Posted at 11:01 AM, Oct 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-31 11:01:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Pointing to support from independent voters, a poll released Thursday gives Democrat Charlie Crist a slight edge over Republican Gov. Rick Scott as they head into the frantic final days of this year's campaign.

Crist has the support of 43 percent of likely voters, while Scott has 40 percent and Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is at 8 percent, according to the Quinnipiac University poll.

But the race remains a virtual toss-up as Floridians cast early ballots or prepare to vote Tuesday: The poll's margin of error was 3.4 percentage points. Also, it said 9 percent of voters were undecided.

"Crist, who always has sought to portray himself as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, seems to have sold that message to independents who historically have favored problem-solvers who are less politicaI," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in comments released early Thursday with the survey results.

A Quinnipiac poll released Oct. 22 showed Scott and Crist tied at 42 percent, with Wyllie getting 7 percent. Other recent polls also have shown the contest as too close to call.

Brown said Crist, a former Republican governor running as a Democrat this year, might have received a late boost because of his performance in three debates. One of the debates drew widespread attention because of Scott's initial absence from the stage amid a dispute about an electric fan used by Crist.

"It would be a reasonable hypothesis that the candidates' debates made a big difference in this race,'' Brown said. "Scott was ahead going into them and behind after them. It could be a coincidence, but it would be a pretty large coincidence. Crist has long been thought of as an excellent campaigner and he used those skills to his advantage."

The poll found that independent voters support Crist over Scott by a margin of 47 percent to 29 percent, with Wyllie getting 16 percent. That contrasts with the Oct. 22 poll, which showed Crist ahead of Scott among independents by margin of 41 percent to 38 percent.

Among other groups, Scott held a 10-point lead over Crist among men, while the Democrat held a 14-point lead among women.

The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac frequently conducts polls in Florida and other states. The new poll surveyed 817 likely voters from Oct. 22 to Monday.