Though most Tennesseans approve of government leaders’ response to COVID-19, one’s political party can in part predict whether a Tennessean is fearful of the disease.
That’s the conclusion of the latest Vanderbilt University poll, conducted between May 5-22.
The survey of 1,000 registered voters found that that 82 percent of Democrats were concerned about contracting COVID-19, while 37 percent of Republicans expressed the same fear. Meanwhile, nearly 80 percent of Republicans supported lifting stay-at-home orders, compared to about the same number of Democrats who believed the opposite.
“The partisan split we see in who feels safe enough to return to commercial activity has enormous implications for the economic recovery of the state. It is clear that not everyone feels safe going out yet, despite the state opening up,” Vanderbilt political science professor Josh Clinton said.
In the upcoming presidential race, 51 percent of voters support President Donald Trump, compared to 42 percent for Democrat Joe Biden. In 2016, Trump won nearly 61 percent of the state’s voters. Biden, the former vice president, has the support of a majority of independents and women in the state.
“The 2018 midterms revealed weaknesses in the GOP among women voters, and it doesn’t look like they’ve totally solved that yet,” Clinton said. “President Trump is well-positioned to win Tennessee again. But six months out, it’s unclear whether he’ll repeat the landslide victory he got in Tennessee in 2016 against Secretary [Hillary] Clinton.”
Approval ratings for most figures in the state remained stable, according to the Vanderbilt poll. Gov. Bill Lee sits at 64 percent favorability, compared to 51 percent for Trump, 50 percent for Sen. Lamar Alexander and 47 percent for Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
As state officials push back against efforts to increase mail-in voting this year due to the pandemic, the poll found support for voting precautions. Fifty-seven support of voters support vote-by-mail and 85 percent support expanded voting times.
Poll respondents were generally concerned about Tennessee’s economy and their own personal finances, though fear was concentrated among minority communities and those making less than $45,000 annually. People in those groups expressed concern about meeting their monthly bills at nearly twice the rate of Tennesseans overall.
See the full results of the poll here.