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Friday, June 07, 2019

Tennessee is becoming more polarized
Tennessee is seeing increased polarization along party lines, according to a new statewide Vanderbilt University Poll. John Geer and Josh Clinton, Professors of Political Science at Vanderbilt, say the findings indicate that the state’s leaders have a choice to make between further strengthening their base or pursuing a bipartisan agenda. “What is happening nationally in terms of polarization is beginning to infiltrate state politics,” says Geer. “We’re at a crossroads—going forward, our state leaders can choose to address issues that divide, or issues that unite.” Support for President Donald Trump holds steady at 54 percent. Tennesseans remain unhappy with Congress, giving it just a 26 percent approval rating, though they feel more optimistic about the state legislature, rating it at 52 percent. Tennessee is seeing increased polarization along party lines, according to a new statewide Vanderbilt University Poll. “We’re seeing the beginnings of a potential fracture in terms of what direction the state wants to go,” said Clinton. “On one hand, our political leaders could go all in for issues that matter to the Republican base, but which may not be reflective of the views of independents and Democrats. Or they can maintain a more consensus-based approach to policies that voters support broadly.” Despite the possibility of a drift away from consensus policymaking, the poll found Tennesseans unified across several issues: Drug and alcohol addiction: 69 percent of voters rate it a “big problem.” Sixty-six percent support “motor-voter” policies that automatically register Tennesseans to vote when they get driver’s licenses or interact with other state agencies. Meanwhile, 74 percent would support the restoration of voting rights for Tennesseans with certain felony convictions. Tennesseans strongly support policies related to children’s health—72 percent support the law that permits families of severely disabled children to receive Medicaid funding regardless of income level. 60 percent support expanding Medicaid to include more low-income adults. And 87 percent of voters favor mandatory vaccination for healthy children attending public schools. State residents strongly favor policies that preserve the rights of illegal immigrants to stay and rectify their status—54 percent say they should be allowed to apply for citizenship, while another 20 percent favor a guest worker program. Furthermore, 62 percent of Tennesseans say efforts to reduce illegal immigration should target employers, not immigrants. Poll results showed a strong disconnect, in Tennesseans’ understanding of how many illegal immigrants reside in the state: While the current estimate is between 120,000 and 140,000, nearly a quarter of respondents thought there were more than a million. Though the state legislature recently passed a bill permitting the use of school vouchers, just 40 percent of Tennesseans favor the measure. While the “heartbeat bill” to ban abortions after the detection of fetal cardiac activity failed in the legislature, it is supported by just 41 percent of Tennesseans.

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