Press Releases

MTSU Poll: Majority in TN Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage, Also ‘Don’t Say Gay’

Press release from the MTSU Survey Group; March 4, 2013:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Opposition to gay marriage remains stronger in Tennessee than nearly anywhere else in the country, but the state’s proposed “don’t say gay” law has little support, the latest MTSU Poll indicates.

“Though Tennesseans may be fairly characterized as extremely opposed to same-sex marriage at this point, whether and how homosexuality should be addressed in public schools is a very different matter,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

A solid 62 percent majority of Tennesseans oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” while 28 percent are in favor, 6 percent don’t know, and the rest decline to answer, according to the poll.

This nearly two-thirds opposition in Tennessee to legalizing gay marriage is significantly higher than the 43 percent opposition registered nationally in surveys throughout 2012 by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. It is higher even than the 56 percent opposition Pew found to be typical in 2012 of the South Central region that includes Tennessee as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ lacks support

Somewhat paradoxically, though, a 57 percent majority oppose “a law forbidding any instruction or discussion of homosexuality in eighth grade and lower classes in Tennessee public schools,” the key provision of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill under consideration by the state Legislature. Only 31 percent support such a law, 8 percent are undecided, and the rest decline to answer.

Similarly, nearly half (49 percent) oppose “a law requiring school counselors and nurses in Tennessee’s public schools to notify parents if they believe a student has engaged in homosexual activity, but not if a student has engaged in heterosexual activity.” Only 33 percent support such a law, 14 percent are undecided, and the rest decline to answer.

There was little difference in attitudes toward “don’t say gay” based on attitudes toward gay marriage. Of those who are in favor of gay marriage, 61 percent were opposed to “don’t say gay,” while only 31 percent were in favor. Similarly, among those opposed to gay marriage, 57 percent were opposed to “don’t say gay,” while only 33 percent were in favor.

Attitudes toward parental notification regarding homosexual activity did differ significantly across attitudes toward gay marriage, though. Tennesseans opposed to legalizing gay marriage were about evenly divided on parental notification regarding homosexual activity, with 40 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed. However, among those in favor of legalizing gay marriage, 73 percent were opposed to parental notification regarding homosexual activity, while only 19 percent were in favor.

Breakdown by religious, political affiliations

Interestingly, religious and political affiliations that sharply divide Tennesseans on gay marriage tend not to produce similar divisions on the “Don’t Say Gay” measures.

On the question of gay marriage, 73 percent of the state’s self-described evangelical Christians oppose legalizing gay marriage compared to only 38 percent of those who do not identify themselves as evangelical Christians. And among evangelicals, 85 percent of Republicans are opposed compared to 73 percent of independents and only 54 percent of Democrats.

But asked about a law forbidding instruction or discussion of homosexuality in public school classes up through eighth grade, only 32 percent of evangelicals expressed support, a figure similar to the 31 percent of non-evangelicals who expressed support. Levels of support were similar among evangelicals regardless of whether they considered themselves Democrats, independents or Republicans.

Non-evangelicals are more likely than evangelicals to oppose requiring school counselors and nurses to notify parents of students’ suspected homosexual activity. But the 64 percent of nonevangelicals who are opposed and the 45 percent of evangelicals who are opposed represent the largest segments of their respective groups. In other words, both evangelicals and nonevangelicals tended to express opposition. Non-evangelicals were just more likely to do so.

“The overall opposition to provisions of the so-called ‘don’t say gay’ bill may be due to different political and religious groups opposing those provisions for different reasons,” said Reineke. “For example, non-evangelicals and Democrats may feel that the bill goes too far in discriminating against homosexuality, while evangelical Christians and Republicans may think that the bill doesn’t go far enough in its opposition to homosexuality or that the bill should require school officials to report not only homosexual but also heterosexual activity among young, unmarried students to parents.”

