(CNN) – A new poll spotlighting Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida may give both Democrats and Republicans material to spin.
The Quinnipiac University survey, released Thursday, indicates that 51 percent of Florida voters approve of the job Nelson's doing, with just less than one in four saying they disapprove of how Nelson, a two-term senator who could face a challenging re-election next year, is performing in office.
The poll also indicates Nelson leads Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and former state Rep. Adam Hasner by 20 or more points in hypothetical 2012 general election matchups. But Nelson's under the magical 50 percent mark in all three potential showdowns.
According to the survey, 48 percent of Florida voters say Nelson deserves a third term in office, with three in ten saying he doesn't deserve to be re-elected.
"Sen. Bill Nelson appears to be in strong shape looking toward his 2012 re-election," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "When matched against any of three possible GOP challengers, however, Nelson is short of the key 50 percent mark, the magic threshold that signals that an incumbent is going to be very difficult to beat. His strength apparently lies in voter satisfaction with his performance in office."
The poll indicates the battle for the GOP Senate nomination in Florida is wide open, with nearly two-thirds of Republican voters saying they don't know who they'd vote for if the primary were held today, 14 percent backing LeMieux, 13 percent supporting Haridopolos and four percent backing Hasner.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted May 17 through May 23, with 1,196 Florida registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
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