Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is seeing his approval ratings plunge after enacting and seeking to enforce stringent measures that prevent schools in his state from taking actions that would prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier this year, DeSantis signed a bill into law that banned local governments, including school districts, from issuing rules about masking, despite a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that every school in the nation require masking to prevent students and staff from contracting and spreading the deadly virus.
After several school districts said they would keep their masking rules in place, DeSantis threatened to withhold the pay of district officials in punishment for their defiance, even though they were acting in the interest of public health. (The Biden administration has since said that it will aid those districts by paying for any penalties DeSantis imposes on them).
DeSantis went forward with these threats despite polling in his state consistently showing that most people support policies made at the local level to keep masking rules in place in the state’s schools. In fact, most Americans back masking requirements in schools, and Florida is no different: Around 62 percent of voters in Florida support rules requiring masks for students and staff in public schools.
Now, new polling shows that DeSantis may have harmed himself politically over his stubborn stance on masking and other issues related to the pandemic.
A Political Matrix/The Listener Group survey published this week asked Florida residents whether they had positive or negative views of the governor over his handling of the pandemic. Just 43.3 percent said they viewed DeSantis favorably on that issue, while 53.8 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him.
The dissatisfaction felt by Florida voters has put DeSantis at a disadvantage against his potential political opponents, as he is up for reelection in 2022. In a hypothetical matchup against former governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Florida), DeSantis would lose the governorship, earning just over 43 percent of the vote versus Crist, who would get close to 57 percent, the poll found.
DeSantis also fares poorly against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. In that matchup, Fried would win with 53.7 percent of the vote, with DeSantis attaining just 46.3 percent, if the election were held today.
DeSantis, who is viewed as a potential nominee to the Republican Party’s ticket in the 2024 presidential election, has overseen what many perceive to be a disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic in his state, particularly in the past few months as Florida has become one of the nation’s largest hotbeds for COVID infections. Florida currently ranks third among all other states in the U.S. in terms of how many new cases of coronavirus are being reported daily on a per capita basis. The state also has the third-highest rate of COVID deaths in the nation for the past two weeks, with more than 227 Floridians dying per day on average.