Although strongly protective of gun rights in general, most Tennessee voters favor requiring background checks for gun sales among private individuals and at gun shows and support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, according to the latest MTSU Poll.
Two other measures – banning assault-style weapons and setting up a federal database to track all gun sales – draw considerably less support, especially among gun rights supporters.
“Tennesseans generally favor preserving access to guns, and pretty passionately so,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “But there appears to be some common ground between gun rights supporters and gun control supporters when it comes to regulating private and gun show sales and sales to the mentally ill.”
The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide by telephone Oct. 25-27 and has an error margin of 4 percentage points.
Key findings about attitudes toward firearms among the state’s voters include:
- Most think it is more important to “protect the right to own guns” (69 percent) than to “control gun ownership” (23 percent). The rest don’t know or declined to answer.
- These attitudes run “hot” emotionally, with 92 percent of gun rights supporters saying they feel “strongly” about their view, and 86 percent of gun control supporters saying they feel “strongly” about their view.
- Most Tennessee voters think gun ownership does more to “protect people from becoming victims of crime” (63 percent) than to “put people’s safety at risk” (24 percent).
- But support runs high for passing “laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns” (85 percent in favor) and for “making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks” (83 percent in favor).
View an interactive graphic with a breakdown of the results here.
Solid majorities of both gun rights and gun control supporters favor regulating private and gun show sales and preventing sales to the mentally ill. Specifically, 78 percent of gun rights supporters, and 96 percent of gun control supporters, favor regulating gun sales among private individuals and at gun shows.
Similarly, 84 percent of gun rights supporters, and 90 percent of gun control supporters favor laws preventing gun sales to the mentally ill.
The two groups diverge, though, on other forms of gun regulation. For example, 81 percent of gun control supporters favor “a ban on assault-style weapons” compared to only 40 percent of gun rights supporters. Similarly, 84 percent of gun control supporters, but only 43 percent of gun rights supporters, favor “creating a federal government database to track all gun sales.”
Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll, said these patterns among Tennessee voters are similar to patterns found in recent national polling.
In a Pew Research Center poll that used the same questions this summer, requiring background checks for private and gun-show firearm sales drew 82 percent approval among gun rights supporters and 88 percent approval among gun control supporters.
Majorities of both gun rights supporters (82 percent) and gun control supporters (77 percent) also approved of laws preventing gun sales to the mentally ill.
“Our poll represents a pretty stringent test of how acceptable these two measures might be to gun rights advocates,” Reineke said. “According to the Pew Center poll, only 47 percent of Americans think protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership. Comparing that figure to the 69 percent in our poll of Tennessee voters suggests that if these two measures can find strong general support here, they can probably find it just about anywhere.”
In terms of demographics, gun rights supporters in the state tend to be Republican, white and male. The same characteristics describe those who think gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime than to put people’s safety at risk.
Learn more at www.mtsupoll.org.
MTSU POLL: Majority of state voters still opposed to same-sex marriage
Nov. 9, 2015
Most Tennessee voters remain opposed to letting gay couples marry legally, according to the first MTSU Poll taken since this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
Meanwhile, about half of Tennessee voters think abortion should be against the law in most or all cases, and attitudes on both issues break sharply along religious and political party lines.
“Reflecting patterns in previous MTSU Polls, opposition to the legality of both same-sex marriage and abortion runs highest among Tennessee’s evangelical Christian and Republican voters,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In both groups, sizable majorities think it should be unlawful for same-sex couples to marry and think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.”
The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide by telephone Oct. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
On the question of same-sex marriage:
- 57 percent say they either “oppose” (18 percent) or “strongly oppose” (39 percent) permitting same-sex marriage.
- 29 percent either “favor” (18 percent) or “strongly favor” (11 percent) allowing such unions.
- A substantial 14 percent don’t know or decline to answer.
View an interactive graphic showing the breakdown of attitudes about same-sex marriage here.
Opposition to the legality of same-sex marriage is especially strong among state voters who are evangelical Christians, Republicans, and age 60 or older. In each of those groups, about two-thirds of voters express opposition.
Same-sex marriage finds majority support (62 percent) among non-evangelical voters in Tennessee and falls just short of majority support (49 percent) among those age 18 to 34.
The 57 percent opposition to same-sex marriage found among Tennessee registered voters in this latest poll is statistically equivalent to the 55 percent opposition found in this past spring’s poll of all Tennessee adults.
