Approval of Obama edges up in Tennessee

Obama approval edges up in Tennessee but stays well under 50 percent
Haslam’s approval high and steady at 58 percent, but almost nobody likes Congress

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee voters have warmed a little bit toward President Barack Obama on the eve of his departure from the White House, but a majority still disapprove of his performance as president, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s approval rating remains high and steady, and approval remains relatively high for the Tennessee General Assembly and Tennessee Republican U.S. senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Approval of Congress, though, is in the basement.



The MTSU Poll was conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, following the first presidential candidate debate. The sample of 600 registered Tennessee voters were surveyed via random telephone calls to landline and mobile phones. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Obama’s approval up, but still below 50 percent

Asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?”, the poll found that:

• 42 percent approve (up from 31 percent in January)
• 53 percent disapprove (down from 61 percent in January)
• 5 percent don’t know or don’t answer (8 percent in January)

This is the highest approval rating for Obama in Tennessee since the spring 2010 MTSU poll, when approval also stood at 42 percent. Obama’s only higher marks in the state came in spring of 2009, when 53 percent approved shortly after his first inauguration, which was the only time a majority of Tennesseans said they approved of the job he was doing.

“While President Obama fared a little better with Tennessee voters in this MTSU Poll than he has in the recent past, it remains clear that in their final assessment, more Tennesseans disapprove of the job he has done as president than approve,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

A recent CNN/ORC poll of Americans nationwide conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, the same timeframe as the most recent MTSU Poll, found that President Obama’s approval rating stands at 55 percent nationally, with 44 percent who say that they disapprove.

While unpopular in Tennessee, Obama will leave office with a higher approval rating across the state than his predecessor did. Only 32 percent of respondents to the Fall 2008 MTSU Poll expressed approval of the job then-President George W. Bush was doing, and 59 percent disapproved.

“This is a rare instance where Obama is outperforming Bush in Tennessee,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll. “But it is important to remember that Bush was saddled with an unpopular war and a global economic crisis at the end of his presidency.”

Governor Haslam’s streak of popularity continues

Gov. Bill Haslam again had the strongest support of any elected official asked about as part of the MTSU Poll. Among the state’s registered voters:

• 58 percent approve (unchanged from 58 percent in January)
• 25 percent disapprove (virtually unchanged from 22 percent in January)

Reineke called Haslam’s reviews remarkable. “Governor Haslam’s popularity endures the many tests presented by national, state, and local developments in a way that is uncommon in American politics,” Reineke said.

The poll was taken before Haslam’s recent announcement that he would not be voting for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and recommended that Trump step aside to allow vice presidential nominee Mike Pence to lead the Republican ticket.

While Haslam had remained noncommittal about whether he supported Trump throughout the campaign, his public rebuff of Trump followed the recent release of a 2005 video in which Trump made vulgar comments that critics say appear to condone sexual assault against women. Trump issued a series of apologies, but Haslam joined a number of GOP leaders across the nation to publicly withdraw their support.

Most approve of Tennessee General Assembly

Over half – 52 percent – of Tennessee voters approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, while only 27 percent disapprove. These numbers are essentially unchanged from the 48 percent who approved and 26 percent who disapproved in January.

“The Tennessee General Assembly seems to have generally withstood any significant political fallout from recent missteps and scandals, including the ouster of former state representative Jeremy Durham,” Blake said.

Tennessee voters like their U.S. Senators, dislike U.S. Congress in general

Approval ratings for Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are identical to each other, and statistically unchanged from January’s poll. The poll showed 45 percent of registered Tennessee voters approve of the job each senator is doing, while 33 percent disapprove. In January, 42 percent approved of job Alexander was doing while 35 percent disapproved, and 47 percent approved of the job Corker was doing while 31 percent disapproved. In both polls, the rest say they don’t know or refuse to answer the question.

The poll was taken before Trump’s recent announcement that Corker was being added to his national security advisory council. The same day of the announcement, news broke about Trump’s vulgar comments about women in the 2005 video, prompting Corker to issue a statement that said Trump’s comments “are obviously very inappropriate and offensive and his apology was absolutely necessary.”

“Despite the two Republicans’ different approaches to the presidential race, with Sen. Corker being a more vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy and Sen. Alexander being somewhat more reserved, there is almost no difference in how Tennessee voters view their U.S. senators, and more approve than disapprove,” Blake said.

The U.S. Congress in general, however, continues to receive horrendous approval ratings from Tennessee voters. Only 17 percent say that they approve of the job Congress is doing, while 75 percent disapprove. These ratings are similar to the 12 percent approval and 80 percent disapproval assessments Tennessee voters gave Congress in the January MTSU Poll.

