Tennessee poll shows partisan COVID-19 response

Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 10:48 AM EDT
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A new poll by Vanderbilt University suggests the political partisanship of Tennesseeans strongly influences their views on the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the poll, Tennessee residents' economic worries are high due to the financial impact of the safer-at-home order. Only 35 percent rated the U.S. economy very or fairly good this time, and just 51 percent rated the Tennessee economy the same way—compared to 81 and 84 percent in December.

“It’s really a tale of two cities, but instead of the urban-rural differences, we’re seeing views really break much more along party lines,” said John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and co-director of the poll. “Tennessee remains a pragmatic

state overall, but partisan beliefs are shaping responses to nonpartisan issues, like the coronavirus.”

The Vanderbilt poll surveyed 1,000 registered Tennessee voters between May 5-22, 2020. The statewide poll is conducted twice a year by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

Since 2019, Tennesseans' views on their state and federal leaders have not had a significant change, according to the poll. Researches suggest that means the pandemic has had a limited effect on their views.

Governor Bill Lee currently has a 64 percent approval rate. Senator Marsha Blackburn has 47 percent approval, while Senator Lamar Alexander received 50 percent approval. President Donald Trump's approval rating stayed steady in Tenn. throughout his presidency at 51 percent.

“These approval numbers are very much in line with earlier polls, and reflect stable support among Tennessee voters,” Geer said. “And Sen. Alexander finishes a long and distinguished career with a slight uptick in support and a continued demonstration of bipartisan support, which reflects Tennessee’s history of pragmatic politics.”

The poll found that 75 percent of Tennesseans said they were satisfied with how their local leaders have responded to the pandemic. Sixty-six percent said the same of their fellow community members, while

65 percent were satisfied with Gov. Lee’s response and 53 percent were satisfied with President Trump’s.

Tennesseans had a high approval rating (65 percent) for Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

According to the poll, if the election were held right now, 51 percent of residents would vote for President Trump and 42 percent would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The 2018 midterms revealed weaknesses in the GOP among women voters, and it doesn’t look like they’ve totally solved that yet,” Clinton added. “President Trump is well-positioned to win Tennessee again, but six months out it’s unclear whether he’ll repeat the landslide victory he

got in Tennessee in 2016 against Secretary Clinton.”

While the poll found COVID-19 had little impact on Tennessean's political approval ratings, the pandemic was still a strong concern.

Nearly 60 percent of Tennesseans reported feeling somewhat worried they or a loved one would contract COVID-19 and 67 percent said they were very or somewhat worried about a resurgence of the virus when the state opened back up.

Partisanship strongly affected Tennesseans’ views on the coronavirus,

the poll found. Eighty-two percent of Democrats were concerned about contracting COVID-19, compared to only 37 percent of Republicans. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans approved of lifting the stay-at-home order, but 78 percent of Democrats disagreed.

Fewer than half said restaurants, bars and churches should reopen, but two-thirds supported reopening both small and big stores. Just a quarter of Tennesseans were ready for the return of air travel, concerts or sporting events.

When asked about how best to conduct the November election, 57 percent strongly or somewhat supported vote-by-mail, while 85 percent supported increasing time for early voting and a strong majority did not want to postpone the election. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that the election should be held on time and that there should be additional time for early voting.

For the full results of the poll click

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