Ron DeSantis' Approval Rating Tanks as COVID Delta Variant Ravages Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' approval rating tumbled to 43.7 percent in a new poll published on Wednesday, as the state grapples with a surge in cases of COVID driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The survey from St. Pete Polls was conducted on August 2-3 and it shows the Republican governor losing re-election in a hypothetical matchup with Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat who represents Florida's 13th congressional district.

Respondents were asked whether they approved of the job DeSantis is doing and 48.3 percent said they didn't approve, while 43.7 percent said they did. This represents a significant decline since a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll in May showed the governor's approval at 55 percent.

The St. Pete Polls survey showed that 7.9 percent of respondents weren't sure whether they approved of how DeSantis was doing his job.

By contrast, 48.8 percent of respondents approved of President Joe Biden's job performance, with 45.7 percent disapproving and 5.6 percent not sure.

The new poll also asked Floridians who they would vote for if the election for governor were held on the day they were surveyed and offered theoretical matchups against potential Democratic candidates. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.

Charlie Crist, who was the state's governor from 2007 to 2011, beat DeSantis with 45.3 percent support to the Republican's 43.8 percent, though a significant number of respondents - 10.8 percent - were undecided.

DeSantis fared better against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, defeating her in the hypothetical election with 45.1 percent to Fried's 41.8 percent. However, 13.1 percent of respondents were undecided.

On the key question of mask mandates in schools, the poll found that a clear majority of respondents don't agree with DeSantis' recent executive order banning public schools from requiring children to wear face masks.

When asked if masks "should be required for all children" when the state's schools reopen, 62 percent said they should be, 31.9 percent said they should not and 6.1 percent were unsure.

The poll surveyed 3,952 likely Florida voters via an automated phone system and has a 1.6 percent margin of error. St. Pete Polls enjoys a B+ rating from poll tracker FiveThirtyEight. The latest poll comes amid a surge in COVID cases in the Sunshine State.

Florida now accounts for about one in five new COVID cases nationally and DeSantis has faced criticism. He strongly defended his response to the Delta variant, however, taking aim at President Biden for trying to "single out Florida over COVID."

DeSantis criticized the "wide-open southern border" and said the president was "facilitating" the virus.

"Whatever variants are around the world, they're coming across that southern border. He's not shutting down the virus, he's helping to facilitate it," the governor said.

Newsweek asked Governor Ron DeSantis' office for comment.

Ron DeSantis Gives a Press Conference
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces that he wants to raise the minimum starting salary for teachers during a press conference held at Bayview Elementary School on October 7, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A new poll showed DeSantis disapproval at 48.3 percent. Joe Raedle/Getty Images