Poll data were collected from Feb. 11–19 via telephone interviews of 650 Tennessee adults conducted by Issues and Answers Network Inc. using balanced, random samples of Tennessee landline and cell phones. The data were weighted to match the latest available Census estimates of gender and race proportions in Tennessee.

Press Releases

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Split on School Vouchers

Press release from the MTSU Survey Group; February 26, 2013:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Tennesseans remain divided statewide on Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to spend state money on private schooling for poor children in failing public schools, but views differ sharply by race and region, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

Conducted Feb. 11-19, the telephone poll of 650 randomly selected Tennessee adults found 46 percent opposed to the plan but 40 percent in support of it, a statistical “dead heat,” given the poll’s four-percentage-point error margin. Another 12 percent of Tennesseans said they did not know, and the remaining 2 percent declined to answer.

“Statewide, it’s too close to call,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll. “Opponents of the plan outnumbered supporters in our sample, but it’s unclear whether the same is true among all Tennesseans. They appear evenly, or nearly evenly, divided.”

However, opinions on the governor’s proposal divide sharply by race, with 63 percent of minorities in favor compared to only 37 percent of whites. Twenty-eight percent of minorities oppose the measure, while the rest give no answer. By contrast, 48 percent of whites oppose the plan, while the rest give no answer.

An analysis of attitudes just among whites found whites in Middle Tennessee significantly more opposed (53 percent) than in favor (33 percent) with 12 percent undecided and the rest giving no answer. A similar pattern emerged among whites in West Tennessee, with 53 percent opposed, 28 percent in favor, 17 percent undecided and the rest giving no answer. Whites in East Tennessee were evenly divided, with 44 percent opposed, 43 percent in favor, 11 percent undecided and the rest giving no answer.

“Thus, a more nuanced analysis finds support for school vouchers strongest among the state’s minorities and opposition strongest among whites, especially those in the state’s Middle and Western regions,” Blake said.

Attitudes toward the plan are statistically uniform across party affiliation, with 38 percent of the governor’s fellow Republicans supporting the measure compared to 41 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats. The question asked respondents, “Suppose a child in Tennessee is poor and is attending a public school that is among the bottom 5 percent in overall achievement. Would you favor or oppose using state money to send such a child to a private school?”

Meanwhile, Tennesseans give the quality of the state’s public schools about a “C” on average but give the quality of their local schools a significantly higher “C-plus” on average. Specifically, 8 percent give school quality statewide an “A,” while 28 percent give it a “B,” 36 percent give it a “C,” 8 percent give it a “D,” 6 percent give it an “F,” and 14 percent don’t know or decline to answer. By contrast, 18 percent give the quality of their local schools an “A,” 36 percent give it a “B,” 22 percent give it a “C,” 7 percent give it a “D,” 6 percent give it an “F,” and 11 percent don’t know or decline to answer.

As was the case in the Fall 2011 MTSU Poll, Tennesseans in the “doughnut” of counties circling Metro Nashville are significantly happier with the quality of their local public schools than are residents of Metro Nashville and Tennesseans living in West Tennessee. “Doughnut” dwellers give their local school quality a “B” on average, while West Tennesseans give their local school quality a “C-plus,” and Metro Nashville residents give their local school quality closer to a “C.”

Poll data were collected by Issues and Answers Network Inc. using balanced, random samples of Tennessee landline and cell phones. The data were weighted to match the latest available Census estimates of gender and race proportions in Tennessee.

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

Press Releases

Ketron: MTSU Poll Vindicates TN Voter ID Law

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; October 30, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE, TN) — State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said today he is very pleased that a Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) poll shows Tennesseans continue to express strong support for the state’s new voter identification law after implementation. The poll, conducted by MTSU’s Survey Group, showed 81 percent of Tennesseans continue to support the law, which took effect January 1 and has applied to numerous elections conducted since that date.

“We continue to have strong support for this law both in Tennessee and nationwide,” said Senator Ketron. “But, it is very reassuring that voters in our state continue to overwhelmingly favor it after the law has been put into practice.”

