Press Releases

Vandy Poll Shows Tennesseans Doubt U.S. Gov’t’s Competence to Run Health Exchanges

Press release from Vanderbilt Univerity; December 12, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new poll from Vanderbilt University shows that Tennessee voters prefer that the state run the online health care exchange required by the federal Affordable Health Care Act, with Republicans more adamant about the issue than voters as a whole.

That sentiment reflected by the Vanderbilt Poll conflicts with the actions of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. He informed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dec. 10 that Tennessee is declining to create and run the exchange, an online marketplace where state residents can shop for health coverage. That means the federal government will step in and do it.

“If a health care exchange must be created, the voters of Tennessee place more trust in the state than the federal government to do it,” said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt. “And Republicans are even more trusting of the state to run the health care exchange than Democrats. That may be a surprise to some, but it makes sense since Republicans have long had more faith in state governments than Democrats.”

The online exchange question was one of more than 45 asked of 829 registered voters using landlines and cell phones from Nov. 27 to Dec. 9 by the Vanderbilt Poll. Among all Tennesseans, 53 percent wanted the state to run the exchange and just 33 percent the federal government. Seventy-three percent of Republicans wanted the state to run the health care exchange, compared with 31 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Voters were also asked about a wide variety of other issues likely to impact the legislature during its next session, which begins in January. The database of findings will be available online at the website of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt.

“Elections can only reveal which candidates voters prefer,” said Josh Clinton, associate professor of political science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt. “The Vanderbilt Poll gives us a unique opportunity to explore what the voters think about the many important issues that confront our state and country. The poll offers extraordinary insights into what voters think and care about.”

Among the findings:

  • Tennesseans overwhelmingly want elected leaders to work with members of the opposing party even if it means they need to compromise on their values and priorities
  • Tennesseans give high marks to their U.S. senators and Gov. Haslam
  • Tennesseans are prepared to support tax increases for wealthy Americans, but not an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare
  • Tennesseans continue to see the economy as the top priority of the state, with education and health care vying for second place. Social issues such as guns, immigration, and gay rights are a distant fourth
  • Tennesseans strongly support charter schools
  • Tennesseans rate their local public schools higher than they do public schools in general
  • Tennesseans believe public school teachers are not paid enough money
  • Tennesseans narrowly support allowing individuals to carry guns in their vehicles while on their employer’s private property
  • Tennesseans overwhelmingly oppose having the state tell private entities how to operate and favor private entities being free to make their own policies.
  • Tennesseans favor letting citizens choose judges rather than the governor, but nearly a third of the state has not thought much about this issue
  • Tennesseans overwhelmingly oppose adopting “closed” primaries
  • The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt aims to foster an engaging intellectual environment to explore how political institutions shape political debate, ameliorate conflicts and influence public police.

For more information, see the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions website at

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