Poll’s new ‘Partisan Profiles’ detail traits of st...

Poll’s new ‘Partisan Profiles’ detail traits of state’s Dems, GOP

The MTSU Poll’s newly released “Spring 2012 Partisan Profiles” reveal which demographic traits tend to distinguish Tennessee’s Republicans, Democrats and independents from each other as the state’s primary and general elections approach.

The state’s Republicans, for example, are more likely than Democrats or independents to watch Fox News and to be white, moderately wealthy suburbanites.

Tennessee Democrats, meanwhile, include significantly more nonwhites who get their news from CBS News, CNN and MSNBC in homes in the city, especially Nashville, and earn $40,000 or less per year.

“There are, of course, any number of individual exceptions to these patterns,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll and an associate professor of journalism in MTSU’s College of Mass Communication.

“There certainly are wealthy, suburban Democrats and minority, urban Republicans and so forth. But analysis of our statewide poll data shows that, overall, the members of each group exhibit a particular set of traits significantly more often than do the members of the other groups.”

According to the analysis, Tennessee Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to:

  • prefer watching Fox News, especially if they also live in middle or East Tennessee and make more than $45,000 a year;
  • be white or Asian, especially if they also live either in the “doughnut” of counties contiguous to Metro Nashville/Davidson County or in either East or West Tennessee and also attend church regularly;
  • live in a suburb or a small metro area, especially they’re also relatively wealthy; and
  • earn more than $100,000 a year.

Tennessee’s Democrats, meanwhile, are more likely than Republicans or independents to:

  • be nonwhite, especially if they also earn $40,000 or less per year;
  • prefer to watch CBS News, CNN or MSNBC, especially if they’re also female;
  • be female, especially if they also live in the city, particularly in Metro Nashville/Davidson County; and
  • live in middle or West Tennessee rather than in East Tennessee.

Finally, Tennessee’s independents are more likely than Republicans or Democrats to:

  • be male;
  • pay little attention to any of the TV network news outlets;
  • go to church about once a month; and
  • live in middle Tennessee, but neither in Metro Nashville/Davidson County nor in any of its contiguous counties.

Overall, Republicans make up about 33 percent of the state’s population, while Democrats account for 24 percent, and independents constitute 29 percent. Eleven percent identify themselves as something other than Republican, Democrat or independent, and the rest don’t know or give no answer.

The analysis, based on data from the latest MTSU Poll conducted in fall 2011, determined each group’s demographic profile by examining which one of a set of 14 standard demographic variables was statistically most salient among self-identified members of the group. The analysis was then repeated with that variable removed from consideration and continued until none of the remaining variables were statistically more common among the members of the group compared to others.

The 14 demographic variables were age, race, education, income, gender, frequency of worship service attendance, preferred television news network, frequency of reading a daily newspaper, frequency of watching television news, frequency of watching television in general, and four variables related to geographic location. Some of the 14 demographic variables overlap.

For more than a decade, the MTSU Poll has been providing independent, nonpartisan and unbiased public opinion data on major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001. Learn more at