With his days in the oval office nearing an end, President Barack Obama has become slightly more popular among Tennesseans, according to a new poll from Middle Tennessee State University.
As many as 42 percent of those interviewed for a poll released Tuesday say they approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president. In January, the president had a 31 percent approval rating.
Conversely, 53 percent of those polled in the latest survey disapprove of Obama. In January, 61 percent disapproved of the president. Five percent of respondents did not know or answer the question about Obama's approval.
The latest approval rating is the highest Obama has received from Tennesseans since a spring 2010 poll from MTSU, when he also received 42 percent approval. The height of Obama's popularity in Tennessee came in 2009, when 53 percent of Tennesseans said they approved of the job he was doing.
"While President Obama fared a little better with Tennessee voters in this MTSU Poll than he has in the recent past, it remains clear that in their final assessment, more Tennesseans disapprove of the job he has done as president than approve," Ken Blake, director of the MTSU poll, said in a news release.
Despite Obama's relatively low approval ratings in Tennessee compared to the rest of the country — a recent CNN/ORC poll revealed he had a 55 percent approval rating nationwide — the president will still leave office with higher rating than his predecessor.
Tennesseans gave President George W. Bush a 32 percent approval rating in a fall 2008 MTSU poll.
"This is a rare instance where Obama is outperforming Bush in Tennessee," said Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, noting that the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the economic crisis impacted Bush's rating.
The new poll also indicates Tennesseans continue to support the General Assembly and U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam remains the state's most popular elected official.
Haslam's approval rating — 58 percent — is the same as in a January MTSU poll. He also currently has a 25 percent disapproval rating, which is up three percentage points compared to January.
The bump in Haslam's approval rating comes months after some Tennesseans were critical of the governor's decision to veto legislation that would have made the Holy Bible the state's official book.
The latest poll was conducted before Haslam made national headlines over the weekend by becoming just the second Republican governor to renounce GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump after news broke of a 2005 video where Trump had a lewd conversation about women. The video has caused significant fallout for the presidential candidate.
Despite the fact that the legislature had to return to Nashville last month for a special session to undo their own work, which also led to the expulsion of former Rep. Jeremy Durham, about 52 percent of Tennesseans approve of the job the General Assembly is doing. The latest total is up four percentage compared to a poll conducted in January.
Only 27 percent of respondents disapprove of the General Assembly, which is up one percentage point compared to the beginning of the year.
"The Tennessee General Assembly seems to have generally withstood any significant political fallout from recent missteps and scandals, including the ouster of former state representative Jeremy Durham," Blake said.
Alexander and Corker remain popular among Tennesseans, with both receiving 45 percent approval ratings from those surveyed in the latest poll. That's a slight increase for Alexander since January but a two percentage point decrease for Corker.
Corker, who was once on the short list of vice presidential candidates for Trump, has both praised and been at times critical of the real estate mogul. But Alexander has largely been reticent about his feelings towards Trump.
"Despite the two Republicans' different approaches to the presidential race, with Sen. Corker being a more vocal supporter of Donald Trump's candidacy and Sen. Alexander being somewhat more reserved, there is almost no difference in how Tennessee voters view their U.S. senators, and more approve than disapprove," Blake said.
Overall, Congress has just a 17 percent approval rating among Tennesseans, with 75 percent saying they disapprove. In January, those surveyed gave Congress an approval rating of 12 percent while 80 percent said they disapprove.
"We're running out of adjectives to describe how poorly Tennesseans view the U.S. Congress," Reineke said.
The latest MTSU poll came after more than 600 registered voters in Tennessee were interviewed between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Reach Joel Ebert at 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.