Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum will square-off against each other in their first debate of the Florida governor’s race Sunday night at 8 o’clock. The debate will be held in Tampa and is sponsored by CNN, which drew criticism from the DeSantis campaign hours before the debate when the cable media outlet released a poll showing Gillum with a double-digit lead over his opponent.
The poll shows Gillum leading leading DeSantis by 12-points, 54 percent to 42 percent. The same poll also showed incumbent Bill Nelson with a 5-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott, 50 percent to 45 percent, in the race for the U.S. Senate. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent. It was conducted from Oct. 16-20.
The poll was conducted by SSRS, a pollster that is considered to be an “outlier” among companies that conduct surveys.
The DeSantis campaign sent out a release Sunday afternoon that called the poll “questionable and misleading” and “conducted by a left-leaning democratic pollster who polled an electorate never seen in Florida.”
“This poll is as amusing as it is suspicious in that it was released hours before a debate between the two candidates – clearly meant to give the advantage to Andrew Gillum,” said Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for DeSantis. “But while CNN is clearly working hard to craft far left polling data with results that are pure fiction, Ron DeSantis is ready to face Mr. Gillum on behalf of all Floridians who stand against his billion-dollar tax increase, anti-law enforcement agenda and record of suspicion and corruption.”
The DeSantis campaign issued the following critique of the methodology used by SSRS to conduct the survey:
The campaign pointed to a myriad of examples of the failed methodology in the poll, including polling a sample of Florida residents that leans +3% Democrat for a non-presidential General Election without weighting the sample by recent General Election turnout. Further, polling a sample of voters that is 39% Independent for a statewide poll in Florida produces results that are meaningless for a Gubernatorial Election. Weighting individual respondents to Census estimates without also weighting to past turnout profiles is nonsensical, further proving the methodology of the poll renders the findings useless.
This poll has more Independent voters than Democrats or Republicans and more Democrats than Republicans. However, in the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 general elections more Republicans voted than Democrats or Independents.
“Simply put, this CNN survey is not worth the paper it is written on because the sample and weights do not reflect a Florida election. It also makes no sense to use this sampling when you can buy Florida’s voter file and voting history files for $10 and weight to those voter-level characteristics,” Lawson went on to say. “That CNN takes this poll seriously enough to blast it out to their viewers right before a debate on their network is why so many Americans believe that CNN peddles fake news.”