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Scott's approval ratings rise, but public still wary

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Naples News
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Governor greets customer in donut shop

By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-980827.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating is inching up but a majority of Floridians say they don't like the job he is doing. Scott's popularity dropped sharply since taking office in January. James Call reports this week, the Governor launched a communications strategy to improve his standing among voters.

A Quinnipiac survey released Friday showed Governor Rick Scott with a job approval rating of 35 percent with 52 percent of respondents saying they don't like what he is doing. Peter Brown of Quinnipiac said Scott has the highest dislike seen in any state he surveys, but there appears to be a disconnect between what voters say they support and their rating of the governor's performance.

"What is interesting is that only a quarter of Floridians say they know that the budget that was passed doesn't raise taxes. Now, one would assume if more people thought that, especially Republicans among whom Scott is not doing that well, you would think among Republicans the number would go up if the governor and his people had done a better job getting the message out that the budget does not raise taxes."

Fifty-eight percent of respondents say they favor cuts in spending to balance a state budget, an approach the Governor followed, yet more than half of respondents don't approve of the governor's performance.

However, the same week that the polls' results were made public, Scott announced he was going to get out among voters more often. At least once a month Scott will work alongside regular Floridians at their job site. And he's attempting to thaw an icy relationship with the Capitol Press Corps. Scott invited the reporters who cover him on a daily basis in Tallahassee to his office for coffee and donuts.

Scott: "I cleaned off my desk a little bit to make it look nicer."

Reporter: "So governor why did you invite all of us into your office?"

Scott: "Uh, why? Well, we have never done this before so, we.. uh thought it would be a good idea. I've been here, for, what, seven months this week. So, we've never done this before."

The governor's spokesman said his administration's rocky start with the media has been well-documented and added it doesn't have to be that way. Quinnipiac's Poll results indicate it may be in Scott's interest to be more open with reporters and the public. The survey shows 45-percent of respondents don't like Scott personally. Fifty-percent don't like the job he is doing or his policies. Yet an overwhelming majority supports his approach to the budget if his name is not mentioned. To Brown, the numbers add up to a communication problem.

"Clearly what he needs to do is improve his image. They don't like him personally. They say they don't like his handling of the budget but if you ask about budget priorities without any mention of the Governor, they favor the approach he has taken."

As part of the effort to improve his image, Scott will do the job of a regular working person at least once a month. His first workday was at a Tampa Donut Shop where he waited on customers.

"So, what grade are you in? You going into the 5th grade? Oh that should be fun."

Susannah Randolph, of the activist group Florida Watch, organized a protest of the event. She lined up people to walk up to the counter and hand the Governor a Pink Slip in recognition of the thousands of state jobs eliminated by budget cuts.
"He can, I think he is doing as good of a job as he can to sell who he is and what he is doing, but at the end of the day people are still out of work, which they are, people are still feeling economically unstable, which they are. He still has a lot of explaining to do. An hour and half at a donut shop shaking hands and greeting folks isn't going to create jobs. It is not time to make the donuts it is time to make the jobs."

Scott says he is trying to explain himself to voters.

"I was talking to someone this morning who suggested that I was not aggressive enough in regards to the pension plan and accountability. And they said, I thought you would get more done. I said you have to understand it is a cabinet agency I can't do all these things by myself. You do. It's just like business. You do the things that you can get done."

The August Quinnipiac survey shows a six percent uptick in Scott's job approval rating since May. Quinnipiac's Brown said whether the increase is the beginning of a trend or an aberration, only time will tell.