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.

On two other issues, meanwhile, the Jan. 25-27 poll of 600 randomly selected Tennessee adults found 55 percent opposed to permitting same-sex marriage and 53 percent opposed to increasing Tennessee’s tax on gasoline.

Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University, said attitudes toward abortion regulation in Tennessee appear nuanced and strongly tied to religious identity. The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

“Across every form of abortion regulation we asked about in the poll, the proportion in favor of it came in more than 10 percentage points higher among evangelical Christians than among non-evangelicals,” Blake said.

“But both groups have reservations about the same things. For example, evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike are less likely to favor describing an ultrasound image to a woman who has refused to look at it than to favor requiring her doctor to talk to her about abortion risks, benefits and alternatives.”



The poll found that, among all Tennesseans:

  • 57 percent favor requiring a woman’s doctor to discuss abortion risks, benefits and alternatives with her before she undergoes an abortion, 27 percent oppose, and 16 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 48 percent favor requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound one to three days before obtaining an abortion, 36 percent oppose, and 16 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 52 percent favor requiring that a woman be offered an opportunity to view the image of an ultrasound she is undergoing prior to an abortion, 31 percent oppose, and 17 percent don’t know or declined to answer.
  • 35 percent favor requiring that the image of an ultrasound a woman is undergoing prior to an abortion be described aloud if the woman declines to look at it, 48 percent oppose, and 17 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 42 percent favor requiring that audio of any heartbeat detected during a pre-abortion ultrasound be played aloud for the woman to hear, 43 percent oppose, and 15 percent don’t know or declined to answer.
  • 22 percent think abortion should be “legal in all circumstances,” 49 percent think it should be legal “under certain circumstances,” and 22 percent say it should be “illegal in all circumstances.” The rest don’t know or didn’t answer.

Breakdowns by evangelical identity and gender are as follows:



“The largest difference between evangelicals and non-evangelicals was over requiring that audio of any heartbeat detected during a pre-abortion ultrasound be played aloud,” Blake said. “More than twice as many evangelicals (54 percent) expressed support for that measure compared to non-evangelicals (24 percent).”

The smallest gap between evangelicals and non-evangelicals appeared on the question of whether to require that doctors describe abortion risks, benefits and alternatives to women who are seeking an abortion. Sixty-two percent of evangelicals favored such a rule, as did 51 percent of non-evangelicals.

Attitudinal differences between men and women on abortion regulation, by contrast, were all non-significant, Blake said.
“Men in our sample tended to be more in favor of abortion regulation than the women in our sample, but the percentage point differences were all in the single digits and not large enough to suggest a similar difference between men and women in all of Tennessee,” he said.

Majority against same-sex marriage, but opposition softening

Meanwhile, 55 percent of state residents oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” still a majority but a drop from the 64 percent opposition observed in the spring 2014 MTSU Poll. Thirty-two percent favor allowing such couples to marry, and the rest aren’t sure or declined to answer.

Here, too, evangelical identity makes the biggest difference. Among evangelicals, 70 percent oppose and 19 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Among non-evangelicals, only 29 percent oppose allowing same-sex marriages, and 55 percent favor allowing them.



Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll, said the decline in opposition to same-sex marriage is notable.

“It’s too soon to say whether the softening opposition to same-sex marriage that polls show happening around the country is showing up in Tennessee, but it’s a number that will be interesting to watch after this summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to release its ruling on same-sex marriage,” Reineke said.

Gas tax increase opposition at 53 percent

Fifty-three percent of Tennesseans oppose raising the state’s gas tax to fund better roads and bridges, while 26 percent support raising the tax, and 21 percent are undecided. Given its error margin, the poll could not rule out the possibility that opposition is as low as 49 percent.

Support is highest among well-informed political moderates and liberals, lower among well-informed conservatives, and lowest among the least well-informed, regardless of political orientation.

Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of Tennessee residents aged 18 and over.

Data was collected using Tennessee statewide RDD sample with a mix of 80 percent landline and 20 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle and West.
The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.

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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.

“It is a very interesting time to be a political observer in the state of Tennessee,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “State and national issues are currently overlapping in fascinating ways.”

The poll randomly surveyed 600 adult residents statewide Jan. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Haslam riding high

Gov. Bill Haslam’s approval rating has rebounded noticeably to 64 percent compared to a year ago (47 percent in the spring 2014 poll), with only 18 percent of Tennesseans disapproving and the remaining 19 percent saying they don’t know or refuse to answer the question.



Across demographics and political affiliation, pluralities or majorities approve of the job the governor is doing.

Legislature holding its own

Meanwhile, a 49 percent plurality of Tennesseans approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, while only 25 percent disapprove and 26 percent say that they don’t know or refuse to answer.

Approval has a partisan tilt, however, with 67 percent of self-identified Republicans saying they approve and only 9 percent disapproving. That compares to a 42-percent plurality of Democrats disapproving while 35 percent approve.

Among independents, 49 percent approve, 29 percent disapprove.

Still few fans of Obama

Turning to the federal government, only 37 percent of Tennesseans approve of President Barack Obama’s performance, while 52 percent disapprove and the rest say they don’t know or refuse to answer.