The poll showed that “four out of every five Tennessee likely voters approve of the state’s new law requiring people to show an approved photo ID before voting. Just 16 percent oppose the measure, and 3 percent are unsure.” In his detailed analysis, Dr. Ken Blake, Director of the MTSU Survey Group, wrote, “What opposition there is to the photo ID requirement is strongest among Democrats, 34 percent of whom oppose the law compared to only about 13 percent of independents and about 4 percent of Republicans.”

The poll was conducted through telephone interviews during the week of Oct. 16-21, 2012. MTSU Survey Group reported 609 poll respondents were interviewed.

Earlier this month, a Rasmussen national telephone survey reported 71 percent of voters nationwide favor voter identification. That poll also said 66% of likely U.S. Voters believe voter fraud is a serious problem in America today.

“Voters are smart enough to realize that there is a problem, regardless of claims to the contrary,” added Ketron. “I am very pleased our constitutional right to put this law into place in Tennessee was upheld last week. I also am hopeful that our Judiciary will overturn the Appeals Court decision to accept library cards after further review as our intent to only accept state- and federally-issued photo identification was clear. We considered alternative means, but after reviewing the process decided that the safeguards were not in place to ensure the integrity of the ballot like state- and federal-issued identification.”

“Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms. Requiring photo ID to vote will help maintain the integrity of elections in our state and the purity of the ballot box,” he concluded.

Press Releases

Citizen Action: MTSU Poll Proves New Voter ID Law Is Confusing

Statement from Tennessee Citizen Action; Oct. 24, 2011: 


Nashville, Tenn. (October 24, 2011) — A new poll issued by the MTSU Survey Group reveals that most Tennesseans are aware of new voter ID law, but many confused about the details. Tennessee Citizen Action released the following statement:

“We’re not surprised that many Tennesseans are confused about the details of the new photo ID to vote law because it’s in the details that the devil lives. The requirements necessary for Tennesseans to comply with the law are restrictive, excessive, and extremely confusing.

For instance, the law states that the ID must be a “Valid government-issued photo ID” but we’re being told we can use an expired drivers license. We’re not sure when “valid” and “expired” started to mean the same thing. We’re also being told that certain government-issued photo IDs, such as those issued by state universities and colleges, cannot be used, while others, such as gun permits, can.

Adding to the confusion is the very specific and excessive ID requirements needed for Tennesseans to obtain the necessary ID. You need proof of U.S. Citizenship, a primary proof of identity with full name and date of birth (like an original copy of a birth certificate) AND a secondary proof of identity AND a proof of name change if different from name on primary ID AND TWO proofs of Tennessee residency.

Basically, this law is taking away a person’s right to vote, telling them they have to get a government-issued photo ID to get it back, and confusing the hell out of them in the process. This is NOT what democracy looks like.”

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization focused on justice for all. As part of the No Barriers to the Ballot Box coalition, TNCA is working to repeal the photo ID to vote law.



Press Releases

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Don’t Like Teacher Tenure; Split on Eliminating Collective Bargaining; Favor Wine in Grocery Stores

Press Release from the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group, March 2, 2011:

Obama would lose to a Republican opponent, but his low approval rating has stabilized

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Tennesseans take a dim view of teacher tenure but show no consensus on whether to do away with collective bargaining power for teacher unions, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of state residents choose the statement, “Tenure makes it hard to get rid of bad teachers” as most representative of their viewpoint, while 29 percent choose the alternative statement, “Tenure protects good teachers from being fired without just cause” as most indicative of what they think. Sixteen percent say they don’t know, and the rest decline to answer.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of Tennesseans favor “eliminating the ability of teacher unions in Tennessee to negotiate with local boards of education about teacher salaries, benefits and other employment issues.” But a statistically equivalent 41 percent oppose such a move, and a substantial 22 percent are undecided.

