Wednesday, October 4, 2023

MTSU Poll: Measures Tennessean’s Opinions on Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage, Gas Tax Increase


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The latest MTSU Poll found Tennesseans favor some, though not all, of several proposed abortion rules pending in the state Legislature.

Meanwhile, the Jan. 25-27 poll of 600 randomly selected Tennessee adults found majority opposition to permitting same-sex marriage and to increasing Tennessee’s tax on gasoline.

Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University, said attitudes toward abortion regulation in Tennessee appear to be strongly tied to religious identity.

“Across every form of abortion regulation we asked about in the poll, the proportion in favor of it came in more than 10 percentage points higher among evangelical Christians than among non-evangelicals,” Blake said. “But both groups have reservations about the same things. For example, evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike are less likely to favor describing an ultrasound image to a woman who has refused to look at it than to favor requiring her doctor to talk to her about abortion risks, benefits and alternatives.”

The poll found that, among all Tennesseans:

  • 57 percent favor requiring a woman’s doctor to discuss abortion risks, benefits and alternatives with her before she undergoes an abortion, 27 percent oppose, and 16 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 48 percent favor requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound one to three days before obtaining an abortion, 36 percent oppose, and 16 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 52 percent favor requiring that a woman be offered an opportunity to view the image of an ultrasound she is undergoing prior to an abortion, 31 percent oppose, and 17 percent don’t know or declined to answer.
  • 35 percent favor requiring that the image of an ultrasound a woman is undergoing prior to an abortion be described aloud if the woman declines to look at it, 48 percent oppose, and 17 percent don’t know or refused.
  • 42 percent favor requiring that audio of any heartbeat detected during a pre-abortion ultrasound be played aloud for the woman to hear, 43 percent oppose, and 15 percent don’t know or declined to answer.
  • 22 percent think abortion should be “legal in all circumstances,” 49 percent think it should be legal “under certain circumstances,” and 22 percent say it should be “illegal in all circumstances.” The rest don’t know or didn’t answer.


Meanwhile, 55 percent of state residents oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” still a majority but a drop from the 64 percent opposition observed in the spring 2014 MTSU Poll. Thirty-two percent favor allowing such couples to marry, and the rest aren’t sure or declined to answer.

Here, too, evangelical identity shows to make the biggest difference. Among evangelicals, 70 percent oppose and 19 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Among non-evangelicals, only 29 percent oppose allowing same-sex marriages, and 55 percent favor allowing them.

Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll, said the decline in opposition to same-sex marriage is notable.

“It’s too soon to say whether the softening opposition to same-sex marriage that polls show happening around the country is showing up in Tennessee, but it’s a number that will be interesting to watch after this summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to release its ruling on same-sex marriage,” Reineke said.

On the final issue the poll found that a 53 percent majority of Tennesseans oppose raising the state’s gas tax to fund better roads and bridges. Twenty-six percent support raising the tax, and a considerable 21 percent are undecided.

Support is highest among well-informed political moderates and liberals, lower among well-informed conservatives, and lowest among the least informed, regardless of political orientation.

Data courtesy of Dr. Ken Blake and Dr. Jason Reineke of the MTSU Poll

For more updates on the MTSU Poll, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines, and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News

To contact news editor Meagan White, email 


  1. Overall I feel the numbers from the MTSU poll are promising. As much as I’d like to see some of these issues change majority, I know that I can’t expect it to happen all at once. Living in Tennessee, we have traditionally been a conservative state. But, these numbers with the same-sex marriage issue are beginning to show that in Tennessee, we are trending to more of a 50/50 split on these issues, and even a change in majority.
    As Dr. Reineke pointed out, it’s too early to tell if these numbers point to the “softening opposition” of same-sex marriage, but it will be something to consider with the Supreme Court’s decision looming. I predict that in a few years we will see a decrease in that “opposition” of same-sex marriage, and as that changes we will see more people accept the idea of same-sex marriage. In the next decade, I’m hopeful that same-sex marriage will be in the rear-view of the political and social landscape.
    However, I find myself in the minority in several of the abortion issues, and I’m not sure that will be solved so easily. With the state voting up Amendment 1, I don’t see us flip-flopping anytime soon, especially considering our vast religious and evangelical community.
    One of the only issues I stand in the majority in is the gas tax. If you do any research, you know that Tennessee has very little if anything to give for the maintenance and construction of their roads. In fact, Tennessee has paid for most of their roads, in years past, with federal help. I’m all for paying a little extra at the pump to insure that I don’t have to hit so many potholes along the way!

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