Matters of Opinion

Tennesseans strongly support charter schools, but their feelings about school vouchers are more divided, according to a poll from the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt.

“A solid 66 percent of those polled support charter schools,” says John Geer, co-director of the center. Thirty-five percent support a limited voucher program for low-income families in poor-performance schools, while 31 percent favor vouchers without such restrictions. Twenty-six percent oppose all school vouchers.

Those are some of the results of the sixth Vanderbilt Poll of Tennesseans, taken May 6–13. The poll, conducted via landline and cellphone interviews by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 813 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Economic status also influenced how Tennesseans felt about college scholarship money derived from state lottery ticket sales. Sixty-four percent approved of lottery scholarship money going to “students from low-income and middle-income families who maintain a certain GPA,” Geer says. The current practice allows lottery scholarships for any student who maintains the set grade-point average, regardless of need.

State officials received good news from the poll, with Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, BA’62, enjoying solid popularity, and Gov. Bill Haslam showing a 63 percent approval. The Tennessee General Assembly earned a narrow 51 percent approval rating, divided along party lines.

President Obama’s approval rating in the state dipped to 40 percent, down 5 percentage points from six months earlier. The U.S. Congress remained very unpopular in Tennessee, with a 21 percent rating.

Tennesseans remain convinced that state officials—not the federal government—should create and run the health care exchanges mandated by the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Of registered Tennessee voters, 46 percent prefer that state officials create and run the exchanges, while 41 percent prefer a system created by the federal government.

See more results.

Currently, 63 percent oppose the decision not to expand Medicaid. Opinions on that issue stick close to party lines, with Democrats and Independents supporting Medicaid expansion and Republicans and Tea Party members opposing it.

The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions is co-directed by Geer, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, and Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science.

See more results from the Vanderbilt Poll of Tennesseans.