WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ battles with Walt Disney Co over a state law banning public school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity could boost his support among U.S. Republican voters as he mulls a possible White House bid, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
DeSantis has been tussling with Disney for over a year since the company’s former chief executive spoke out against a bill that Florida Republicans named the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Forty-four percent of Republican respondents in the two-day poll ended Tuesday said they had a more favorable view of DeSantis because of the fight with Disney, which led him to sign a retaliatory law in February that aims to strip the company of its self-governing authority at its Orlando-area parks.
But it was unclear whether the conflict would help DeSantis gain support among the wider electorate should he formally enter and win the 2024 Republican presidential primary, becoming the party’s challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden.
Seventy-three percent of respondents – including 82% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans – said they were less likely to support a political candidate who backs laws designed to punish a company for its political or cultural stances.
Americans are divided along party lines on teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, with three-quarters of Republicans opposed to it and a similar proportion of Democrats in favor. Independents were evenly divided in the Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Polling shows DeSantis trailing former President Donald Trump among Republican voters.
DeSantis has argued that his actions against Disney were rightfully rolling back special treatment for the company. Some 64% of Republicans in the Reuters/Ipsos poll agreed, with 37% of them siding with the vast majority of Democrats, who said DeSantis was punishing Disney for exercising free speech. Independents also leaned toward viewing DeSantis’ actions as punitive.
Prior Reuters/Ipsos polling has shown DeSantis’ hard-right positions on abortion and guns could help win support of Republican primary voters in the early months of 2024, but may hurt him with independent and more moderate voters that he would need to be elected.
The fight with Disney could be helping DeSantis raise his national profile, with 54% of respondents in the new survey saying they were following the story. Fifty-five percent of Democrats said they were less likely to visit Florida because of DeSantis’ actions, while 31% of Republicans said they were more likely to do so.
DeSantis last week pledged more legislative action to reign in the entertainment company following revelations Disney pushed through changes in its special tax district agreement that could preserve its self-governing authority.
The new Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses from 1,005 adults across the United States, including 450 self-described Democrats and 366 Republicans. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about four percentage points.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)