MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — About a third of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to fund road projects through a plan that would increase fuel taxes while cutting grocery and other taxes, but fewer oppose it, and many remain undecided, according to the latest MTSU Poll.
“Support for the plan is fairly low among voters, but that’s not the whole story,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In a pattern reminiscent of attitudes toward the governor’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan two years ago, opposition is fairly low as well, many have read or heard little about the issue and simply have no opinion yet, and support for the plan rises markedly among those who have the most information about it.”
The latest MTSU Poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 12-16 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
In other findings, 57 percent approve of Haslam’s job performance, 50 percent approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, and about half of state voters want another Republican to succeed Haslam. By comparison, more like a quarter would prefer a Democratic governor.
Support mixed for gas tax increase
When the current poll asked state voters about the governor’s “proposal to pay for road projects by raising taxes on gas and diesel fuel while cutting other taxes, including taxes on groceries, 38 percent expressed support, 28 percent were opposed – a significantly smaller proportion – and 33 percent said they weren’t sure. The remaining 1 percent declined to answer.
Support appeared significantly higher among the 52 percent of state voters who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” information about the proposal than among the 46 percent who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all” about it.
Among those who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the proposal, 51 percent expressed support, 31 percent said they opposed it, and 18 percent said they didn’t know how they felt about it.
By contrast, among those who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all about the proposal, 24 percent expressed support, 24 percent said they opposed it, and 52 percent said they didn’t know how the felt about it.
Asking about the governor’s “Insure Tennessee” health care proposal two years ago, the MTSU Poll found that support measured 34 percent statewide but rose to 49 percent among the third of Tennesseans who had heard about the plan. By contrast, support measured only 26 percent among the two-thirds who had little or no information about the plan. Ultimately, the plan failed to gain traction in the Legislature.
Haslam approval holding at solid majority; Legislature at 50 percent
Fifty-seven percent of Tennessee voters approve “of the way Bill Haslam is handling his job as governor,” a figure virtually unchanged from his 58 percent approval ratings in the Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 editions of the MTSU Poll. Twenty-three percent express disapproval of the governor, and 19 percent don’t know.
Approval of Haslam measures 64 percent among Republicans, 60 percent among independents, and 46 percent among Democrats.
“MTSU Polls conducted during the administration of Haslam’s Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, also tended to find relatively high bipartisan approval,” Blake said.
Meanwhile, 50 percent approve of “the way the state Legislature is handing its job,” while 27 percent disapprove, and 22 percent don’t know. The remaining 1 percent declined to answer. Approval of the Legislature is about the same as it was throughout 2016.
About half of state voters want a Republican as their next governor
Fifty-one percent of state voters prefer that the governor elected next year to replace Haslam, who is in his second and final term, be either a “conservative Republican” (33 percent) or a “moderate Republican” (18 percent).
Approximately a quarter (23 percent) would like either a “moderate Democrat” (14 percent) or a “progressive Democrat” (9 percent). Ten percent prefer “something else,” and a sizable 14 percent don’t know. The rest refused to answer.
“A Republican candidate would enter the race with a pretty stiff tail wind,” Blake said. “But recent history suggests a moderate from either party can build and maintain a winning coalition.”
Between Feb. 12-16, 2017, Issues & Answers Network Inc. completed 600 telephone surveys for the poll among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over. Data were collected using a Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with 60 percent landlines and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.
Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data are representative of Tennessee registered voters. Landline numbers represent 58 percent of the completed interviews and 42 percent are from cell phones
The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning one can be 95 percent confident that the population percentage being estimated lies within four percentage points, in either direction, of the result the sample produced.