Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s job approval has dropped 14 points to 47 percent, with support from Democrats and independents sharply down for the Republican governor since last spring, according to the latest MTSU Poll.
Meanwhile, approval ratings for Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have also declined by double-digits — Alexander’s at 43 percent (down 11 points, although he outpolls chief GOP primary rival Joe Carr); and Corker’s at 44 percent (down 14 points).
Approval of the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly also edged downward, from 48 percent last spring to 44 percent now. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The drop in Haslam’s approval rating from 61 percent last spring occurred primarily among the state’s Democrats and political independents, according to Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.
“Among the governor’s fellow Republicans, approval came in at 68 percent, statistically the same as the 67 percent approval among Republicans last spring.” Blake said. “But approval among Democrats fell from 52 percent to 42 percent, and approval among independents dropped from 69 percent to 41 percent.”
The table below shows overall approval and approval broken down by party identification.
Blake noted that the drop in approval of the governor’s job performance played out differently among Democrats than it did among independents.
“Among Democrats, the drop in approval was due almost entirely to a rise in the percentage who disapprove,” Blake said. “Among independents, by contrast, the drop resulted from roughly equal rises in the percentages of those who disapprove and those who feel undecided.”
Blake said that further exploring the reasons behind these shifts would require a poll focused on interviewing Democrats and independents.
“But one possibility is that Democrats, having been briefly impressed with some of the governor’s moderate positions during the last legislative session, are asking what he has done for them lately. Meanwhile, some independents share that view, while other independents just haven’t been paying much attention to the governor recently.”
The governor’s latest approval numbers, collected prior to his Feb. 3 State of the State address, resemble those observed in the Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 MTSU Polls, shortly after he took office.
In Spring 2011, 43 percent of Tennesseans approved of Haslam’s performance, and 17 percent disapproved. In Fall 2011, it was 51 percent approval, 16 percent disapproval.
The governor’s highest approval rating to date, 68 percent, appeared in the Fall 2012 MTSU Poll, but that poll, taken in an election year, sampled registered, likely voters rather than Tennessee adults in general.
Tennessee’s previous governor, Democrat Phil Bredesen, peaked at 72 percent approval in the Spring 2004 MTSU Poll but finished his administration with a 57 percent approval rating in the Fall 2010 MTSU Poll.
Statewide, 21 percent of Tennessee adults identify themselves as Democrats, 28 percent as Republicans, and 36 percent as independents. Another 8 percent say they are “something else,” and the rest don’t know or decline to answer.
Meanwhile, the slippage in approval of senators Alexander and Corker occurred primarily among self-described political independents. Alexander’s approval among independents dropped 22 points to 36 percent approval. Corker’s approval among independents fell 24 points to 39 percent.
The table below gives full breakdowns by party affiliation for the latest poll and the Spring 2013 poll.
Despite his dropping approval numbers, Alexander appears to be holding up well so far against state Rep. Joe Carr, his chief rival in the Republican primary.
Asked who they would like to see win a Republican primary race between Alexander and Carr, 29 percent favor Alexander, 14 percent would prefer “someone else,” and 8 percent would choose Carr. But a sizable 45 percent plurality of Tennesseans say they remain undecided.
Among Republicans in particular, 47 percent favor Alexander, 40 percent are undecided, 7 percent favor Carr, 4 percent would like “someone else,” and the rest decline to answer.
The state Legislature saw a 4-point drop in approval to 44 percent in the current poll.
As with the governor’s approval rating, the largest decline appeared among independents, 53 percent of whom approved in spring 2013 compared to 39 percent in the current poll. Here, too, the 14-point decline among independents corresponded to twin, 7-point increases in those disapproving of and feeling unsure about the Legislature’s job performance.
Poll data were collected Jan. 23–26, via telephone interviews of 600 Tennessee adults conducted by Issues and Answers Network Inc. using balanced, random samples of Tennessee landline and cell phones. Results have an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The data were weighted to match the latest available Census estimates of gender and race proportions in Tennessee.
— Dr. Ken Blake (email@example.com) and Dr. Jason Reineke (firstname.lastname@example.org)