Inaugural Poll Finds Economy Is Tennesseans’ Top Priority

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. 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 newspaper 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,” says John G. Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

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 questions focused on education.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 17 and 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, associate professor of political science, served as co-directors of the poll, supervising the collection and analysis of the data. They were assisted by Research Associate 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:

  • Unlike the findings of some recent national polls, President Barack Obama’s job performance approval rating is below 50 percent in Tennessee.
  • Tennesseans express high dissatisfaction with Congress, with nearly two-thirds disapproving of its job performance. However, these negative feelings do not carry over to Tennessee’s two U.S. senators. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they approve of the job performances of Sen. Lamar Alexander, BA’62, and Sen. Bob Corker.
  • Tennesseans generally have a much more favorable opinion about their state legislature’s job performance.
  • More than half the respondents said state government should make the economy its top priority. Education placed second on the list.
  • A majority favor creating a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. But an overwhelming number support fining employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • About one-third of Tennesseans support the entire repeal of the Obama administration’s health-care reform legislation, while another third favor repealing parts of the reform.

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.

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