Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions to periodically poll on key state and national issues
by Ann Marie Deer Owens
The top three priorities for Tennessee’s elected officials should be the economy, education and health care, according to a new poll launched by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt. The center undertook its first Vanderbilt Poll with support from Peabody College and with The Tennessean 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,” said John G. Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science. “In a democracy, there is a critical need for elected officials to learn about the opinions of their constituents. We want to offer this information as a public service.”
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 the questions focused on education. The poll was conducted Jan. 17-23 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 Adam Levine, associate director of the poll. The survey was conducted by the Survey Research Shared Resource at Vanderbilt.
Among the poll’s scientifically measured findings: President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is below 50 percent in Tennessee; there is substantial public approval of Gov. Bill Haslam as his term begins; and Tennesseans express high dissatisfaction with Congress, with nearly two-thirds disapproving of its job performance. However, almost two-thirds of respondents said they approved of the job performances of Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
More than half of respondents said state government should make the economy its top priority, with education placing second on the list. A majority of respondents said Tennessee’s schools need some change, but few respondents said schools need a complete overhaul. A majority of Tennesseans feel they are about the same financially this year as last, while a similar number believe their financial status will be about the same next year.
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. For more information on the center and more results from the inaugural Vanderbilt Poll, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi.