Vanderbilt Poll: Tennesseans are more moderate than people think


One of the things that Josh and I want to
start out with is kind of the big picture and this big picture comes on the heels of
the results in Alabama. Our general position has been for a while
and it’s certainly true in this poll as well as the Tennessee is certainly a conservative
state but it’s a little bit more moderate than conventional wisdom would lead you to
believe. And question after question documents that
pretty compelling fashion and so that’s kind of the overview that we want to start with. And the very first slide that we have documents
this is pretty into interesting ways. We do a very classic kind of approach where
we ask Tennesseans to rate Donald Trump, Governor Haslam the Tennessee State Legislature and
their fellow citizens on a liberal conservative scale. And as you can see Haslam is viewed for example
as the you know the most moderate of these even though he’s still viewed as conservative. Tennessee state legislature more so Trump
more so but the fellow citizens that is a fellow Tennesseans. That is the most conservatively rated group
so to speak. 45 in fact if you add up to 62 percent of
Tennesseans think their fellow Tennesseans are conservative so in fact that’s the most
conservative group of the four that’s in and of itself interesting. But it’s the next slide that I think is far
more telling because we also asked people in a separate question where they actually
fall. And as you can see there is a gap. That Tennesseans think their fellow citizens
are much more conservative than they actually are. That when you actually look at the ideological
breakdown of Tennesseans about half are conservative or very conservative the other half are moderate
liberal or very liberal. That’s a very different kind of picture than
the perceptions and those perceptions are driven in part because the news media social
media other things like this tend to give voice to the more extreme elements where the
more moderate and quiet individuals that dot the landscape of the state aren’t being counted
in those kinds of undertakings and polls in fact do give voice to those individuals. So this is a particularly important thing
especially in this day and age when we have so much polarization and we have so much controversy
along partisan lines and that’s true for both parties. This is not a partisan statement. The Democrats are as guilty of it as the Republicans. This pattern continues when you look at the
the commitment that Tennesseans have to for their legislative leaders to work together
across party lines or do you want to just stick to your own values and your own party
and not compromise. And again the ratios are dramatic 76 percent
of Tennesseans want their legislatures legislators to work together. Only 19 percent say just stay pure to your
values. In some sense it’s kind of like a Judge Roy
Moore versus someone like maybe a Doug Jones or someone else who’s interested in compromise
and working together and this is a very stark difference and again it fits this general
pattern that we’re talking about. And even if you break that down bipartisanship
even members of the Tea Party self-identified members of the Tea Party also want at a rate
of basically two to one want their legislators to work together. And so this is an important pattern and we’ll
both be talking about this more people want things done. The next slide we have is approval of our
statewide leaders including the U.S. Congress and the state legislature. As you can see has Corker and Alexander are
down a little bit along with the Tennessee state legislature. Governor Haslam is up a couple of points. Interestingly Congress is also down. And so what’s going on is that Haslam does
not have the drag of Congress that both Senator Alexander and Senator Corker have. And as you can see those numbers align quite
nicely. There was a big drop from 31 percent approval
of Congress in the state to 23 percent. And that’s pulling down Corker and Alexander
a little bit. And again as I said Haslam is up. Again and this is again consistent with what’s
going across the country is we have a slide next on Trump’s approval over time and again
you see it’s fraying. He started out in November after the election
with 60 percent approval. It went down to 52 percent in May and now
stands at 48 percent. Less than half of Tennesseans approve of the
president. And remember he had a 25 point victory over
Hillary Clinton in November of 2016. So even in this state which was one of his
absolute bases of support he’s weakening a little bit. And that continues when you ask people do
they think that there is that Washington is going to be changing for the better or for
the worse. And the proportion that think Washington’s
changing for the better is dropping from November 16 to November or December November of 17. And the proportion that thinks things are
getting worse is on the rise again a story consistent with what’s going on nationally
and in particular in the state of Alabama. And then finally before I turn it over to
Josh we ask a question about how much of the time does President Trump tell the truth. Well let me start first with saying that just
asking this question is a sign of our times. We normally would never ask such a question
because there’s been so much so many stories about the kinds of claims that the president
have made we decide to ask it. So it’s at one level not easy to put in context
because it turns out only 40 percent of Tennesseans 39 percent to be exact but 40 percent of Tennesseans
think he tells the truth most of the time. Is that high or low? Well if all of a sudden we asked a whole bunch
of people to say my friends. How often does John Geer tell the truth and
only 40 percent said most of the time I’d view that pretty disappointing. And I suspect that was you know my employer
thought that was the case I’d be likely out of a job. These are pretty telling numbers again consistent
with the overall narrative. And if you break it down by party you find
the differences you’d expect Republicans are much more likely to believe that Trump is
telling the truth than Democrats. That’s true. But if you look among groups of independents. Again the numbers are quite telling and it
is not a story that’s very favorable to the president right now. And again this comes from a state that’s exceptionally
was one of a key part of his his base. And I’m going to turn it over to Josh. So on Slide 11 we start delving into the approval
of the U.S. Congress bipartisanship and kind of try to unpack that decline that we saw
at the outset where the approval of Congress goes from 31 percent in May down to 23 percent. If you look on Slide 11 and particularly you
