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MTSU POLL: Blackburn, Dean and Bredesen take early...

MTSU POLL: Blackburn, Dean and Bredesen take early leads in key primaries

Marsha Blackburn leads in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Karl Dean leads in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, and Phil Bredesen probably would be leading in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary if he were a declared candidate, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

Meanwhile, nobody has established a clear lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary or the general-election races for governor and Senate.

Phil Bredesen

Phil Bredesen

Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Rep. Marsha Blackburn

“Some frontrunners seem to have emerged in some of the primary races, but it’s much too early to forecast winners, even in the primaries that presently look lopsided,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“All of these candidates have double-digit percentages of undecided voters, both among voters from their own parties and from across the Tennessee electorate as a whole. Any of the races easily could shift during the months ahead.”

Here’s a synopsis of the standings in each race, according to the poll:

  • In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 55 percent of Republican voters approve or strongly approve of Blackburn, the representative for Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District. Andy Ogles trails with 19 percent approval, as does Larry Crim, with 12 percent approval.  Blackburn’s lead is statistically significant, given the poll’s error margin among self-identified Republicans.
  • In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean has the approval of 49 percent of Democrats. The only other Democratic gubernatorial candidate considered in the poll, Craig Fitzhugh, drew a significantly smaller 26 percent approval.
  • In the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, 60 percent of Democratic voters approve or strongly approve of Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor. Thirty-two percent express such approval of Andy Berke, and 28 percent express such approval of James Mackler. Bredesen’s lead is outside the error margin for the subgroup who self-identified as Democrats. But while both Bredesen and Berke have said they are thinking of running, neither man has declared himself a candidate. Mackler was the only declared Democratic candidate for Senate included in the poll.
  • The Republican gubernatorial primary offers the least clarity for now. Diane Black, Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District representative, led in the sample with 33 percent approval. But rival Republican Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, had the approval of a statistically indistinguishable 32 percent of the sample. Randy Boyd came in at 28 percent approval, and Mae Beavers at 21 percent approval. But the poll’s error margin for self-described Republican voters was too wide to indicate which, if any, of these candidates was leading the pack. The poll could determine only that Bill Lee, at 15 percent approval among Republicans, was significantly behind the approval ratings for Harwell and Black.
  • In the race for Tennessee governor among all Tennessee voters – Democrats, Republicans, independents and others – Harwell, a Republican, and Dean, a Democrat, both attract 23 percent approval, followed closely by three Republicans: Black, at 22 percent approval; Boyd, at 17 percent approval; and Beavers, at 15 percent approval. The poll’s overall error margin of 4 percentage points could not estimate which, if any, of these candidates was ahead. It could, however, identify the remaining two candidates, Fitzhugh and Lee, as significantly trailing Harwell, Dean and Black.
  • Finally, in the race for U.S. Senate among all Tennessee voters, approval for Blackburn, a Republican, stands at 37 percent, statistically indistinguishable from approval of Bredesen, a Democrat, at 34 percent. Both polled significantly higher on approval than did Berke (18 percent), Ogles (14 percent), Mackler (13 percent), and Crim (7 percent).

All results are based on questions that presented the declared or potential candidates for each race one at a time, in a random order, and asked whether the respondent strongly favored, favored, neither favored nor opposed, opposed, or strongly opposed that person’s being elected. The U.S. Senate results did not include results for Republican Stephen Fincher, who declared his candidacy near the end of the poll’s field period and too late to gather meaningful data about attitudes toward him.

Based on interviews with 600 registered Tennessee voters reached via randomly selected cell and landline phone numbers, the scientifically valid poll was conducted Oct. 16-23 and has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.


MTSU POLL: Disapproval of Sen. Corker rises in wake of feud with Trump

Oct. 27, 2017

Disapproval of Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has risen to 41 percent among Tennessee voters, according to the latest MTSU Poll, a 14-point climb since last spring and in the wake of his public feud with President Donald Trump.

Disapproval of Trump edged up, too, from 32 to 40 percent during the same period. But Trump’s approval held steady at 50 percent, well above national approval rate of about 37 percent. Corker’s approval dropped from 52 percent in the spring to 45 percent now, putting his approval rate below Trump’s but in the same range, given the poll’s 4-percentage-point error margin.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

President Donald Trump

“Essentially, Corker’s negatives have increased markedly, but he has ended up only a bit behind Trump in terms of approval, and possibly on par with him,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “Meanwhile, some undecideds have switched to disapproval of President Trump, but Trump’s base is sticking with him and keeping his approval rate relatively high in the state overall.”

Job approval ratings for Corker and Trump were combined to get a sense of whom Tennessee voters would favor if the two were pitted against each other. Among state voters who express an opinion about both men, 35 percent approve of Trump and disapprove of Corker. A statistically similar 32 percent approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump. Twenty-one percent approve of both Corker and Trump, and 13 percent disapprove of both.

Other political leaders

As for approval of other key political players, the poll also found that:

  • 56 percent approve of Gov. Bill Haslam, compared to 57 percent in the spring
  • 48 percent approve of the Tennessee General Assembly, compared to 50 percent in the spring
  • 45 percent approve of Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, unchanged from the spring
  • 13 percent approve of the U.S. Congress, compared to 21 percent in the spring

Two-thirds at least somewhat aware Trump-Corker conflict

The poll also asked how much Tennessee voters had read or heard about the recent conflict between Corker and Trump. Overall:

  • 68 percent say they have read or heard “some” or “a lot” about the conflict
  • 31 percent say they have read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all until now” about the conflict.
  • The rest say they don’t know or refuse to respond.

Overall, among Tennessee voters who say they have read or heard “some” or “a lot” about the conflict:

  • 40 percent disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump
  • 34 percent approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump
  • 15 percent approve of both Corker and Trump
  • 12 percent disapprove of both.

Among Tennessee voters who said they had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing” about the conflict

  • 37 percent approve of both Corker and Trump
  • 27 percent approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump
  • 22 percent disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump
  • 15 percent disapprove of both Trump and Corker

The impact of party affiliation

Among self-identified Democrats (23 percent of the sample) a large, 71 percent majority of those who say they have read or heard “some” or “a lot” about the conflict approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump. Even among Democrats who say they have heard “only a little” or “nothing” about the conflict, a 53 percent majority disapprove of Trump and approve of Corker.

Click to visit the MTSU Poll website.

Among self-identified Republicans (35 percent or the sample), a 65 percent majority of those who say they have read or heard “some” or “a lot” about the conflict disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump. But among Republicans who say they have read or heard “only a little” or “nothing” about the conflict, a 56 percent majority approve of both Corker and Trump.

Finally, among the largest group of respondents, who identify as independents or something else (40 percent of the sample), a 40 percent plurality of those who say they have read or heard “some” or a “a lot” about the conflict disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump, followed by 36 percent who approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump.

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Jason Reineke

The largest group of independents who say they have heard “only a little” or “nothing” about the conflict disapprove of both Corker and Trump (30 percent), followed by those who approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump (26 percent).

“It appears that Trump has generally weathered the conflict better than Corker among Tennesseans, with the exception of self-identified Democrats who strongly favor Corker,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, “and perhaps some independents who appear to be disengaged from the story and either disapprove of both or approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump.”

The scientifically valid poll of 600 registered Tennessee voters reached via randomly selected cell and landline phone was conducted Oct. 16-23 and has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.


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