Independent voters in Tennessee have a significantly more positive view of former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen than Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a new poll shows, as the race to replace U.S. Sen. Bob Corker continues to heat up.
Further, a majority of Republicans even say they have a favorable view of Bredesen.
Both indicators, included in a new poll from Vanderbilt University, offer valuable insight into the state of the race and provide a map for each candidate.
The poll, released Thursday, found 69 percent of independent respondents had a favorable view of Bredesen. Just 44 percent of independents had a positive view of Blackburn.
Independent voters could play a key role in the race, which is expected to draw national attention as Democrats seek to regain control of the Senate.
Predictably, the candidates fared well with voters from their own party — 72 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Blackburn while 85 percent of Democrats found Bredesen appealing.
For Bredesen to have a path to victory, he needs support not just from Democrats and independents but Republicans. The latest Vanderbilt poll reveals he's experiencing more support from his opponents' party than Blackburn has among Democrats.
The survey found 52 percent of Republicans had a positive view of Bredesen while just 23 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Blackburn.
"If you're Bredesen, these are really, really good numbers for you in terms of your overall name recognition is high, you have much higher favorables than unfavorables," said Vanderbilt University political science professor Josh Clinton, who along with political science professor John Geer, oversees the poll.
Clinton said there's still plenty of time for party members to "come home" and vote for the candidate with their party affiliation.
Voters more likely to view Blackburn negatively than Bredesen
Beyond the candidates' support from voters in each party, the survey found negative views of Blackburn outpaced Bredesen.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the Brentwood Republican while 25 percent had a negative view of the former Nashville mayor.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of Bredesen compared to 49 percent having a positive view of Blackburn.
Respondents views in terms of favorability in the U.S. Senate race was a first for Vanderbilt — which previously only asked those surveyed to weigh in on name recognition.
In the latest survey, Blackburn and Bredesen had nearly identical name recognition, which has gone up since Vanderbilt's last poll in December.
Blackburn's name recognition is at 85 percent while Bredesen's is at 84 percent — suggesting both candidates have near universal name recognition five months out from the November general election.
Bredesen is more widely known in Nashville than Blackburn, but she is more well known in West Tennessee, by 17 percentage points.
Eighty-four percent of respondents in East Tennessee recognized Bredesen's name compared to 73 percent for Blackburn.
The two face nominal opposition in the Aug. 2 party primaries and are expected to secure the Democratic and Republican nominations.
The poll, which surveyed 1,400 registered voters, was conducted by the Vanderbilt University Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions between April 26 and May 8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.