Ron DeSantis' Approval Rating Plummets as Florida COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket

Nearly half of all Florida voters now disapprove of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' job performance. His disapproval rating has risen over the last two months as Florida's COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have reached their highest levels since the pandemic began.

Among all voters, 48 percent now approve of DeSantis' job performance and 48 percent disapprove, according to a new poll from the market research company Morning Consult. His approval rating dropped 6 percent and his disapproval rating increased 8 percent among all voters since July 1.

The percentage of Independent voters who disapprove of DeSantis' job performance rose 14 percentage points since the start of July. At the start of July, only 38 percent disapproved of his job performance. By the end of August, 51 percent disapproved.

His disapproval ratings also rose amongst Democrats and Republicans. At the start of July, 72 percent of Democrats disapproved of his performance. By the end of August, 76 percent disapproved—a 4 percent increase.

At the start of July, only 9 percent of Republican voters disapproved of his performance. By the end of August, 14 percent disapproved—a 5 percent increase.

The poll surveyed 2,904 registered voters in Florida. The survey's findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 1 to 2 percentage points.

Ron DeSantis approval rating Florida COVID-19 cases
Nearly half of all Florida voters now disapprove of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' job performance. In this photo, DeSantis speaks during an event to give out bonuses to first responders held at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty

The drop in his approval ratings has coincided with an increase in his state's COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Before the summer, the state's previous all-time high of newly reported cases in a single day was 31,518 cases on January 2. The state first broke that record on July 27 with 38,321 newly reported cases. Since then, the state has broken that new record nine times. Its new record for most new cases reported in a single day occurred on August 10 with 56,610 newly reported cases.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state has also risen dramatically. On July 1, the state reported 2,116 COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On August 31, the state reported 15,949 COVID-19 hospitalizations—a 653 percent increase.

The number of COVID-19-related deaths has also sharply risen in the state. On July 1, the state reported 36 deaths. On August 30, the state reported 574 deaths. The state's previous highest daily toll of deaths was 272 on January 22. Since the start of July, the state has broken that record 12 times. The state's new highest daily toll of deaths was 901 on August 26.

"As a practical matter, 'policy changes' do not stop highly transmissible respiratory viruses from spreading," DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw told Newsweek. "If you look at all the different policy responses around the world since the start of the pandemic, there is no correlation between COVID prevalence and...mask mandates, lockdowns, curfews, vaccine passports...or even vaccination rate."

Pushaw's claim is incorrect. A March 21 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that mask mandates led to "statistically significant decreases in county-level daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates." Two international studies have also determined that lockdowns potentially have saved millions of lives, Reuters reported on June 2020.

An August 6 CDC-cohort study of COVID-19 infections rates in Kentucky found that higher vaccination rates helped reduce infections among the vaccinated. As of September 2, Florida is ranked 20th among U.S. states with the highest vaccination rates. Nearly 53.4 percent of its eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

DeSantis' press secretary also mentioned that, since mid-August, the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations has declined steadily by about 9.7 percent, according to the Florida Hospital Association.

"'Cases'—as in positive tests with mild to no symptoms—aren't the main concern," Pushaw told Newsweek. "The most important objective is to alleviate the risk of severe illness, particularly hospitalizations, from COVID-19."

"Governor DeSantis is focused on promoting and ensuring Floridians have access to the two clinically proven tools for preventing serious illness and hospitalization: Vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatment," the press secretary added.

DeSantis has faced opposition amongst school districts and businesses in his state. Schools have reinstated mask mandates and businesses have required proof of vaccination despite his executive order and signed legislation banning both, respectively. DeSantis has pledged to withhold the paycheck of district school board members and fine businesses $5,000 for their defiance.