“We’re running out of adjectives to describe how poorly Tennesseans view the U.S. Congress,” said Reineke.

Methodology

Telephone interviews for the poll were completed by Issues & Answers Network Inc. from among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters age 18 and over between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, 2016. Data were collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample of 51 percent landline and 49 percent cell phones. Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data represent Tennessee registered voters. The survey’s overall error margin of 4 percentage points indicates one can be 95 percent confident that the actual population figure lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the poll result. Error margins for subgroups can be larger, depending on the subgroup’s size.

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Trump leads Clinton among Tennessee voters

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leads Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton among Tennessee voters, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

In a four-way race of likely voters in Tennessee, if the election were held today:

  • Trump (Republican) — 48 percent
  • Clinton (Democrat) — 36 percent
  • Undecided/leaning Trump — 2 percent
  • Undecided/leaning Clinton — 2 percent
  • Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) — 5 percent
  • Jill Stein (Green Party) — 1 percent

The remainder of likely voters say they will vote for someone else, that they don’t know whom they will vote for or lean toward, or give no answer.



The MTSU Poll was conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, 2016, following the first presidential candidate debate featuring Clinton and Trump. Registered voters in Tennessee were surveyed via random telephone calls to landline and mobile phones. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Likely voters were identified from among those participants by their responses to a series of questions about past voting behavior and intention of voting in the November general election. The poll captured responses from 600 registered voters, from whom 472 (79 percent) were identified as likely voters.

When likely voters were asked to choose only between Clinton and Trump, the outcome was nearly identical to results of the four-way contest, with 50 percent saying they would vote for Trump, and 40 percent saying they would vote for Clinton.
“Barely half of Tennessee’s likely voters support Mr. Trump,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University, “but that is more than enough for him to decisively defeat his opponents and win the state’s 11 electoral college votes.”

Primary vote makes little difference

The poll also asked registered voter respondents whether they had voted in the state’s presidential primaries in March, if so for which party, and for whom they had voted. Only about 7 percent of registered voters say that they voted for Bernie Sanders in the state’s Democratic primary. Of these, 61 percent say they would vote for Clinton in the general election, while 19 percent say they would vote for Johnson, followed by 2 percent for Trump and 0 percent for Stein. The rest say they are undecided or refuse to answer the question.

About 17 percent of registered voters in the sample say they voted in the Republican primary for someone other than Trump. Of these, 71 percent say they would vote for Trump in the general election, followed by 6 percent for Johnson, 4 percent for Clinton, and 1 percent for Stein. Again, the remainder say they are undecided or refuse to answer the question.
“Despite a lot of speculation about party defections from unpopular candidates following divisive primaries, only small minorities of voters report that they are voting for someone other than their party’s nominee in the general after voting for a primary rival,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll.

Views of candidate qualities more divided

The poll also asked several questions about Clinton and Trump’s inclinations to the presidency. First, registered voters were asked whether they thought each candidate is capable of doing the job of president.

Forty-nine percent agree or strongly agree that Trump is able to do the job, while 6 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 42 percent disagree or strongly disagree. A similar 47 percent agreed or strongly agree that Clinton is able to do the job, while 5 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 46 percent disagree or strongly disagree.

Thirty-nine percent agree or strongly agree that Trump is honest, while 13 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 42 percent disagree or strongly disagree. Clinton is evaluated especially poorly on honesty, with only 26 percent saying they agree or strongly agree that she is honest, 9 percent who neither agree nor disagree, and 63 percent who disagree or disagree strongly.
But almost half, 49 percent, agree or strongly agree that Clinton has the temperament to effectively serve as president, while 5 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 43 percent disagree or disagree strongly. Forty-one percent agree or strongly agree that Trump has the temperament to be president, while 8 percent neither agree nor disagree and 48 percent disagree or strongly disagree.

“Although Trump easily leads when it comes to vote choice, when it comes to qualities that matter in a president – competence, integrity, and temperament – perceptions of the candidates are much more closely divided,” said Reineke, “But honesty is clearly an issue for Clinton. At the same time, honesty and emotional control may well be issues for Trump.”

More expect Clinton to win in the end

The last question about the two major party candidates for president on the poll asked “Regardless of who you support, and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the presidential election this November?” Forty-three percent of registered Tennessee voters say they expect Clinton to win as opposed to only 35 percent who say the same about Trump. But a sizable portion – 21 percent – say they just don’t know who will win at this point.

