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.
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.