“Compared to public opinion about teacher tenure, public opinion about collective bargaining for teacher unions seem to be still taking shape in Tennessee,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll. “The people most likely to have any opinion at all on the collective bargaining issue are also, based on other measures in the poll, the ones most likely to be politically active and politically knowledgeable. They probably are creating a framework for the debate and soon will start contending with each other for the support of those who are undecided.”

Conducted Feb. 14 – 26, 2011 by Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication, the telephone poll of 589 Tennessee adults chosen at random from across the state has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. Full results are available on the poll’s website,

The poll also finds President Obama currently trailing whoever the Republican 2012 presidential nominee might be. Thirty-one percent of Tennesseans say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today, but a 48 percent plurality say they would vote instead for “his Republican opponent.” 14 percent say that they don’t know who they would vote for at this time, and 6 percent volunteer that they would vote for neither candidate.

The downward slide in Obama’s approval rating among Tennesseans seems to have leveled off, though, according to Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll.

“The president’s approval rating stands at 39 percent in Tennessee, a possible uptick from his 35 percent approval rating in our Fall 2010 poll,” Reineke said. “But, of course, he’s still down quite a bit compared to his 53 percent approval rating in the Spring 2009 MTSU Poll.”

In other findings, three in four Tennesseans considers illegal immigration a “somewhat” or “very” serious problem, and a 42 percent plurality describe as “about right” the new Arizona immigration law’s requirement that police making a stop, detention, or arrest must attempt to determine the person’s immigration status if police suspect the person is not lawfully present in the country. Another 25 percent say such a law “doesn’t go far enough,” and 28 percent say it “goes too far.”

Additionally, 55 percent characterize as “about right” the Arizona law’s requirement that people produce documents proving their immigration status if asked by police. Twenty-three percent say that aspect of the law doesn’t go far enough, and 17 percent say it goes too far.

Meanwhile, closing the Tennessee’s projected budget gap could prove politically difficult for state lawmakers.

A 52-percent majority of state residents think dealing with the budget gap will require either cutting important services (16 percent), raising state taxes (6 percent) or both (30 percent). Despite these attitudes, though, Tennesseans show little support for cuts to any of five of the state’s largest general fund budget categories. Only 25 percent of state residents favor cuts to TennCare, 14 percent favor cuts to K-12 education, 24 percent favor cuts to higher education, and 17 percent favor cuts to children’s services. Cuts to a fifth major budget category, prisons and correctional facilities, drew the most support (44 percent), but the figure is still well below a majority.

Asked about gun regulation, Tennesseans divide essentially evenly on whether laws governing the sale of guns should be kept at their current levels (43 percent) or made more strict (41 percent). Similarly, 45 percent of Tennesseans say they would support a nationwide law banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, defined in the poll question as those that hold more than 10 bullets. But a statistically equivalent 42 percent say they would oppose such a law.

In still other poll findings:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Tennesseans favor letting food stores sell wine.
  • A 50 percent plurality think Congress should repeal the health care law.
  • Support remains high for the religious rights of Muslims.
  • Tennesseans think neither President Obama nor Congressional Republicans are doing enough to cooperate with each other.
  • More Tennesseans approve than disapprove of new governor, legislature, but many are undecided.

For over a decade, the Survey Group at MTSU has been providing independent, non-partisan and unbiased public opinion data regarding major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001. Learn more and view the full report at

Press Releases

GOP: Poll Shows Most Tennesseans Oppose Obamacare, McWherter Says Too Bad

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party; July 28, 2010:

The release of a new poll shows that the majority of Tennesseans are opposed to Washington Democrats’ government takeover of health care rammed through Congress by President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel:

Tennesseans oppose the national health care reform law enacted by Congress at the urging of President Barack Obama by a margin of almost 2-to-1, according to a recent poll.

Fifty-seven percent of the 625 registered voters surveyed said they oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while only 30 percent said they support it. The remaining 13 percent were undecided… Voters who said they were politically independent opposed the plan by a 59 percent to 25 percent margin.

