters also are a factor in the race. Nelson held a 23-point lead among voters ages 18 to 34, and the candidates were tied among voters ages 35 to 49. But Scott held a 14-point lead among voters ages 50 to 64 and an eight-point lead among voters 65 and older.

Nelson was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and has cruised to re-election twice. Scott, who is barred from seeking a third term as governor, formally entered the Senate race in April after long-running speculation that he would try to unseat Nelson.