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MTSU Poll: Voters weigh in on standard of living, leader approvals

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.MTSU POLL S2016-Haslam approval_web

Gov. Bill Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam

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.

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.

Pluralities approve of Senators Alexander, Corker

More Tennessee voters approve of the jobs that their United States senators are doing than disapprove.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

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.

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.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

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.

MTSU POLL S2016-Leaders approval_web

Click the image for interactive version of the graphic that shows approval by party affiliation.


 

MTSU Poll: Voters weigh in on standard of living, leader approvals

Feb. 3, 2016

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.

Abortion

Asked whether they thought abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, or illegal in all cases:MTSU POLL S2016-Abortion regs-web

  • 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:

  • 8 percent chose stricter abortion regulations (3 percent among opponents of abortion regulation vs. 12 percent among supporters of abortion regulation).
  • 37 percent chose “More access to birth control and sex education” (61 percent among opponents of abortion regulation vs. 23 percent among supporters of abortion regulation).
  • 39 percent chose “Both” (26 percent among opponents of abortion regulation vs. 49 percent among supporters of abortion regulation).
  • 11 percent chose “Neither” (7 percent among opponents of abortion regulation vs. 14 percent among supporters of abortion regulation).
Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Ken Blake

“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.”

Gun laws

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.

Gasoline tax

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.

Syrian refugees

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.

Find previous MTSU Poll results here.


MTSU Poll: Trump leads Cruz among state GOP voters; many undecided

Jan. 28, 2016

Tennessee’s Republican primary is down to a race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with Trump holding an advantage but with many party voters still undecided, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, but her statewide disapproval ratings are the highest of any top candidate on either ticket.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

“We asked two types of questions about the presidential race to get a sense of where potential voters stand,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“First, we asked registered voters to name, off the tops of their heads, the one candidate they would most like to see win the election and the one candidate they would least like to see win the election. Second, we asked whether they would favor or oppose each of several specific, current candidates running. We then broke the results down for the self-described Democrats, independents, and Republicans who responded to our poll.”

The poll of 600 registered Tennessee voters was conducted Jan. 15-20 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Voters in Tennessee and 10 other states will go to the polls March 1 in the so-called “SEC primary.”

Trump leads among Republicans, independents

When asked to name the one person they would most like to win the 2016 presidential election, 33 percent of self-described Republican voters named Trump. Cruz came in second, chosen by a significantly smaller 17 percent of Republicans.

But 28 percent of GOP voters said they did not know who they would like to see win.

Click to visit the MTSU Poll website.

Click to visit the MTSU Poll website.

Ben Carson, who led the presidential field among Tennessee voters in the October 2015 MTSU Poll, drew just 7 percent of Republican voters in the latest sample. The remaining Republican candidates also registered in the single digits at best.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

Trump also posted the best numbers among self-described independent voters, with 26 percent naming Trump as the candidate they’d most like to see win. Democrat Sanders, the next-most-popular candidate, came it at a significantly lower 10 percent.

But 30 percent of independents were undecided, and the rest chose candidates who pulled in only single-digit percentages.

The news wasn’t all good for Trump, though. About a quarter of Tennessee voters – the biggest chunk of them Democrats – singled him out as the candidate they’d least like to see win the presidency, far more opposition than any other Republican candidate attracted.

Click the image for an interactive graphic that shows choice preferences by party affiliation.

Click the image for an interactive graphic that shows choice preferences by party affiliation.

Clinton solid among Democrats but least-liked candidate statewide

Statewide opposition to Trump, though notable, was only half as strong as statewide opposition to Clinton. Fifty percent of Tennessee voters – most of them Republicans – named her as the candidate they’d least like to see win the presidency.

But 47 percent of self-described Democratic voters in the sample picked Clinton as the candidate they’d most like to see win the presidency. A significantly smaller 15 percent named Sanders, and 26 percent said they did not know. All other percentages were in the single digits.

‘Favorability’ and the Republicans’ ‘deep bench’

Despite favoring Trump, Tennessee Republican voters seemed open to backing either Cruz or Carson as alternatives — 65 percent said they “strongly favor” or “favor” Trump’s becoming president, but 60 percent said the same of Cruz, and 60 percent said the same of Carson.

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Jason Reineke

Dr. Jason Reineke

Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll, said that even with the subsample’s larger error margin taken into consideration, the findings suggest a majority of state Republican voters would favor either Trump, Carson or Cruz.

“The Republicans have what you might call a ‘deep bench’ of presidential candidates in Tennessee,” Blake said. “If the current favorite, Trump, were to fade, it appears majorities of GOP voters would be willing to back Cruz or Carson, perhaps especially if Clinton turned out to be the Democratic nominee.”

Among Democratic voters, only 42 percent would strongly favor, or favor, Sanders becoming president, statistically much less than the 77 percent who would support Clinton as president.

For previous MTSU Poll results, go to www.mtsupoll.org.

MTSU Poll S2016-Presidential Approval_web

Methodology

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.

 

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