NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new Vanderbilt University poll offers a glimpse at how residents of Davidson County feel about some key issues in Nashville, including the city's elected officials, police operations, education, COVID-19 and vaccines.
The poll - conducted from March 8 through March 30 - represents 1,006 registered county voters. It is conducted each year by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
Elected official, institution approval ratings decline
The approval rating for every elected official represented in the poll saw a decline. Despite that, the drops on most were less than ten percent, with all but Mayor John Cooper still at or above 60%.
While the Metro School Board dropped eight percent, leaving approval at 60%, Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Adrienne Battle currently has a 72% approval rating. While this is a drop from last year, it is still a marked improvement over Shawn Joseph's - her predecessor - approval rating of 33% in 2019.
The sharpest decline in and lowest approval was for Mayor John Cooper, who fell to 57% from 80% in 2020. Even with the dip, John Geer - Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt and co-director of the poll - notes Mayor Cooper polls much better than was predicted, given all of the challenges Nashville has faced over the past year.
“Overall approval for elected officials and institutions has slipped, but Nashville residents continue to give high marks to Mayor John Cooper on most issues, which speaks to his successes in responding to the many challenges our community faced the past year, including tornadoes, the pandemic and the December bombing," said Geer.
The Metro Nashville Police Department currently has an approval of 74%, the highest polled.
Support for Metro Nashville Police body cams, community oversight
While approval for Metro police is high as new Police Chief John Drake continues to implement changes in the department, measures of oversight of police also received overwhelming support.
96% of all people on the survey support the use of body cams by police during interactions with the public. That total is comprised of 100% of Hispanic survey participants, 94% of Black participants and 97% of white participants.
Many also show support for community oversight of the police department, with 82% saying it's a good thing.
Opinion on education dips
The approval of education in the city across all levels dropped from last year. A quarter of the survey participants feel preschool, kindergarten, elementary school and middle school in Nashville are below average. Nearly a third of participants feel the same about high school.
“This decline in perceived performance of public schools may be temporary,” said Geer. “Assuming we go back to full in-person teaching by the fall, the public’s judgment about schools may improve to pre-pandemic levels.”
Regarding the reopening of schools, 54% believe that a hybrid option, with a mix of in-person and online learning, is the best course. 19% believe all classes should be online until enough residents have been vaccinated, while 28% believe in-person classes with proper safety measures should be offered every day.
COVID-19 concerns, vaccines
Fears over the COVID-19 pandemic remain at the same levels as last year, with nearly half of respondents very concerned over potential contraction of the virus, a quarter somewhat concerned, ten percent not too concerned and five percent not concerned at all. The main change over 2020's results is the percentage of people saying they've already contracted it, with three percent of survey respondents in 2020 versus 12% this year.
Mask usage remains high, with a reported 85% total always wearing them when going out.
The COVID-19 vaccine still appears to be a divisive issue, based on poll results. 41% of Democrats on the survey have received one or both doses of a vaccine and 36% of Republicans have done the same. While those numbers are close, 23% of Republicans compared to 3% of Democrats said they don't plan to get a vaccine.
To see the results of the 2021 Vanderbilt poll in full, head here.