Research News

Tennessee voters want Medicaid expansion, but many still don’t like ACA, Vanderbilt Poll shows

A substantial majority of Tennessee voters want state lawmakers to accept federal money that has been offered to expand Medicaid, according to the new Vanderbilt Poll.

In a survey taken Nov. 20 to Dec. 5, 2013, of 860 registered voters by landlines and cell phones, 63 percent said they supported the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. Thirty-four percent were against the expansion and 3 percent said they didn’t know.

“The decision as to whether the state should expand Medicaid as provided by the Affordable Care Act is obviously an important issue in the state, and the Vanderbilt Poll provides important information about what the public thinks. [rquote]Hopefully, this will help ensure that the discussion is not just driven by engaged activists on both sides of the issue, as this is not the first time Tennesseans have expressed their approval of Medicaid expansion,”[/rquote] said Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt.

While a strong majority of Tennessee voters favor expansion, nearly half – 47 percent – of voting Tennesseans have a negative perception of the Affordable Care Act itself, with only 15 percent supporting the law.

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential primary election in Tennessee, it appears that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has an edge over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican race. Christie’s name was recognized by 67 percent of Tennessee voters, compared to 51 percent for Cruz. In addition, Christie had higher combined awareness and approval among Republicans than Cruz, 50 percent to 39 percent. Cruz, meanwhile, is more popular among those registered voters who self-identify with the Tea Party than Christie by 18 percent.

“While we are obviously two years away from the formal start of the 2016 presidential election, these data give a boost to the potential candidacy of Chris Christie,” observed John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt. “Our results certainly suggest the governor of New Jersey plays well in the Volunteer State.”

President Obama’s approval rating has fallen to 28 percent in Tennessee, a dramatic plunge from the May 2013 Vanderbilt poll when he enjoyed a 40 percent approval rating and in December 2012 when he was at 45 percent. Even among Democrats, Obama’s approval has dropped significantly – from 88 percent in December 2012 after winning his second term to 68 percent now. Gov. Bill Haslam’s approval numbers are still high with 61 percent giving him a favorable rating.

Tennessee voters continue to be skeptical about the U.S. Congress, with 78 percent disapproving of the work of Washington lawmakers versus 18 percent who approve. At home, 53 percent approve of the General Assembly, with 30 percent disapproving.

A majority of voting Tennesseans, 57 percent, believe the state is on the right track. There is a growing belief that the state economy is doing better. Among Tennesseans, 66 percent view the state’s economy as “good” compared to 52 percent in May.

Voters were asked about a wide variety of other issues likely to impact the legislature during its next session, which begins in January. More findings will be available on the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions website.