zero in on the support among Republicans and Tea Party you can see that this is what’s
causing the dramatic shift. So in May of that 47 percent of Republicans
approved of the job the Republican led Congress was doing in our latest poll that numbers
plummeted to 33 percent among those who self-identified as the Tea Party which is about 12 percent
in our latest poll in May 43 percent of them approve of the job the Republican Congress
was doing as of our last poll that number has gone down to 16 percent. And so the decline that we see in Tennessee
among registered voters for the U.S. Congress is driven entirely by Republicans and members
of the Tea Party. Which raises interesting questions about what
might be going on is that a kind of reaction to the failure to repeal Obamacare for example
or is it a statement about kind of what the Republican agenda is. And that’s difficult to unpack. But we asked a series of questions that tried
to get at that. Just a little bit and so on Slide 12 for example
we asked a question about a broad question about their views on the U.S. tax system and
kind of what they thought was more important. And you can see overwhelmingly registered
voters in the state thought it was much more important reduce personal income taxes then
lower the corporate tax rate and only 6 percent said that both were equally important. So there is a clear preference to prioritize
personal income taxes over corporate taxes among registered voters in Tennessee. On slide 13 when we break this down by partisanship
we can see that this is a view that’s consistent across party lines. That is to say if we look at those who say
it’s most important more important to reduce personal income taxes. 53 percent of Republicans think that agree
with that statement. Seventy four percent of Democrats and 58 percent
of independents. So regardless of your partisanship you know
registered voters in Tennessee think the most important thing to do is to reduce personal
income taxes. There’s much less enthusiasm for prioritizing
corporate taxes over reducing personal income taxes. On Slide 14 we look at kind of again continuing
trends towards the future of health care system over time, a question that we’ve been asking
for some time now because of its critical importance not only to the national agenda
but also to the state in and of itself. And here again I think there’s pretty remarkable
and stunning findings. So in particular if we look at the four different
options that we gave our respondents whether or not it should be repealed or not replaced,
whether it should be replaced the Republican alternative, whether the Affordable Care Act
should be built upon or whether a single payer system should be should be capped and should
be kind of established. We see a pretty remarkable shift in public
opinion towards these options. So in November for example in 2016 right after
the election and that’s the the purple line there. So if you look at the two will call them the
more conservative options that it should be repealed and not replaced. You know 21 percent of the population of registered
voters in Tennessee thought that and 29 percent thought that it should be replaced with a
Republican alternative. Nearly 50 percent of registered voters in
Tennessee and in November thought we’ll call a Republican option for healthcare should
be enacted. Now in our latest poll that numbers plummeted
to 35 percent. Only 35 percent of registered voters in Tennessee
think that the health care system should either be repealed and not replaced or replaced with
the Republican alternative. Even among Republicans the percentage who
support the one of those two options is only around 50 percent. So I think that what you see is that there’s
you know as that discussion occurred there was a pretty remarkable shift among registered
voters opinions on kind of what they thought the future of the health care system would
be with the movement kind of a way for them kind of repealing or kind of replacing the
Republican alternative. Another kind of question that obviously touches
deeply on the state of Tennessee is on Slide 15. We asked about how severe opiate addiction,
how big of a problem that is. And as you can see not surprisingly there’s
huge bipartisan support that this is kind of a pretty major issue. You know 40 percent across party lines think
that state emergency and the other half basically say it’s a major problem and not an emergency. So basically across the state no one thinks
that this is a minor problem. You know and that’s bipartisan agreement on
the severity of that problem. Also related to kind of the issue of health
care. And again I think highlighting circling back
to what John said at the beginning about the importance of thinking about Tennesseans as
being kind of a lot more pragmatic and thinking about solving problems rather than the kind
of thinking is strictly partisan terms. We also asked him about the views about rural
hospital closings and kind of the healthcare infrastructure in the state. And again you see that regardless of whether
it’s urban, rural or suburban there are strong you know nearly 90 percent of registered voters
think that the closing of rural hospitals is a concerning problem. And this is true also across partisan lines
and across geography. Basically there’s no one who disagrees that
the closing of rural hospitals in the state is an area of serious concern and slow slide
17 down we ask little bit about how much funding from either the federal government or the
state government how much that response would support state funding to help keep those rural
hospitals open. And again you see very strong support for
government intervention to help support rural hospitals and to kind of make sure they stay
open. You know 56 percent agree with the federal
government stepping in to help rural hospitals and 71 percent agree with the claim that the
State Government should step in to help prop up and kind of support rural hospitals. And again that’s again a largely bipartisan
story. So new registered voters are kind of supportive
of the state getting involved in health care and helping to support struggling rural hospitals
to make sure that they remain open and residents have access to those facilities. So on Slide 18 again we were switching topics
a little bit and thinking about the question of what to do about immigration. You again again see a pretty standard and
continuing story that we’ve shown pretty consistently that Tennesseans know 58 percent think that
you know those who are illegal immigrants or undocumented immigrants should stay and
