Category Archives: political science

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.

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Vandy Study: Yard Signs = Name Recognition = More Votes

News release from Vanderbilt University:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – “What’s in a name?” Juliet Capulet asks in one of William Shakespeare’s best known plays. If you’re talking about elections in which voters don’t know the candidates very well, the answer is quite a lot, according to new Vanderbilt political science research.
Mere name recognition can give candidates an important advantage in political races in which voters know little about any of the contenders, according to the study by political scientists Cindy Kam and Elizabeth Zechmeister.
“Our study offers fairly conclusive evidence that, in low-information races, a candidate’s name recognition alone positively affects voter support,” said Zechmeister, who co-authored the paper with Kam.
Although the media pays a lot of attention to high-profile races, in the majority of decisions that American voters make, they have very little information about the candidates. Sometimes partisanship is not even available, so voters need to rely on some shortcuts to make decisions. “These findings are important because low-information races are the rule, not the exception, in American politics,” said Kam.

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Shortage of TN Women Politicians Lamented

Women are playing larger roles in the economy, yet the state continues to lag in female political participation, says the News Sentinel in a report on the East Tennessee Women’s Economic Summit, which drew about 150 participants to Knoxville.
“Women make up more than 50 percent of the population of Tennessee and we are quickly becoming more than 50 percent of the labor force in Tennessee,” said Jennifer Rawls, executive director of The Tennessee Economic Council on Women. “We live in a state driven by sales tax, and women are a driving economic force.”
As those statistics continue to rise, so does the number of Tennessee women who own their own businesses, Rawls said.
“Women play a huge role in economic progress,” she said. “Tennessee is currently 17th in the nation for female-owned businesses.”
But Rawls said there is one state ranking that needs to change.
“Tennessee is ranked 49th in female political participation,” Rawls said. “Political participation is an economic issue because those elected officials set key economic legislation.”
Rawls isn’t the only one with that opinion.
“If we don’t encourage each other throughout the year, it’s no wonder we’re 49th,” said Sharon Hannum, co-chair of the event.
For Hannum, mentoring is a key component in encouraging women to become more politically, professionally and socially active.

(Note: In the current state Legislature, seven of 33 members of the Senate are women; in the House, 17 of 99 members are women, including Beth Harwell, the first woman to serve as House speaker, and Debra Maggart, the first to serve as chair of the Republican Caucus.)

MTSU Polls on Teacher Tenure, Collective Bargaining, Guns, Etc.

Release from Middle Tennessee State University:
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.

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Political Preachers

Seven Tennessee preachers plan to make political endorsements from the pulpit on Sunday, hoping the Internal Revenue Service will try to revoke their tax-exempt status, reports the Tennessean. Four of the churches are in Nashville and one of the ministers was interviewed. The other churches aren’t identified.
They will be among 100 pastors nationwide using the pulpit as a platform for political endorsements, flouting a federal law that threatens churches with the loss of their nonprofit status if they stray too far into partisan politics.
While other church and nonprofit leaders cringe at the deliberate mix of the secular and the religious, participants in the annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” protest hope this act of deliberate lawbreaking will lead to a change in the law.
“For governor, I’m going to encourage people to vote for Bill Haslam,” said David Shelley, pastor of Smith Springs Baptist, one of seven Tennessee religious leaders who plan to take part in the pulpit protest.
He also will throw his support behind Republican congressional candidate David Hall and Republican statehouse candidate Jim Gotto and urge his congregation to skip the spot on the ballot where state Sen. Thelma Harper, a Democrat, is running unopposed

Professor Thinks Mad Voters Might Make a Difference

University of Memphis political science professor Eric Groenendyk is studying the role anger plays in voter psychology, reports the Commercial Appeal, and is “careful to say that objective data do not yet exist” for this year’s elections.
But, by gosh, he has boldly raised the possibility that, just maybe, considering anecdotal evidence and all, something is afoot in the political world.
“Some of the research I’ve done on emotion suggests that people who are more angry tend to turn out more,” said Groenendyk.
One plausible interpretation of Democratic gains in the 2006 midterms and 2008 presidential elections, when the the party won the House and built a 255-178 majority, is that Democratic-leaning voters were motivated by anger at all things Republican.
According to a recent nationwide Gallup poll, that dynamic has switched. It showed that 51 percent of “conservative” Republicans were “very enthusiastic” about voting in the midterm elections, compared to 29 percent for “liberal” Democrats and 24 percent for “moderate” Republicans.
If the improved Republican turnout in Shelby County in the Aug. 5 elections, which helped create a Republican sweep of countywide elected offices, is repeated here and elsewhere, President Obama’s fellow Democrats will be in trouble.

With apologies to the good professor, this reminds one of a line in a recent Tennessee Journal noting that a national higher education publication had reported that the Tennessee Board of Regents had apparently decided in advance that John Morgan would be chosen as its new leader. The line was something like this:
Given sufficient time, even academics can sometimes figure out the obvious.