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.”
Conducted Jan. 25-27, the poll first asked Tennesseans how much they had heard about “a proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam called ‘Insure Tennessee,’ which is designed to provide health insurance for Tennesseans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford coverage on their own.” A follow-up question asked how they felt “right now about the governor’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ proposal.”
According to the results:
- Thirty-three percent of Tennesseans have read or heard “a lot” (10 percent) or “some” (23 percent) about “Insure Tennessee,” while 66 percent have heard either “a little” (31 percent) or “nothing at all” (36 percent).
- Among the 33 percent who have at least some information, 49 percent favor the proposal, 11 percent oppose it, and 40 percent are unsure or haven’t made up their minds.
- Meanwhile, among the 66 percent who have heard little or nothing, 69 percent don’t know how they feel about it, while 26 percent expressed support, and 5 percent, opposition.
- Overall, regardless of how much they have read or heard about the measure, 34 percent favor Insure Tennessee, 7 percent oppose it, and 59 percent remain uncertain.
Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, emphasized the importance of accounting for how much Tennesseans know about the governor’s proposal when estimating their attitudes toward it.
“For obvious reasons, we try to avoid estimating public opinion about an issue before most of the public has become aware of it,” Reineke said. “But when the issue is the focus of a weeklong special legislative session, a public affairs poll like ours can’t simply ignore it. So we measured awareness first, then did our best to estimate support within high- and low-awareness groups.”
Reineke cautioned that people who knew little about Insure Tennessee before being polled probably answered based on whatever information they absorbed from the poll question itself. “Their opinions might change easily as they encounter additional information about the measure, including what is being said by the measure’s supporters and opponents.”
By contrast, people who had already heard or read something before being polled were more likely to express a previously developed opinion, Reineke said. ”Opinions expressed by these individuals probably will be relatively more stable over time, although any opinion can change at any time in response to new developments or information.”
Some demographic patterns are evident. For example, among Tennesseans who have heard a lot or some about Insure Tennessee, support is higher among those with at least some college education. Among those who have heard little or nothing, support is greater among minorities than among whites.
There is some evidence of higher support overall among Democrats and independents than among Republicans, but the pattern disappears after Tennesseans are divided according to how much they have heard about the proposal.
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.