Vanderbilt Releases Results Of Statewide Political Poll - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Vanderbilt Releases Results Of Statewide Political Poll

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The latest Vanderbilt poll suggests Tennesseans may not like the Affordable Care Act, but favor certain aspects of it such as expanding Medicaid.

The polling of 1,002 Tennessee residents, 860 of which are registered voters, was conducted from late November through December 5th. Participants were asked questions on a wide spectrum of topics including politics, the economy and healthcare.

When asked overall opinions of the Affordable Care Act, 51% said it was unfavorable and only 15% responded favorable. A majority of the favorable were democrats at 37%, independents at 12%, republicans at 3% and the Tea Party at 5%.

But when asked the same question about an overall opinion of Medicaid expansion, a specific part of the ACA, 63% want to expand it, while 34% don't. When you break down the people in favor of expansion 89% are democrats, 64% independents, 42% republicans and 36% the Tea Party.

"If you ask about the overall aspect there's a lot of disapproval, but for particular provisions within that there's substantial support for it," Political Science Associate Professor Joshua Clinton.

Vanderbilt's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions released this and other findings Wednesday.

When it comes to healthcare the poll shows a majority of Tennesseans hope Governor Haslam follows Kentucky's lead to expand Medicaid, and not Georgia's, which declined it all together.

While people appear to like individual aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the way the question is phrased is very important.

"If we worded it differently would we get a different result? If you asked this question and talked about Obamacare in the question you'd get a different kind of result because you'd be polarizing it immediately. You'd be making it partisan, but if you just ask about the Medicaid expansion there's quite a bit of support for it and that's important," said political science professor John Geer.

When it comes to the study shows only 14% of those surveyed have even tried shopping an online exchange for health coverage.

President Obama's approval rating across the Volunteer state is on a major decline. Polling shows since this time last year the President is down 17%. Obama is now at his lowest approval rating since the study began polling Tennesseans in 2011. The biggest change is among democrats with a 20% decline.

Recognition and approval ratings in politics were major parts of polling. One asked how recognizable U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr is compared to incumbent Lamar Alexander or other non-political figures.

Only 24% recognize Carr's name, and of those 54% approve of his platform. That's below Vanderbilt Head Football Coach James Franklin, Tennessee Head Football Coach Butch Jones or Singer Carrie Underwood.

When you compare Carr to incumbent U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, 14% approve of Carr, compared to 49% for Alexander. Among republicans 57% are for Alexander, with only 15% for Carr. Among the Tea party, Carr's own party, only 19% were for Carr and 42% for Alexander.

"So this should just put some context in terms of the awareness that Tennesseans have about Alexander's primary competitor. Not only is there not much awareness, but there's not a whole lot of approval as well," Clinton said.

Wednesday Carr's communications director, Hillary Pate, said the only thing the poll shows is Alexander is better known. Other polls show it's a much tighter race when you consider Alexander's voting record, she said.

When it comes to abortion only 29% of voters favor giving state lawmakers the power to amend the state constitution to outlaw abortions. Researchers say that question isn't about being pro-life or pro-choice, but how much power local lawmakers should have.

"If in fact you think of it as state power, particularly the power that the state legislature might have then all of a sudden the debate changes because the public isn't so willing to hand over to the state legislature additional power," Geer said.

Researchers also looked ahead to the 2016 Presidential race seeing how much recognition U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a member of the Tea Party, has against New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie.

In the Mid-South, Christie holds an advantage over Cruz across all parties when it comes to recognition. That also holds true in approval ratings, expect for the Tea Party, which favors Cruz.

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