Nashville voters still believe in Mayor Megan Barry, according to a poll released by Vanderbilt University this week.
The poll results measured Mayor Megan Barry’s favorability ratings in 2018. Of the 800 Nashville residents in the survey, 61 percent approved of Mayor Barry, marking a double-digit decrease from Barry’s 72 percent approval rating in 2017.
But Vanderbilt pollsters says they anticipated much lower numbers. Despite that noticeable drop in popularity, they say, Barry’s current approval rating is still considered high for a politician in office, especially amid scandal.
Surveys were conducted by phone between Feb. 8 to 19, taking into consideration a number of controversies. The polls evaluated Barry in the midst of an ongoing investigation of an affair with her bodyguard, a failed redevelopment of Greer Stadium and unpopular changes proposed for Nashville General Hospital.
Nashville resident Janet Rice says she still approves of Barry, though she suspects the affair may drive her out of office eventually.
“If the investigation is a true investigation, a lot of people are going to be unhappy,” Rice said. “I wouldn’t say she has to resign. I just think she’s going to have to resign.”
But another Nashville resident, Randy Lee, believes Barry should resign in the case of misused taxpayer dollars. In any other case, he says, her affair would be a personal matter.
“I don’t necessarily think that having an affair would dictate that you should be fired from your job,” said Lee. “But it’s really her family and how they’re going to deal with it, not for the masses to judge, because so many people out there who are judging probably have done the same thing.”
Barry’s approval decreased across the political spectrum. Polls say 77 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans approved of Barry, as opposed to 87, 66 and 56 percent, respectively, from last year.
The poll shows Barry’s strongest support is from African-Americans, despite pushback from a number of leaders in the black community. She has a 75 percent approval rating, compared to 56 percent of white Nashvillians.
Menishea Leach, one of Barry’s African-American supporters, reacted to the news of Barry’s affair with compassion.
“She has been through a lot of tragedy since she’s been in office,” said Leach. “She has lost her son. You never know a person’s state of mind or how they’re thinking. Just because she is 'our mayor,' she’s still human at the end of the day."
Younger residents also have a more favorable view of Barry by more than 10 points compared to senior citizens, the polls found.