MTSU Releases statewide survey on Amendment 1 Attitudes

The vote on a proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution concerning abortion may be a close call, according to the latest statewide Poll by MTSU, conducted from October 22 to October 26.

Amendment 1 would specify that the state constitution says nothing on the rights of a woman to terminate a pregnancy, nullifying past Supreme Court rulings and opening up the possibility for future abortion legislation. The recent poll of 600 registered voters showed the following:

  • 39 percent were for the amendment.
  • 32 percent were against the amendment.
  • 15 percent were undecided.
  • 8 percent didn’t vote.
  • 6 percent gave no answer.
  • The pool has a margin of error plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“For many people, the biggest surprises in this part of our poll probably will be just how close this race is and how important the relatively large number of still undecided voters are,” Ken Blake said director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

The 7-percentage-point lead that supporters hold over opponents “is just a shade too large to be considered a statistical tie,” Blake said in a press release.

Blake said that the undecided voters could swing the election either way come election night on Nov. 4.

“In our poll, 214 likely voters said they are in favor of the amendment, while 416 likely voters support a candidate in the governor’s race. If we go by those figures alone, the number of votes in favor of the amendment is equal to 51 percent of the total number of decided, likely votes in the  governor’s race,” associate poll director Jason Reineke said. “This would be enough to push the amendment past the 50 percent plus one vote threshold required by the state constitution, though just barely.”

An amendment measure faces two criteria for passage when it appears on a ballot: First, it must receive a majority of votes (that is, 50 percent plus at least one vote) cast either for or against the amendment. The second, more unusual criterion is that the amendment fails unless the total number of votes cast on that measure equal a majority of the votes cast in the race for governor.

A public service announcement called “Truth on 1” surfaced recently that suggested voters who want Amendment 1 to pass could exploit this constitutional rule to “double [their] vote” by voting “Yes on 1,” and not voting for anybody in the governor’s race.

Not only would one more vote be cast in favor of the amendment, but the threshold for passage would also be lowered by one vote.

The MTSU Poll, however, did not find any widespread evidence of this tactic.

  • About 42 percent of interviewees said they had heard or read “a lot” about the amendment.
  • 44 percent answered “a little.”
  • 10 percent responded with “nothing at all.”
  • The remaining 4 percent weren’t sure, or gave no answer.

A subsequent question in the poll asked respondents what they thought about the legality of abortion.

  • 15 percent thought abortion should be legal in all cases.
  • 23 percent thought it should be legal in most cases.
  • 25 percent thought it should be illegal in most cases.
  • 18 percent thought it should be illegal in all cases.
  • 11 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • The remaining 8 percent gave no answer.

Race emerged as a factor in respondents’ voting preferences about the amendment.

  • 47 percent of whites favored the amendment.
  • 18 percent of minorities favored the amendment.
  • 44 percent of men favored the amendment.
  • 34 percent of woman favored the amendment.
  • 43 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians favored the amendment.
  • 29 percent who did not identify as evangelical Christians favored the amendment.
  • The poll found that differences across age, education, and income were not statistically significant.

The poll was conducted by professional interviewers with Issues & Answers Network Inc. It completed 600 telephone survey among a random sample of adult Tennessee registered voters using a mix of 80 percent landlines and 20 percent cell phones.

Here is an interactive graph representing the data:

[iframe src=”” width=”100%” height=”580″]

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