NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A poll conducted by Vanderbilt University shows that Tennesseans are united in their pride to be Americans, but divided on key social issues, including the state’s response to COVID-19, willingness to get vaccinated and questions about whether the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.”
Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI) surveyed 1,000 Tennessee residents between May 3 and May 20, 2021. More details on the results and methods can be found here.
Respondents were asked about various topics, and which they want the Tennessee state government to prioritize.
As more COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and nationwide masking and social restrictions are relaxed, Vanderbilt found Tennessee registered Republicans and Independents more largely prioritize the economy, while registered Democrats want the state government to focus on COVID-19.
Overall, 74% of Republicans and 48% of Independents agreed with the statement that the pandemic “is largely over and things should go back to the way they were,” while only 14% of Democrats did.
On the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine, more than a third of Republicans, 37%, and 30% of Independents said they do not plan to get the vaccine. Only 5% of Democrats said this. While 60% of Republicans, 94% of Democrats and 66% of Independents said they have already gotten one or plan to get one.
Researchers found key signs of statewide unity between Democrats and Republicans, who largely expressed their pride as Americans and Tennesseans, as well as the enduring strength of friendships with people on the other side of the political aisle.
When asked if they were good friends with someone from the opposite party, an overwhelming majority of respondents said they were. Less than a quarter of respondents said they have lost friendships or other relationships due to political differences.
The poll asked whether Tennesseans are united when it comes to the most pressing issues facing the state, 60% of Republicans, 24% of Democrats and 37% of Independents said they are mostly or somewhat united. However, when asked the same question about whether Americans are united, only 13% of Republicans, 11% of Democrats and 6% of Independents feel they are mostly or somewhat united.
“We have always been a divided nation, certainly more so now than usual. But there are some reasons for optimism since we see that most people are united when it comes to essential values like American identity and maintaining friendships,” said John Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “These kinds of social connections are fundamental in so many ways.”
When asked about the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, many respondents said they remained wary of the outcome. Despite the election results have been certified by all states and territories, a majority of Republicans said they agreed with the statement "Joe Biden stole the 2020 Presidential election" and only 21% said they agreed with the statement "Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election fair and square."
For other political groups, 65% of Independents and 97% of Democrats said they agreed that Joe Biden won the election fairly, while 30% of Independents and just 5% of Democrats said they agreed that the election was stolen.
“This is a remarkable number — that the vast majority of a political party feels the other party is illegitimate, despite the lack of any evidence. This survey question has not been previously relevant in American politics, so going forward this will continue to be a concern when evaluating how this will impact future elections around the country,” said Josh Clinton, professor of political science.