Methodology

Telephone interviews for the poll were completed by Issues & Answers Network Inc. from among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters age 18 and over. Data were collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample of 51 percent landline and 49 percent cell phones. Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data represent Tennessee registered voters. The survey’s overall error margin of 4 percentage points indicates one can be 95 percent confident that the actual population figure lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the poll result. Error margins for subgroups can be larger, depending on the subgroup’s size

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Tennessee voters feel standard of living falling behind, approve of state leaders but disapprove of president and Congress

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee voters are less satisfied with their standard of living and are more likely to say that it is getting worse than the nation as a whole, according to the latest statewide poll by Middle Tennessee State University.

At the same time, voters approve of state leaders overall, but disapprove of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

“These seeming contrasts raise interesting questions about how Tennesseans perceive the relationship between their quality of life and performance of government leaders,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at MTSU.

The poll of 600 registered Tennessee voters was conducted Jan. 15-20 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Standard of living good, not great … and in jeopardy

More Tennessee voters did say they are satisfied with their standard of living (67 percent) than say they are dissatisfied (30 percent). Standard of living was defined as “…all the things you can buy and do.”

However, more say they feel their standard of living is getting worse (42 percent) than getting better (34 percent). About 1 in 5 voters voluntarily answer that they feel their standard of living is staying the same (about 20 percent).

A December 2015 Gallup Poll found that nationwide 79 percent of respondents were satisfied with their standard of living and 62 percent said their standard of living was getting better.

Governor Haslam continues to be popular

Gov. Bill Haslam had the strongest support of any elected official asked about as part of the poll, with 58 percent of voters approving of the job he is doing and only 22 percent disapproving.

These numbers are statistically indistinguishable from the 64 percent and 18 percent who said that they approved and disapproved, respectively, of the job Haslam was doing in response to an MTSU Poll conducted at about the same time in 2015.



Even 50 percent of self-identified Democrats say that they approve of the job Haslam is doing. Majorities of Republicans (68 percent) and independents (54 percent) also say that they approve.

“Governor Haslam’s popularity across party lines stands out as an exception to the usual deeply divisive and disagreeable politics,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll.

Pluralities approve of Senators Alexander, Corker

More Tennessee voters approve of the jobs that their United States senators are doing than disapprove.

A 42 percent plurality say they approve of the job that Sen. Lamar Alexander is doing, while 35 percent disapprove. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker fared slightly better, with 47 percent approving and 31 percent disapproving. For each senator, though, about 1 in 5 voters say they don’t know whether they approve or disapprove.

Half think State Legislature doing good job

Nearly half of Tennessee voters — 48 percent — say that they approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, while only 26 percent disapprove. These percentages are statistically the same as they were a year ago.

Political party identification makes a difference, with 60 percent of self-identified Republicans saying they approve (16 percent disapprove) and 50 percent of self-identified Democrats saying that they disapprove (30 percent approve).

Among self-identified independents, 44 percent say they approve, 24 percent disapprove.

More disapproval for President Obama

Fully 61 percent of Tennessee voters say that they disapprove of the job that President Barack Obama is doing, up from 52 percent who said the same in an early 2015 MTSU poll. Only 31 percent say that they approve, compared to 37 percent who said the same a year ago.

A FOX News poll of registered voters nationwide conducted at about the same time as this year’s MTSU Poll found that 45 percent approve of the job Obama is doing while 48 percent disapprove.

U.S. Congress is again the worst

Despite the relatively positive evaluations that Tennessee voters give their own U.S. senators, their views of the U.S. Congress as a whole are nothing short of abysmal.

A remarkable 80 percent say that they disapprove of Congress. Only 12 percent approve. These numbers are even worse for Congress than those found in a previous MTSU Poll about a year ago, when 70 percent disapproved and 15 percent approved.

A national CBS/New York Times poll conducted in early January 2016 found that 75 percent of Americans disapproved of Congress while 15 percent approved.

“The United States Congress received far and away the worst overall evaluation of any elected official or government institution that we asked Tennessee voters about,” Reineke said.



Previously released results from the latest poll included voter opinions about the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates; abortion regulations; gun rights; gasoline tax; and the admission of Syrian refugees to the country. Those results are available at mtsupoll.org.

Methodology

Telephone interviews for the poll were completed by Issues & Answers Network Inc. from among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters age 18 and over. Data were collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample of 60 percent landline and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 12 minutes. Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data represent Tennessee registered voters. The survey’s error margin of 4 percentage points indicates one can be 95 percent confident that the actual population figure lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the poll result. Error margins for subgroups can be larger, depending on the subgroup’s size.

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More access to birth control, sex ed could help reduce abortions, state voters say

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee voters continue to disagree on how strictly abortion should be regulated, but both sides in the debate agree that stricter regulation alone isn’t the best way to reduce the number of abortions performed, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

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Trump leads Cruz among Tennessee Republican voters, but many still undecided

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Republican primary is down to a race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with Trump holding an advantage but many party voters still undecided, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, but her statewide disapproval ratings are the highest of any top candidate on either ticket.