apply for citizenship and only 25 percent think they should be required to leave the
United States. And so again you know the wording on this
is always a little bit issue. You know whether you asked about illegal immigrants
or undocumented immigrants you might think that that would change your opinions. And so this particular poll we asked it both
ways and we found very similar answers. Doesn’t matter whether you call it undocumented
immigrants or illegal immigrants you get exactly the same or nearly exactly the same kind of
respondents. And so again going back to this the claim
about Tennessee being more moderate than you might get the impression of on slide 19 we
we break that down by partisanship. And so here you do see some partisan divisions
but perhaps less than people might suspect based on dialogue that occurs at the national
level. So if you think about the percentage you think
that they should be able to stay and apply for citizenship right, have a pathway to citizenship. You know not surprisingly 80 percent of registered
Democrats think that that’s the case. And you know 57 percent of independents, but
even 43 percent of Republicans in the state who are registered voters think that there
should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented or illegal immigrants. Now only 35 percent of Republicans think that
they should be required to leave the United States. Building on this notion about you know Tennesseans
is kind of problem solvers and kind of having more bipartisan or kind of more moderate views
that might be conceived of is on slide 20 we asked about whether or not undocumented
immigrants in the state should be eligible for in-state tuition for their children. And here this replicates a question that we
asked in May and here again we find strong bipartisan support for that this should be
the case 72 percent in fact in our latest survey say that children of undocumented immigrants
in the state should be able to pay instate tuition to attend colleges and universities
in the state. That’s up 6 percent from from kind of May. And so again and that’s true across party lines as well. So again there’s strong support in the state
for allowing children of undocumented immigrants to have in-state tuition. And slide 21 we asked about views on charter
schools. Another issue that’s sometimes in the news
of the day and here you see that public views are really they don’t really know quite what
to make of it by far and away the largest response is 48 percent don’t have a clear
enough opinion. And then another 20 percent have mixed feelings. So by and large this is an issue that the
public is not having strong opinions on. Seventy percent either have no don’t have
a strong opinion or they have mixed opinions. So that’s a very fluid debate and a policy
issue where the public has not yet reached a resolution on its views. And then finally before I turn it over to
John on slide 22 just kind of continues the perceptions of the economy just to get a sense
of kind of where people think the state and the nation are and there’s been a slight decline. But those are all kind of within margin of
error. So basically there’s not a whole lot of change
in how people think economy are doing between May and December. And with that I’ll turn it over to John to
talk about name recognition for candidates for running for office in Tennessee. Yeah so we asked questions about all the candidates
for both governor and now for Senate since that race is been transformed by Phil Bredesen’s
announcement and then prior obviously Senator Corker’s decision not to seek re-election. Just for the record we chose not to ask about
approval of these candidates and the reason we did not want to ask about approval is simply
too early. There are candidates if you go to Slide 22
I think it is going to get my glasses actually 23 23. If you go to Slide 23 you can see that let’s
say you take Bill Lee. His numbers are 14 percent both in both things. There would only be 14 percent that would
rate him favorable unfavorable and I’m not sure what to do with that. And you can become very famous in this state
or in this country very quickly. So these numbers will change a lot by May. There’s been nobody who’s gone down. A couple have gone up notably Diane Black
has gone up 10 percentage points. But I would probably attribute that to the
fact that Marsha Blackburn is obviously running for the U.S. Senate and there’s probably going
to be some confusion in the public between Blackburn and Black. So in both cases their numbers may be a little
bit maybe a bit artificial a little bit higher than they actually are just because of the
confusion of the two of the two names. We did this by by region and again the numbers
work as you’d expect someone like Karl Dean is very well-known in Nashville. Harwell is known well a Nashville Black etc.
and you can see Randy Boyd has more aware higher name recognition in the east. Again that all makes makes good sense if you
go to the Senate race again you can see that among the reasons why Phil Bredesen chose
to run. He’s still very well known. I mean he has not faced the public in an election
since 2006 he obviously stepped down and governor in January 2011 but he’s still very well known
and very comparable numbers to Marsha Blackburn. Steve Fincher numbers are significantly lower
but he is pretty well known in the West with about 48 percent which we see in the next, I think it’s on the next slide. So that varies a lot along the ways you would
think about it. Of course James Macklin’s decision yesterday
to drop out makes discussion about his numbers less relevance but we have these baselines
will again ask for name recognition come May but we almost certainly will ask by them probably
approval because it will become more relevant and then the final slide before we take any
questions is just time series which we’ve been doing from the very beginning about the
top three priorities of government over time and as you can see that health care and the
economy continue to vie for number one and that was true in our May poll and that had
not been the case prior. Because obviously the great recession made
the economy the first priority for a long period of time and it’s been slowly declining
because the economy is getting better and concerns about health care have been growing and so that pattern is picked up and then
we do, I guess it isn’t the final slide. We do one by different regions just to see
where people stand on the various issues and it works along the lines you would think. So I think at this point in time if there
are any questions we’re happy to take them and thanks for your time.




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