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.
The statewide telephone poll of 600 randomly selected registered voters also found that the biggest segments of state voters want laws on selling and carrying guns left as they are now, don’t want an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, and oppose accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.
Asked whether they thought abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, or illegal in all cases:
- 36 percent said abortion should be legal either in most cases (25.6 percent) or all cases (10.1 percent)
- 56 percent said abortion should be illegal either in most cases (33.3 percent) or all cases (22.2 percent).
- The rest (about 8 percent) didn’t know or declined to answer.
“Those figures are essentially unchanged from late October,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “And opposition to legal abortion in most or all cases remains highest among self-described evangelical Christians, especially those who are also Republicans.”
But in a follow-up question asking what would be most likely to reduce the number of abortions performed: stricter abortion regulations, more access to birth control and sex education, both, or neither, few respondents selected stricter regulations alone as the most effective option, even among those who thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Specifically:
“The findings may point out a thin strip of common ground between Tennessee voters on opposite sides of the abortion issue,” Blake said. “Both sides think stricter abortion regulations alone would not be the most effective way to cut the number of abortions performed, and both sides think the most effective way would at least include, if not rely mainly on, more access to birth control and sex education. Obviously, though, considerable disagreement remains over whether the best approach includes or excludes stricter abortion regulations.”
Meanwhile, 44 percent of Tennessee voters think laws covering the sale of guns should be left alone, while 34 percent think they should be made more strict, and 17 percent think they should be made less strict. The rest don’t know or decline to answer.
Nearly identical percentages think laws covering carrying guns should be kept as they are (43 percent), made more strict (34 percent) or made less strict (18 percent), with the rest saying they don’t know or giving no answer.
Support for tightening laws on both selling and carrying firearms is significantly higher among Democrats than among independents, and lowest among Republicans. Female voters are also more likely than male voters to favor increased regulation of selling and carrying firearms.
Despite plummeting gasoline prices, 50 percent of Tennessee voters oppose “raising the state’s tax on gasoline in order to fund better roads and bridges.” Only 33 percent support an increase, and 16 percent don’t know. The rest give no answer.
Opposition to a gas tax increase is highest among voters with only an associate’s degree or less, while support and opposition is more evenly split among better-educated voters. The figures are comparable to those in the October 2015 MTSU Poll.
A solid 66 percent majority of Tennessee voters oppose “accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.,” a figure significantly higher than the 51 percent found in a Quinnipiac University poll in December of registered voters nationwide. Only 22 percent of Tennesseans support accepting Syrian refugees, and the rest don’t know or give no answer.
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.