“We asked two types of questions about the presidential race to get a sense of where potential voters stand,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“First, we asked registered voters to name, off the tops of their heads, the one candidate they would most like to see win the election and the one candidate they would least like to see win the election. Second, we asked whether they would favor or oppose each of several specific, current candidates running. We then broke the results down for the self-described Democrats, independents, and Republicans who responded to our poll.”

The poll of 600 registered Tennessee voters was conducted Jan. 15-20 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Voters in Tennessee and 10 other states will go to the polls March 1 in the so-called “SEC primary.”

Trump leads among Republicans, independents

When asked to name the one person they would most like to win the 2016 presidential election, 33 percent of self-described Republican voters named Trump. Cruz came in second, chosen by a significantly smaller 17 percent of Republicans.

But 28 percent of GOP voters said they did not know who they would like to see win.

Ben Carson, who led the presidential field among Tennessee voters in the October 2015 MTSU Poll, drew just 7 percent of Republican voters in the latest sample. The remaining Republican candidates also registered in the single digits at best.

Trump also posted the best numbers among self-described independent voters, with 26 percent naming Trump as the candidate they’d most like to see win. Democrat Sanders, the next-most-popular candidate, came it at a significantly lower 10 percent.

But 30 percent of independents were undecided, and the rest chose candidates who pulled in only single-digit percentages.

The news wasn’t all good for Trump, though. About a quarter of Tennessee voters – the biggest chunk of them Democrats – singled him out as the candidate they’d least like to see win the presidency, far more opposition than any other Republican candidate attracted.

Clinton solid among Democrats but least-liked candidate statewide

Statewide opposition to Trump, though notable, was only half as strong as statewide opposition to Clinton. Fifty percent of Tennessee voters – most of them Republicans – named her as the candidate they’d least like to see win the presidency. But 47 percent of self-described Democratic voters in the sample picked Clinton as the candidate they’d most like to see win the presidency. A significantly smaller 15 percent named Sanders, and 26 percent said they did not know. All other percentages were in the single digits.



‘Favorability’ and the Republicans’ ‘deep bench’

Despite favoring Trump, Tennessee Republican voters seemed open to backing either Cruz or Carson as alternatives — 65 percent said they “strongly favor” or “favor” Trump’s becoming president, but 60 percent said the same of Cruz, and 60 percent said the same of Carson.

Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll, said that even with the subsample’s larger error margin taken into consideration, the findings suggest a majority of state Republican voters would favor either Trump, Carson or Cruz.

“The Republicans have what you might call a ‘deep bench’ of presidential candidates in Tennessee,” Blake said. “If the current favorite, Trump, were to fade, it appears majorities of GOP voters would be willing to back Cruz or Carson, perhaps especially if Clinton turned out to be the Democratic nominee.”

Among Democratic voters, only 42 percent would strongly favor, or favor, Sanders becoming president, statistically much less than the 77 percent who would support Clinton as president.

Methodology

Telephone interviews for the poll were completed by Issues & Answers Network Inc. from among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters age 18 and over. Data were collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample of 60 percent landline and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 12 minutes. Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data represent Tennessee registered voters. The survey’s error margin of 4 percentage points indicates one can be 95 percent confident that the actual population figure lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the poll result. Error margins for subgroups can be larger, depending on the subgroup’s size.

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State voters value gun rights, but support high for more background checks, preventing sales to mentally ill

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Although strongly protective of gun rights in general, most Tennessee voters favor requiring background checks for gun sales among private individuals and at gun shows and support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, according to the latest MTSU Poll.
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Most state voters think same-sex marriage should be illegal, and half think abortion should be, too, in most or all cases

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Most Tennessee voters remain opposed to letting gay and lesbian couples legally marry, according to the first MTSU Poll taken since this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
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Carson leads the presidential field in Tennessee, but many still unsure, and more oppose than favor other top candidates

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Republican candidate Ben Carson has the current presidential field’s best numbers among Tennessee voters, although the biggest slice of the state’s electorate remains undecided, the latest statewide MTSU Poll shows.

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Opinions mixed on proposed abortion rules, but same-sex marriage opposition softens, and 53% oppose gas tax hike

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennesseans favor some, but not all, of several proposed abortion rules pending in the state Legislature, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

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Tennesseans split views on state, federal political leaders; state government gets better reviews than Washington pols

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — In general, Tennesseans rate their state government leaders better than those in the federal government, according to the latest statewide MTSU Poll.

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