These figures are comparable to Obama’s approval numbers in the state since spring of 2011, Reineke noted.

Predictably, Tennessee Democrats tend to strongly approve of Obama (80 percent) and Republicans tend to disapprove even more strongly (87 percent). Independents also tend to disapprove (57 percent).

Congress even worse overall

The U.S. Congress, however, fares worse with a 70 percent disapproval. Only 15 percent of Tennesseans approve of how Congress is handling its job and the rest don’t know or refuse to answer. Furthermore, majorities disapprove across demographic and political differences.

Tennesseans approve of their own U.S. senators markedly more than of Congress as a whole, though.

Alexander: A 47 percent plurality approve of the job Lamar Alexander is doing, while 32 percent disapprove and 21 percent say they don’t know or refuse to answer.
Corker: A similar 44 percent plurality approve of the job Bob Corker is doing while 27 percent disapprove and 29 percent say they don’t know or refuse to answer.



Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of Tennessee residents aged 18 and over.

Data was collected using Tennessee statewide RDD sample with a mix of 80 percent landline and 20 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.

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Tennesseans up to speed on most 2016 presidential contenders, but some potential candidates not as well known

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — While many potential 2016 candidates for president are well known to Tennesseans, some are surprisingly less so, according to the latest statewide MTSU Poll.

“At this point, when potential candidates are still deciding whether to run and there has been little active campaigning or staking out of positions, we decided that name recognition is the best way to assess the candidates’ standing,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“But considering that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker from Tennessee hasn’t ruled out a run for the White House, we did want to ask Tennesseans whether they thought he should go for it.”

Tennesseans seem less than keen on potential presidential aspirations for Corker, though, despite his rising political profile in recent years thanks to bipartisan congressional efforts on fiscal issues and other matters.

Only 11 percent of poll respondents said the Chattanooga Republican should run, while 41 percent said he should not run for president. A 46 percent plurality said they were unsure whether he should run or not, and the rest refused to answer the question.

The poll randomly surveyed 600 adult residents statewide Jan. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Tennesseans are familiar with some of the likely contenders for president in 2016, but not others.

Democrats: On the Democratic party side, wide majorities said that they had heard of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (98 percent) and Vice President Joe Biden (93 percent); but most said they had not heard of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who may run as a Democrat (68 percent), or former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia (70 percent).

Republicans: Frontrunners in terms of name recognition among the potential Republican candidates include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (89 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (83 percent), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (78 percent).

A second tier of recognized, possible Republican candidates is made up of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (69 percent); former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (67 percent); former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, winner of Tennessee’s 2012 Republican primary (59 percent); U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (57 percent); and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (53 percent).

Most Tennesseans have not heard of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (58 percent) or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (62 percent).

Of all the Republicans mentioned, name recognition was highest for 2012 Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (96 percent), who was rumored to be considering a third run for the oval office while the poll was in the field but has since formally bowed out of the race for his party’s nomination.

Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of Tennessee residents aged 18 and over.

Data was collected using Tennessee statewide RDD sample with a mix of 80 percent landline and 20 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.

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Tennesseans strongly support ‘Tennessee Promise’ higher ed initiative

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The “Tennessee Promise” community college initiative enjoys strong support from a large majority of Tennesseans, according to the latest statewide MTSU Poll.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan, which makes two-year community colleges and technical schools free for recent high school graduates, has been cited as inspiration for a similar proposal at the federal level. Tennessee’s program launches with the high school Class of 2015.

The poll found that 79 percent of Tennesseans approve of the program. Only 12 percent oppose it, 8 percent aren’t sure, and the rest gave no answer.
“While the overall support is very high, a deeper look inside the numbers shows less enthusiasm among Republicans,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

Since President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address a few weeks ago, proposals to provide free community college have been front and center in the national conversation regarding higher education.

Haslam’s program, which is one plan that Obama says he used as a basis for his proposal, enjoys overwhelming support in the state. But that support is significantly stronger among Democrats and independents than among the governor’s fellow Republicans.

Ninety percent of Democrats favor the program, as do 82 percent of independents. But a significantly lower 70 percent of Republicans express support.
Find previous MTSU Poll results at www.mtsupoll.org.

Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of Tennessee residents aged 18 and over.

Data was collected using Tennessee statewide RDD sample with a mix of 80 percent landline and 20 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.
Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.

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One in five Tennesseans give public schools a D or F on quality, but 65 percent trust, and have confidence in, teachers

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Nearly a fifth of Tennesseans would give state and local public schools a “D” or “F” for quality, and the figure approaches a third in the state’s two most populous counties, Shelby and Davidson, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

“Davidson and Shelby counties stand out in a couple of ways,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “People in those two counties not only grade Tennessee’s public schools lower, but they also grade their local public schools about as low as they grade schools across the state. Everywhere else in Tennessee, people tend to grade their local public schools a bit higher than schools statewide.”

