TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A majority of Florida voters say they're optimistic about the next four years with Republican Rick Scott as governor, a poll released Wednesday shows.
The Quinnipiac (Conn.) University survey showed 56 percent said they were generally optimistic about the state's future compared to 29 percent who described themselves as pessimistic.
However, 43 percent said they were undecided about Scott, who was in office just three weeks when pollsters began their weeklong survey.
"It's a month into Scott's tenure, but his numbers aren't bad," said Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown. "The large number of voters don't have an opinion about him. That's not terribly surprising, but among those who do he has a nice healthy 3-to-2 approval ratio."
Thirty-five percent approve of Scott and 22 percent disapprove.
"What's interesting is that his job approval numbers are better than his personal favorability, which is probably left over from the very nasty general election campaign," Brown said.
Only 28 percent had a favorable view of Scott compared to 24 percent unfavorable with 45 percent saying they hadn't heard enough about him and 3 percent refusing to answer.
Democrat Alex Sink, who lost to Scott by only 1.2 percentage points, hammered him over his leadership of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain that paid $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud after he was forced out as chief executive officer.
More than nine of 10 Floridians consider the state's budget problems serious, including 64 percent who labeled them "very serious." They favored increased gambling by a 56-39 margin to help reduce the deficit.
Despite those budget concerns, half of those polled said they favored Scott's proposal to cut property and business taxes by about $2 billion.
But 48 percent said it was a bad idea for Scott to rule out raising taxes to balance the budget while 44 percent agreed with his decision.
"They narrowly say he shouldn't have done it and by a much larger margin they don't think he'll be able to do it," Brown said.
Fifty-eight percent were skeptical that he'd be able to keep that promise, while 26 percent said they thought he'd be able to do it.
Nearly two-thirds said they agree with Scott's decision to have state employees contribute to their pensions. Scott said Tuesday he wants state workers, teachers and many local government employees to contribute 5 percent of their salaries to the Florida Retirement System. Florida is the only state that does not require some of its employees to contribute to their retirement. Scott said the proposal would save $2.8 billion over two years.
Fifty-two percent of those polled said they preferred cutting government services to raising taxes to meet the budget shortfall, compared to 34 percent who felt otherwise.
Scott, a multimillionaire from Naples, jarred the Florida political world last year when he rocketed from virtual anonymity to defeat fellow Republican Bill McCollum, then attorney general, and go on to beat Sink, then the state's chief financial officer. He took office Jan. 3 as Florida's 45th governor.
Scott has been criticized by the state's media for being less accessible than his predecessors, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.
But nearly three in five voters (58 percent) said they thought the new governor was accessible enough while just over one in five (22 percent) said Scott was not accessible enough.
Republicans and independents supported the new governor 52 percent to 11 percent while Democrats disapproved of his job performance 39 percent to 18 percent.
Quinnipiac said its random survey of 1,160 registered voters by land lines and cell phones carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. --- Associated Press writer Bill Kaczor contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)