MTSU Poll: Obama Unpopular in TN; Most Have Heard of Photo ID Law

News release from MTSU:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Any of the Republican presidential primary’s frontrunners would beat President Obama in Tennessee if the presidential election were held today, the latest MTSU Poll finds.
The same poll shows Obama’s job approval rate hitting an all-time low in Tennessee, and his disapproval rate hitting an all-time high. The poll also probed knowledge of the state’s new voter ID law, preferences for addressing the finances of the state’s lottery-funded college scholarship program, perceptions about the quality of Tennessee’s public schools, and attitudes on several other issues.
Conducted Oct. 3-14 by the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, the scientifically valid telephone poll of 640 randomly selected Tennessee adults found Mitt Romney leading Obama by 44 percent to 29 percent, Rick Perry leading Obama 41 percent to 28 percent, and Herman Cain leading Obama 39 percent to 28 percent. In each match-up, between 14 and 16 percent of Tennesseans say they would vote for neither candidate, and another 14 to 19 percent are undecided or give no answer.

“A lot could happen between now and the 2012 presidential election, of course, but at this point, Obama’s campaign faces an uphill struggle against any seemingly plausible Republican challenger if the president is to win the state of Tennessee in 2012,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, an assistant professor in the college’s School of Journalism and the MTSU Poll’s associate director. Reineke noted that in 2008 in Tennessee Obama lost to Republican presidential candidate John McCain 57 percent to 42 percent.
The poll also found Obama’s disapproval rate among Tennesseans at an all-time high of 63 percent, and his approval rate at an all-time low of 30 percent. Obama enjoyed a 53 percent approval and a 27 percent disapproval rating in Tennessee during the spring of 2009, according to that semester’s MTSU Poll. But his approval and disapproval ratings had grown roughly even by the Fall 2009 MTSU Poll, and his disapproval numbers have exceeded his approval numbers in every MTSU Poll since.
Looking at state-level issues, the poll found that 71 percent of Tennesseans say they have heard that state residents who go to vote will be asked to show a photo ID starting in 2012. The proportion drops to 51 percent among Tennesseans age 39 and younger but stands at 83 percent among those 40 and older.
Knowledge about specific aspects of the law varies widely both in general and among key demographic and political groupings. Solid majorities know that the law considers either a valid Tennessee driver’s license or a valid U.S. military ID an acceptable form of identification.
But half or fewer knew that a private-sector employee ID or a state university student ID is unacceptable, or that an expired Tennessee driver’s license would be acceptable. Knowledge of such specifics is significantly lower among lesser-educated Tennesseans and also among those in the political middle and on the left.
“The poll detected no disproportionately high levels of ignorance about the new law among the elderly or minorities,” said Dr. Ken Blake, MTSU associate professor of journalism and director of the MTSU Poll. “But knowledge gaps did appear among the young as well as among political moderates and liberals. And even though 71 percent say they’ve heard about the new law, the 28 percent who say they haven’t still represent a large chunk of the state population. Efforts to raise awareness have a lot of ground to cover, especially regarding the law’s specifics.”
In other poll findings:
• Most Tennesseans (55 percent) favor letting the state’s lottery-funded college scholarship program continue to offset its annual operating deficits by drawing upon its reserves until after the economy improves. Each of several alternative proposals received less than majority support, with 46 percent favoring offering scholarships only to those students whose families earn $150,000 a year or less, 38 percent favoring making scholarship qualifications more stringent, and 22 percent favoring reducing the $4,000 per year that most lottery scholarship holders receive.
• Tennesseans living in the counties ringing Metro Nashville give their local public schools a “B.” Those in Metro Nashville give theirs a “C.” Public schools elsewhere in the state get a C-plus. Also, Middle and East Tennesseans consider their local schools better than the state norm, while West Tennesseans consider their local schools worse than the state norm.
• A narrow majority approves of Gov. Bill Haslam’s job performance as his first year in office draws to a close, but few disapprove. Considerable portions remain undecided about the governor’s job performance among independents, Democrats, and the general public.
• Concern about the national economy and dissatisfaction with the direction of the country are high and rising. Tennesseans are moderately less negative about the state’s economy and direction.
• Sixty-seven percent favor tax increases and spending cuts to lower the deficit, proportions similar to those at the national level. But a plurality would spare the rich.
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

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