It is significantly higher, though, than the 38 percent opposition recorded nationally by the Pew Research Center when it fielded the same question this past July. In that poll, a 54 percent majority expressed support for same-sex marriage, with only 7 percent undecided.
- 53 percent of the state’s voters think abortion should be against the law either in “most cases” (31 percent) or “all cases” (22 percent).
- 39 percent think it should be legal in either “most cases” (25 percent) or “all cases” (14 percent).
- Around 8 percent don’t know or decline to answer.
View an interactive graphic showing the breakdown of attitudes about abortion restrictions here.
As with opinions on same-sex marriage, opinions on abortion break sharply along religious and political lines. Sixty-two percent of evangelical Christians, and 70 percent of Republicans, think abortion should be against the law in most or all cases. By contrast, 58 percent of non-evangelicals, and 59 percent of Democrats, think abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Learn more at www.mtsupoll.org.
MTSU POLL: Carson leads the presidential field in Tennessee
Nov. 6, 2015
Republican candidate Ben Carson has the current presidential field’s best numbers among Tennessee voters, although the biggest slice of the state’s electorate remains undecided, the latest statewide MTSU Poll shows.
The poll began by asking, “Of all the candidates currently running for president, can you please name the one person you would most like to win the election?” The question offered no specific candidate names. The poll’s sample of registered voters responded:
- Carson (R): 19 percent
- Hillary Clinton (D): 16 percent
- Donald Trump (R): 14 percent
- Bernie Sanders (D): 5 percent
The field’s remaining candidates posted in the lower single digits.
“Carson is leading his closest Republican rival, businessman Donald Trump, by a significant margin, and both Carson and Trump have better favorability ratings than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the statewide poll at Middle Tennessee State University.
“Notably, though, about a third of state voters can’t or won’t say whom they would prefer. That’s to be expected, given that even primary voting remains a long way off.”
Carson and Trump both surpassed Clinton in follow-up questions separately gauging support for each candidate becoming president, with 51 percent supporting Carson, 35 percent for Trump, and 25 percent for Clinton.
The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide Oct. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
You can find interactive graphics at www.mtsupoll.org.
Breakdowns by party
A retired neurosurgeon who has risen to GOP frontrunner in recent weeks, Carson was the top choice among self-identified Republicans, with 33 percent of responses, followed by “Don’t know” with 29 percent and Trump with 22 percent.
Clinton led among Democrats, with 44 percent naming her, followed by “Don’t know” with 25 percent and Sanders with 16 percent.
Among independents who did not identify with either of the two major political parties, the most frequent response was “Don’t know” (38 percent.) Carson was the choice of 16 percent of independents, while Clinton and Trump were named by 12 percent each.
Support for Carson surged, though, among independents who identified as ideologically conservative, with 25 percent of these respondents picking him. Trump garnered 15 percent of this group, while 33 percent were undecided. Margins of error are larger for subgroups of respondents like political partisans.
More oppose than favor most top candidates
Carson was the only candidate who remained in positive territory in “net favorability” — +28 — when the percentages opposing or strongly opposing his presidency were subtracted from the percentages favoring or strongly favoring his presidency.
On the Democratic side, Clinton had the lowest net favorability score of all candidates at -37, while Sanders was comparable at -33.
But favorability deficits were not limited to Democratic candidates. Among the Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scored -26; Trump came in at -12, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz scored a comparable -11, while fellow U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio scored -7 points.
Some respondents did not give an opinion one way or the other, or refused to answer the question.
“Some of these are frontrunner effects,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll. “Since Carson is in the lead, people who support him are going to be reluctant to say they could accept anybody else. There are also, of course, partisan effects. Republicans have an advantage, and it would be surprising to see net favorability for any Democratic candidate in a red state like Tennessee.”
Reineke added that it’s also important to note that voters in Tennessee are more decided about some candidates than others.
“People are more opinionated about candidates like Clinton and Trump — 89 and 82 percent have an opinion about them one way or the other, respectively,” Reineke noted.
“But only 61 percent each stated an opinion one way or the other about Cruz and Rubio. So, Cruz and Rubio have an arguably easier task of creating a favorable impression among undecided voters, while Clinton and Trump would have to convert voters from opposition to favorability to make up the difference.”
Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 603 telephone surveys among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over.
Data was collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with a mix of 60 percent landline and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was nine minutes.
Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West. Data was weighted on age to ensure that it was representative of Tennessee registered voters
The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 for the entire sample percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced. Subgroups have wider margins of error.