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Vanderbilt Poll: Partisanship influences TN COVID-19 views, economic anxiety high

Tennesseans are split on whether the economic impact or the public health threat of COVID-19 are more important
Credit: WBIR

According to the Vanderbilt Poll-Tennessee, partisanship strongly influences Tennesseans views on COVID-19 including their economic worries. 

“It’s really a tale of two cities, but instead of the urban-rural differences, we’re seeing views really break much more along party lines,” said John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and co-director of the poll. “Tennessee remains a pragmatic state overall, but partisan beliefs are shaping responses to nonpartisan issues, like the coronavirus.” 

Out of  its poll of 1,000 registered voters, conducted between May 5th through 22nd, the survey found that Tennesseans' views on state and federal leaders had not changed much. 

Tennessean views on State and Federal leaders:

The poll found Governor Bill Lee remains popular at 64 percent and President Donald Trump's approval rating remains consistent at 51 percent.

Additionally, the poll found Senator Marsha Blackburn has an approval rating of 47 percent, while Senator Lamar Alexander has an approval rating of 50 percent. 

“These approval numbers are very much in line with earlier polls, and reflect stable support among Tennessee voters,” Geer said. 

In response to the coronarvius pandemic, the poll found 75 percent of Tennesseans said they were satisfied with how their local leaders have responded to the pandemic, 66 percent said the same of their community, 65 percent were satisfied with Gov. Lee's response and 53 percent were satisfied with President Trump's. 

National infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci received a 65 percent approval ratings from Tennesseans since the beginning of the pandemic.

Views on COVID-19 and Reopening the economy:

The poll also found 60 percent of Tennesseans are feeling worried that they or a loved one will contract COVID-19, while 67 percent said they were worried about a resurgence of the virus. 

Tennesseans are split on whether the economic impact or the public health threat of COVID-19 is more important. They were also split on whether it was appropriate to the safer-at-home order expire. 

Less than 50 percent of the Tennesseans polled said bars and churches should reopen, but two-thirds of voters said they supported reopening stores. 

Additionally, only a quarter of Tennesseans said they were ready for air travel to return. 

Presidential Preferences:

If the election were held now, the poll found 51 percent of Tennesseans would vote for Trump, while 42 percent would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden. 

According to poll results, Biden leads the independent vote 46 to 41 and hols a slight edge among women voters. Among men, the poll found Trump to lead 57 to 35.

COVID-19 Polarization and Voting during a pandemic:

The poll found 82 percent of Democrats were concerned about contracting COVID-19, while only 37 percent of Republicans were concerned. 

Additionally, 79 percent of Republicans approved lifting the stay-at-home order, while 78 percent of Democrats disagreed. 

Race and gender also played a significance. The poll found 76 percent of people of color said they were concerned about contracting the coronavirus, while only 55 percent of caucasians said the same. Women, 66 percent, were more likely than men, 52 percent, to worry about bringing home the virus. 

When asked about the 2020 election, the survey found 57 percent strongly or somewhat support vote-by-mail, while 85 percent supported increasing time for early voting. 

Overall, the poll found the majority of Tennesseans do not want to postpone the election. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed the election should be held on time and there should be more time for early voting. 

Overall Economic impact:

Throughout the poll, 35 percent rated the U.S. economy very or fairly good, while 51 percent rated the Tennessee economy the same way. 

According to the poll, only 28 percent said COVID-19 was a big public health problem in their own community, but 64 percent said the economy impact was. 

Additionally, nearly one in 10 Tennesseans said they've had to take on more debt, had more trouble playing bills or applied for unemployment as a result from the pandemic. 

Breaking down household concerns, 44 percent said they are worried about emergency funds and 45 percent said they are worried about education and retirement funds.

“The pandemic is causing serious economic pain for Tennesseans who are already struggling,” said Josh Clinton, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and co-director of the poll. “This shows that our leaders have to make some very tough choices about how to confront the disease and mitigate the significant economic fallout that’s resulted from it.”

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