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by Ann Marie Deer Owens | Feb. 6, 2011, 10:42 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The top three priorities for Tennessee’s elected officials should be the economy, education and health care, according to a new poll launched by Vanderbilt University. A majority of respondents rated the state’s economic condition as “fairly bad” or “very bad.”
The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions undertook its first Vanderbilt Poll with support from Peabody College and with The Tennessean as a media partner.
“We plan to take periodic readings of the opinions of Tennessee citizens on key state and national issues, thereby informing the broader debates over public policy,” John G. Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, said. “In a democracy there is a critical need for elected officials to learn about the opinions of their constituents. We want to offer this information as a public service.”
A variety of questions related to state and national politics were asked. Topics included the economy, job approval ratings for elected officials, campaign finances, immigration and health care reform. A subset of the questions focused on education.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 17 to Jan. 23 through statewide random telephone surveys. A total of 710 Tennessee adults responded with a margin of error at plus or minus 3.7 percent.
Geer and Joshua D. Clinton, an associate professor of political science, served as co-directors of the
poll, supervising the collection and analysis of the data. They were assisted by Adam Levine, associate director of the poll. The survey was conducted by the Survey Research Shared Resource at Vanderbilt University.
Among the poll’s scientifically measured findings:
Clinton noted the response to the question on whether most elected officials care about what people think. One quarter of the respondents completely disagreed with the statement and nearly half mostly disagreed. “The answers demonstrate the importance of political polls, which strive to give voice to citizens’ opinions in ways other than the ‘up or down’ choice offered by ballot box on election day,” Clinton said.
Camilla P. Benbow, the Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, said of the results: “While Tennesseans clearly favor continued education reforms in the state, particularly in the area of teacher quality and effectiveness, these results also show strong support for Tennessee’s teachers and for school funding.”
Serving on the poll’s bipartisan advisory board are Charles W. Bone, attorney and chairman of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC; Tom Ingram, political strategist with The Ingram Group; Roy M. Neel, senior adviser to former Vice President Al Gore and adjunct professor of political science at Vanderbilt; Bill Phillips, government relations consultant and former Nashville deputy major; Bill Purcell, former Nashville mayor and special adviser to the president of Harvard University on Allston; Anne Russell, special counsel at Adams and Reese LLP; Chip Saltsman, chief of staff for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann; and Brenda Wynn, director of community outreach for Rep. Jim Cooper.
The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, housed within Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science under the leadership of Dean Carolyn Dever, supports research on questions central to the survival and flourishing of democratic institutions. Visit the center’s website for more information.
Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS
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