KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The results of Vanderbilt University’s most recent poll of Tennessee voters is giving insights into Tennesseans’ attitudes toward criminal justice reform, abortion and elected leaders.
Poll co-directors John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of political science, and Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science, said the findings match with a national trend of weaken support for Biden, even among Democrats and independent voters. The results also show Tennessee voters are less likely to support another presidential run by Donald Trump.
“There’s a general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country right now, and we pick that up in a lot of different ways—whether it be in the national poll or in how people are viewing local leaders,” Geer said. “One of the themes our latest poll shows is that here in Tennessee, there is a declining appetite to have a replay of the 2020 presidential election in 2024.”
1,000 registered Tennessee voters were polled between April 26 and May 14, 2022, for the survey. Vanderbilt said the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The margin of error shows how many percentages points the results will differ from the real population value. For example, if 85% of people polled say they like green, a 4% margin of error means the statistic will be within four percentage points of the real population value.
Tennesseans on the president’s performance
79% of Democrats polled said they approve of Biden’s performance. This is a drop from last year when 92% voiced support for him. Out of everyone polled, 31% approved of Biden’s performance and 25% said they hope Biden runs for reelection.
38% of everyone polled said they want Trump to run for president in 2024. In December 2021, it was 44%. The results did show that while Republicans are more supportive of a 2024 Trump campaign, there was a drop in interest as 68% supported the idea, which is 11 points less than in December 2021.
Looking at the state leadership, Tennessee voters seem unhappy with leadership, Governor Bill Lee remains popular. Lee earned a 56% approval from those polled, which is slightly lower than last year’s level of support but similar to the results from December 2021. 80% of Republicans and 7% of Democrats polled said they would reelect Lee.
How do Tennesseans feel about the economy?
For the economy, the survey shows only 27% of those polled believe the U.S. economy is in good shape. Last year, 47% of those polled said the economy was “very good” or “fairly good.”
However, those polled feel slightly more favorable about Tennessee’s economy. 64% responded that the state’s economy is “very good” or “fairly good” right now.
Death penalty vs Life imprisonment without parole
Those polled were also asked some new questions about criminal justice reform. 70% of those polled responded that the criminal justice reform either needs “a complete overhaul” or “major changes,” nationally and in Tennessee. When at voters in both parties, 82% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans shared a strong desire for criminal justice reform.
Voters were also asked on whether it’s preferable to give convicted murderers the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In response, 53% of those surveyed said life imprisonment is the preferable option and 37% said the death penalty is the better of the two choices.
According to a release, the partisan divide on the death pental was not as great as other issues surveyed. For the death penalty, 52% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats prefer the death penalty. This is especially interesting as Lee paused executions in Tennessee through 2022 following the reprieve issued to Oscar Franklin Smith due to a technical issue in the lethal injection process.
Do Tennesseans support the legalization of abortion?
Following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion which would overturn Roa v. Wade, abortion is at the forefront of the national consciousness. Among those surveyed, 48% identified as pro-choice and 50% identified as pro-life. Overall 36% of those polled said abortion should be legal in all cases. Breaking down voters into parties, 70% of Democrats polled favored abortion being legal, while only 8% of Republicans prefer pro-choice legislation.
However, while the poll shows a strong partisan divide on this issue, only a minority of Tennesseans want to make all abortion illegal. 80% of respondents supported abortions being either completely legal or legal under some conditions, such as in cases of rape and incest and when the health of the mother is at stake.
The survey also asked voters about the causes of polarization, banned books, fear of COVID, scientific discovery and health care. To see the full results of the poll and find the methodology, visit vu.edu/poll.