From CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
A new poll indicates Gov. Charlie Crist is ahead in the battle for Florida's open Senate seat.
(CNN) - The third straight non-partisan poll conducted since Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run as a independent in his big for Florida's open Senate seat indicates that the governor remains in the lead in a three way battle.
According to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday, 37 percent of registered Sunshine state voters back Crist, with 33 percent supporting Marco Rubio, the former Florida House speaker and the presumptive Republican nominee, and 17 percent backing Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek. Crist's four point advantage over Rubio is within the poll's sampling error.
The survey indicates that if Jeff Greene –the real estate tycoon who jumped into the race last April– becomes the Democratic Senate nominee instead of Meek, Crist tops Rubio 40 to 33 percent, with Green at 13 percent. Meek and Greene face off in Florida's August primary.
Once the overwhelming favorite in the battle for the Republican Senate nomination, Crist was trailing Rubio by more than 20 points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, when he announced in late Arpil that he was dropping his bid for his party's nomination and would run for the Senate as a non-aligned candidate.
Two other non-partisan surveys conducted since the Crist announcement also indicated he led in a three person general election showdown.
"Obviously there is a long time until November, but the Governor is doing very well among independent voters, almost as well among Democrats as Meek, and better among Democrats than Greene," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "With Rubio getting two-thirds of the Republican vote, the fate of Gov. Crist, who switched from a Republican to independent six weeks ago, depends heavily on his ability to appeal to Democratic voters."
The poll also suggests that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is dramatically affecting Floridians views on offshore drilling. Fifty-one percent of people questioned say they oppose an increase in the amount of offshore oil drilling, up from 27 percent in April, before the spill occurred. Support for increased drilling dropped from 66 percent to 42 percent.
According to the survey, President Barack Obama's approval rating in the state stands at 40 percent, down ten points from April.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted June 1-7, with 1,133 Florida registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.