Research News

New Vanderbilt Poll surveys voting Tennesseans on education, health care, more

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

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

Economic status likewise influenced how many Tennesseans felt about the use of college scholarship money derived from the sale of state lottery tickets.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed approved of lottery scholarship money going to “students from low-income and middle-income families who maintain a certain GPA,” Geer said.

The current practice allows lottery scholarships for any student who maintains the set grade-point average, regardless of need. Thirty-four percent of those polled were in favor of maintaining that criteria.

Those are just some of the intriguing results of the Vanderbilt Poll conducted May 6-13 by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. The poll, conducted via landline and cell phone interviews by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, was taken of 813 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Popularity of politicians

[rquote]State officials continue to get good news from the Vanderbilt Poll, with Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander enjoying solid popularity, and Gov. Bill Haslam with a 63 percent approval rating.[/rquote] The Tennessee General Assembly earns a narrow 51 percent approval rating, divided along party lines.

Nationally, President Obama’s approval rating in the state has dipped to 40 percent from the 45 percent rating he had six months ago. The U.S. Congress remains very unpopular in Tennessee with a 21 percent rating, largely unchanged since November 2011.

Health care

Echoing the results of the Vanderbilt Poll from December 2012, Tennesseans remain convinced that Tennessee officials – not the federal government – should create and run the health care exchanges mandated by the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Haslam has announced that the state will not create or run the exchanges.

Of registered voters in Tennessee, 46 percent prefer that state officials create and run the exchanges on their own, while 41 percent prefer to use a system created by the federal government. In December, those percentages were 52 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

One health care issue that voters have shifted on significantly is whether the state should accept federal support to expand Medicaid to cover low-income individuals who currently lack health insurance. In December, 47 percent of registered voters supported accepting these funds. [lquote]Currently, 63 percent oppose the decision that was made not to expand Medicaid.[/lquote] 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 at Vanderbilt aims to foster an engaging intellectual environment to explore how political institutions shape political debate, ameliorate conflicts and influence public police. It is co-directed by John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, and Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science.

More poll results and information are available at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions website.