The poll randomly surveyed 600 adult residents statewide Jan. 25-27. The survey’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Asked to give Tennessee an A, B, C, D or F on the quality of the public schools in the state, 35 percent of state residents chose an A or B; 32 percent, a C; and 18 percent; a D or F. In Shelby and Davidson counties, 16 percent chose an A or B; 39%, a C; and 30 percent, a D or F.

When the poll asked respondents to grade their local communities on school quality using the same scale, 47 percent of all Tennesseans chose an A or B; 22 percent, a C; and 19 percent, a D or F. In Shelby and Davidson, 28 percent chose an A or B; 27 percent, a C; and 34 percent, a D or F. Here are the complete breakdowns:



Despite the mixed ratings on school quality, a solid 65 percent majority of Tennesseans said they had “trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools.” Twenty percent said they did not, and 16 percent were unsure or gave no answer.

But Jason Reineke, Ph.D., associate director of the poll, noted that faith in teachers appears linked to perceived quality of public schools.

Majorities of those who give A, B and C grades for state and local school quality say they have trust and confidence in teachers, Reineke said. But among those who give D and F grades for state and local school quality, trust and confidence in teachers slips to about 40 percent yes, 40 percent no, and the rest undecided.
“The more people in Tennessee think state and local public schools have a serious problem, the more they think state and local public school teachers are part of the problem,” Reineke said. “But the majority view statewide seems to be that while schools may have some quality issues, teachers can be trusted to do a good job.”

Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network, Inc., which completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of Tennessee residents aged 18 and over. Data was collected using Tennessee statewide RDD sample with a mix of 80% landline and 20% cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes. Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.

 

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Most Tennesseans haven’t heard of “Insure Tennessee,” but support is higher than opposition among those who have

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Two-thirds of Tennesseans haven’t heard much about Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” health care proposal, but among the third who have, support substantially outweighs opposition, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

The poll randomly surveyed 600 adult residents statewide a week before a special legislative session kicks off Monday to consider the measure. The survey’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

“Gov. Haslam has gotten a notable head start in promoting the measure among Tennesseans,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “But his opponents have a lot of maneuvering room left among the two in three Tennesseans who are still largely unaware of the measure.”

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Close vote on income tax ban; Gov. Haslam, Sen. Alexander ahead

Close vote on state income tax ban; Gov. Haslam, Sen. Alexander ahead
Undecided voters hold fate of Amendment 3

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The election night fate of a proposed amendment constitutionally banning a state income tax remains uncertain, given close percentages of supporters and opponents and a large proportion of undecided voters, the latest statewide MTSU Poll shows.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbents Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander hold substantial leads over their challengers in the Nov. 4 election despite the tumble their approval ratings took last spring.

The amendment to constitutionally ban a state income tax, known as Amendment 3, drew the support of 30 percent of registered voters, while a statistically equivalent 25 percent oppose it, and 24 percent are unsure. Fourteen percent of respondents said they would cast no vote at all, and the rest decline to answer.



The recent poll of 600 registered voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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Vote on Tennessee abortion amendment too close to call

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A close vote may be in store for Tennessee’s proposed constitutional amendment on abortion, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

The amendment, popularly known as Amendment 1, would specify that Tennessee’s constitution does not include a right to an abortion. The recent poll of 600 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, showed 39 percent in favor of the amendment, 32 opposed, 15 percent undecided, and the rest not voting on the amendment or declining to answer.

Early voting ends Thursday, Oct. 30, for the Nov. 4 election.



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Tennesseans open to allowing medical marijuana use

Tennesseans open to allowing medical marijuana use
Majorities oppose same-sex marriage, enforcing federal gun laws

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennesseans oppose legalizing marijuana generally but appear willing to allow medical marijuana use, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

The poll also found:

  • A solid 64 percent majority of state residents oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally; and
  • 52 percent support forbidding the enforcement in Tennessee of federal-level firearms laws and leaving firearms regulated solely by state and local laws.

Additionally, the poll measured attitudes toward abortion, further restricting access to pseudoephedrine, allowing grocery stores to sell wine, and repealing the new federal healthcare law.

Conducted Jan. 23-26, the scientifically valid poll of 600 randomly selected Tennessee adults has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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Approval slides for Haslam, Corker, Alexander

Approval ratings slide for TN Gov. Haslam, U.S. Sens. Alexander and Corker
Erosion concentrated among Democrats and independents

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s job approval has dropped 14 points to 47 percent, with support from Democrats and independents sharply down for the Republican governor since last spring, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

Meanwhile, approval ratings for Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have also declined by double-digits — Alexander’s at 43 percent (down 11 points, although he outpolls chief GOP primary rival Joe Carr); and Corker’s at 44 percent (down 14 points).

Approval of the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly also edged downward, from 48 percent last spring to 44 percent now. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The drop in Haslam’s approval rating from 61 percent last spring occurred primarily among the state’s Democrats and political independents, according to Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Among the governor’s fellow Republicans, approval came in at 68 percent, statistically the same as the 67 percent approval among Republicans last spring.” Blake said. “But approval among Democrats fell from 52 percent to 42 percent, and approval among independents dropped from 69 percent to 41 percent.”

The graph below shows overall approval and approval broken down by party identification.



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