Sunday, October 1, 2023

MTSU poll: Phil Bredesen leads Senate race, gubernatorial race leader too close to call


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Photo courtesy of Christy Frink / Flickr

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen currently holds a 10 percentage-point lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn among state voters in the contest for Sen. Bob Corker’s seat, according to a new MTSU poll. Additionally, the poll shows that the favorite of the 2018 gubernatorial race candidates is too close to call between Republicans Randy Boyd, Diane Black and Beth Harwell and Democrat Karl Dean, and the approval rating of President Donald Trump remained the same from the October 2017 MTSU poll at 50 percent.

The newly released poll included answers from 600 registered Tennessee voters who were contacted through randomly selected cell and landline phone numbers. The surveys were conducted between March 22 and March 29, and the poll has an error margin of four percentage points.

According to the poll, 45 percent of participants said that they would choose Bredesen, a Democrat, as the winner of the Senate race if the race was held tomorrow. The results also show that 35 percent said that they would select Blackburn, 17 percent were undecided and the remaining participants declined to answer the question. Therefore, Bredesen has been able to obtain an early lead in the race at this point, despite Tennessee having a majority of Republican voters.

“I can’t really say why he’s got this lead,” said Kenneth Blake, the poll director. “However, I did notice in the data that Bredesen seems to be a little more successful at attracting independents and Republicans than Blackburn has been at attracting independents and Democrats. For example, Bredesen has 45 percent of independents compared to Blackburn’s 33 percent. If you look at cross-party voting, Bredesen has 20 percent of Republicans compared to Blackburn’s five percent of Democrats.”

Blake said that these numbers are consistent with that of Bredesen’s approval ratings when he was governor.

“Pretty consistently, (Bredesen) enjoyed support among Democrats, members of his own party, but also support among independents and some Republicans as well,” Blake said. “Blackburn, on the other hand, is casting herself as more of a solid Trump supporter, and she talks about herself in her advertising as being a sort of ‘hardcore’ conservative. So, I think you’re seeing the emergence of two different kinds of strategies … I think there’s still a chance for Blackburn to come out and still a chance for Bredesen to win.”

As for the portion of the poll regarding the current gubernatorial race, the results display that Boyd, Black, Harwell and Dean’s approval ratings range from 30 percent for Boyd and Black to 26 percent for Dean and 23 percent for Harwell. Since the poll’s error margin of plus or minus four percentage points, the survey results cannot determine if any candidate is holding a lead.

“The gubernatorial race is really just anybody’s to win or lose,” Blake said. “There are a few candidates who do seem to be trailing the field among statewide voters, but we just basically have a lot of undecideds in the gubernatorial race. So it’s really impossible to determine how that one is going to turn out … As to why this is happening, one possibility is that people are paying a lot more attention to national politics than they are to state politics.”

Despite the murky nature of the race among most of the candidates, poll results do show that Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Craig Fitzhugh are significantly behind Boyd, Black and Dean with a 16 percent approval rating. Between 19 and 27 percent of participants said that they neither favor nor oppose any of the gubernatorial candidates, and between 13 and 32 percent said that they don’t know how they feel about the candidates. A graph that displays these numbers can be viewed below.

The results of the new poll also display that 50 percent of participating voters approve of Trump’s performance in office. Additionally, 41 percent of state voters disapprove of Trump, 8 percent don’t know and the remaining voters declined to answer. Similar to these numbers, 46 percent of participants thought that Trump deserves to be re-elected, while 44 percent think that he does not. 10 percent declined to answer. The Trump approval rating results of the most recent poll are almost exactly the same as the MTSU poll results from October 2017, in which 50 percent of voters approved, 40 percent disapproved and 10 percent didn’t know or gave no answer.

“(Trump’s) numbers are holding steady in Tennessee,” Blake said. “He’s about 50 percent approval, and about the same amount in Tennessee think he deserves re-election. That’s about 10 percentage points higher than the numbers you see nationally for Trump. So, his base is doing pretty well here in Tennessee. The problem is … about the same percent says that he is a pretty polarizing figure.”

For more information on MTSU polls, visit here.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

For more news, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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