It’s clear that people across Tennessee are concerned about the effects of this new law and are looking to state leaders to stand up to Washington Democrats on their behalf. However, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter has made it clear that if elected governor, he has no plans to give Tennesseans a voice in opposition to Obamacare. Following is a sampling of what Mike McWherter has had to say about Democrats’ so-called health “reform”:

• “McWherter called the health care overhaul signed by Democratic President Barack Obama last week ‘the law of the land,’ and criticized Republicans for urging the state to join a lawsuit seeking to block the law.” (“Democrat Mike McWherter gives $1M to his Tennessee gubernatorial bid,” Associated Press, 05/30/10)

• “‘I’m going to work with our congressional delegation to make sure we improve this legislation and make it something that will help … and not burden our Tennessee taxpayers.’ McWherter’s response was greeted with boos and calls to “repeal it…” (“Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Health Care at Northeast State Forum,”Kingsport Times News, 06/14/10)

• “‘But the bottom line is that law has passed now. So, what we need is a governor with the business skills to make sure that we know how to implement what does come out of Washington,’ he said. “The reality of it is, it does not fully implement for four years. I’ll be running for re-election possibly by the time this really becomes an issue.'” (“McWherter Steps up Governor’s Race Efforts,” Memphis Daily News, 05/07/10)

• “McWherter said several attorneys general from other states will probably follow through on a threat to take the federal government to court. But he termed the legal action ‘grandstanding.’ ‘I don’t encourage us getting involved in the middle of that.'” (“McWherter Steps up Governor’s Race Efforts,” Memphis Daily News, 05/07/10)

By refusing to stand up on Tennesseans’ behalf on the issue of health care, Mike McWherter is putting the agenda of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi before the needs of this state. That’s certainly not what Tennessee voters want and exactly why the chances of Mike McWherter becoming the Volunteer State’s next governor are growing slimmer by the day.

Press Releases

Haslam Touts Poll In His Favor

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor; July 8, 2010:

Poll Shows Haslam with 11-Point Lead Over Closest Competitor

KNOXVILLE – An independent poll commissioned by WSMV, NBC’s Nashville affiliate, shows Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam with a commanding lead over his closest competitor just eight days out from the start of Early Voting on July 16.

The only poll that matters is on Election Day, but this independent poll fundamentally confirms the Haslam campaign’s own numbers, showing Haslam as the man on the move while both of his primary opponents have been flat from the beginning.

The poll shows Haslam leading the Republican Primary for Tennessee Governor with 32 percent of the vote while running a positive campaign focused on the issues most important to Tennesseans: jobs, education and conservative budget management. Des Moines, Iowa-based Crawford Johnson & Northcott market research firm conducted the poll for WSMV earlier this week, polling 603 registered voters across the state.

Haslam was also identified in WSMV’s poll as the strongest Republican in the General Election.

With recent endorsements from Reagan economist Art Laffer and UT men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, WSMV’s poll is the newest indication Haslam has the momentum less than 10 days before early voting. Two other recent polls showed Haslam as the strongest Republican in the GOP field, and the campaign recently announced that Mayor Haslam surpassed $8 million in total funds raised from a record number of contributions.

“When this campaign began, we sat down and developed a plan to put us exactly in this position, and we’ll continue to execute our plan into the Early Voting period and through Aug. 5,” Haslam said. “Crissy and I are grateful for the support we have received thus far, and we’ll continue to work hard to earn Tennesseans’ support and vote.”

“Tennesseans want a serious discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing the state,” said Mark Cate, Campaign Manager. “Bill Haslam is having that discussion with them, and they like what they’re hearing because he is an experienced leader with the right temperament and proven record of job creation, strengthening education and conservatively managing a budget,” Cate added.

Mayor Haslam is the two-term Republican Mayor of Knoxville, reelected in 2007 with 87 percent of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, Haslam led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, reducing the number of city employees to the lowest amount in 15 years and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit