Vanderbilt Poll: Tennessee Voters Are Feeling Upbeat About Trump's Victory | Nashville Public Radio

Vanderbilt Poll: Tennessee Voters Are Feeling Upbeat About Trump's Victory

Dec 8, 2016

Tennesseans are feeling a bit better about the future, and pollsters at Vanderbilt University believe it's because of Donald Trump's election.

Their latest survey finds Tennesseans' attitudes about the direction of the state and the country have improved substantially since last spring.

In its first poll since the election, Vanderbilt's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions says 60 percent of Tennessee voters approve of Trump, and almost as many say they're now optimistic about the country's future.

The results reflect a belief that the president-elect can make good on many of his campaign promises.

"People wanted change," says Vanderbilt political scientist John Geer. "He was the change agent. Hillary Clinton was not the change agent."

The polling is the first snapshot of how Tennesseans are assessing Trump. 

New presidents tend to come into office riding high, and it's not surprising Republicans would say they're upbeat. After all, their guy won. Vanderbilt pollsters found 65 percent were optimistic about the country's direction.

What is surprising is the reservoir of hopefulness among other voters, says Vanderbilt political scientist John Geer. Nearly half of Democrats say they're optimistic about the future.

That may mean Tennesseans are less divided about Trump than many think, says Geer. He says that could help the state move on from what he describes as "a very harsh election."

Other polling shows high skepticism toward Trump, especially among Democrats. Pew Research Center says only 37 percent of Americans approve of the president-elect, roughly half as many as viewed Barack Obama favorably at the outset of his presidency.

Most Tennessee voters appear to believe President-elect Trump can change the culture of Washington, but they rank that lower than other priorities. Respondents say they want him to focus on fighting terrorism, lowering the cost of health care and reducing crime.

Pollsters say Tennesseans also take a softer stance on immigration than the president-elect articulated. More than half of respondents say illegal immigrants ought to be allowed to stay in the United States and seek citizenship.

The Vanderbilt poll also found that the spirit of optimism has Tennesseans feeling better about other Republican leaders — even those who didn't support Trump.

Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker all saw their popularity reach some of their highest levels since Vanderbilt started surveying voters nearly five years.

Vanderbilt pollsters surveyed 1,005 registered voters over a two-week period, beginning Nov. 14. The poll carries a margin of error of plus/minus 3.5 percent.