The latest Vanderbilt Poll, released June 6, found rising levels of partisanship among Tennessee voters.
Among the findings: Republican Gov. Bill Lee enjoys a 61 percent approval rating. The high approval is similar to that of former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, though poll director and Vanderbilt professor John Geer notes that Lee’s power base is made up of fewer independents and Democrats than Haslam’s was.
Additionally, the poll found, Tennessee two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, enjoy similar favorability ratings (46 percent for Alexander, 45 percent for Blackburn). But the support for Alexander, who has been in office for more than a decade, is largely bipartisan while Blackburn, in her first year, has a more uniformly Republican power base.
“What is happening nationally in terms of polarization is beginning to infiltrate state politics,” Geer said. “We’re at a crossroads — going forward, our state leaders can choose to address issues that divide, or issues that unite.”
Other findings from the poll of 1,000 Tennessee voters, conducted May 9-23:
Drug and alcohol addiction: 69 percent of voters rate it a “big problem.”
Voting access: 66 percent support “motor-voter” policies that automatically register Tennesseans to vote when they get driver’s licenses or interact with other state agencies. Meanwhile, 74 percent would support the restoration of voting rights for Tennesseans with certain felony convictions upon the completion of their sentences.
Health care: Tennesseans strongly support policies related to children’s health — 72 percent support the recent “Katie Beckett” law that permits families of severely disabled children to receive Medicaid funding regardless of income level. (By comparison, 60 percent support expanding Medicaid to include more low-income adults.) And 87 percent of voters favor mandatory vaccination for healthy children seeking to attend public schools.
Immigration: Tennesseans strongly favor policies that preserve the rights of illegal immigrants to stay and rectify their status — 54 percent say they should be allowed to apply for citizenship, while another 20 percent favor a guest worker program. Furthermore, 62 percent of Tennesseans say efforts to reduce illegal immigration should target employers, not immigrants.
House Speaker Glen Casada: Poll results also showed consensus around Casada’s future — 63 percent of voters, across all party lines, say he should resign following the revelation of sexually explicit text messages he exchanged with his chief of staff.
Though the state legislature recently passed a bill permitting the use of school vouchers in Davidson and Shelby counties, just 40 percent of Tennesseans favor the measure. And while the “heartbeat bill” banning abortions after the detection of fetal cardiac activity failed this session, it would not have found majority support among voters anyway — just 41 percent support such a measure.