While Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leads Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton among Tennessee voters, more believe Clinton will ultimately win, the latest MTSU Poll shows.
In a four-way race of likely voters in Tennessee, if the election were held today the results would likely be:
· Trump (Republican) — 48 percent
· Clinton (Democrat) — 36 percent
· Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) — 5 percent
· Jill Stein (Green Party) — 1 percent
· Undecided/leaning Trump — 2 percent
· Undecided/leaning Clinton — 2 percent
The remainder of likely voters say they will vote for someone else, that they don’t know whom they will vote for or lean toward, or give no answer.
When likely voters were asked to choose only between Clinton and Trump, the outcome was nearly identical to results of the four-way contest, with 50 percent saying they would vote for Trump, and 40 percent saying they would vote for Clinton.
“Barely half of Tennessee’s likely voters support Mr. Trump,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University, “but that is more than enough for him to decisively defeat his opponents and win the state’s 11 electoral college votes.”
Among the poll’s findings are that very few voters have actually strayed from their party’s chosen candidate after voting for a rival in the primary, that voters are closely divided on their perceptions of both Clinton and Trump’s quality of character and, finally, that most voters expect Clinton to win despite most favoring Trump.
Primary vote makes little difference
The poll also asked registered voter respondents whether they had voted in the state’s presidential primaries in March, if so for which party, and for whom they had voted. Only about 7 percent of registered voters say that they voted for Bernie Sanders in the state’s Democratic primary. Of these, 61 percent say they would vote for Clinton in the general election, while 19 percent say they would vote for Johnson, followed by 2 percent for Trump and 0 percent for Stein. The rest say they are undecided or refuse to answer the question.
About 17 percent of registered voters in the sample say they voted in the Republican primary for someone other than Trump. Of these, 71 percent say they would vote for Trump in the general election, followed by 6 percent for Johnson, 4 percent for Clinton, and 1 percent for Stein. Again, the remainder say they are undecided or refuse to answer the question.
“Despite a lot of speculation about party defections from unpopular candidates following divisive primaries, only small minorities of voters report that they are voting for someone other than their party’s nominee in the general after voting for a primary rival,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll.
Views of candidate qualities more divided
The poll also asked several questions about Clinton and Trump’s inclinations to the presidency. First, registered voters were asked whether they thought each candidate is capable of doing the job of president.
Forty-nine percent agree or strongly agree that Trump is able to do the job, while 6 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 42 percent disagree or strongly disagree. A similar 47 percent agreed or strongly agree that Clinton is able to do the job, while 5 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 46 percent disagree or strongly disagree.
Thirty-nine percent agree or strongly agree that Trump is honest, while 13 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 42 percent disagree or strongly disagree. Clinton is evaluated especially poorly on honesty, with only 26 percent saying they agree or strongly agree that she is honest, 9 percent who neither agree nor disagree, and 63 percent who disagree or disagree strongly.
But almost half, 49 percent, agree or strongly agree that Clinton has the temperament to effectively serve as president, while 5 percent neither agree nor disagree, and 43 percent disagree or disagree strongly. Forty-one percent agree or strongly agree that Trump has the temperament to be president, while 8 percent neither agree nor disagree and 48 percent disagree or strongly disagree.
“Although Trump easily leads when it comes to vote choice, when it comes to qualities that matter in a president – competence, integrity, and temperament – perceptions of the candidates are much more closely divided,” said Reineke, “But honesty is clearly an issue for Clinton. At the same time, honesty and emotional control may well be issues for Trump.”
Clinton’s chances of winning
The last question about the two major party candidates for president on the poll asked, “Regardless of who you support, and trying to be as objective as possible, who do you think will win the presidential election this November?” Forty-three percent of registered Tennessee voters say they expect Clinton to win as opposed to only 35 percent who say the same about Trump. But a sizable portion – 21 percent – say they just don’t know who will win at this point.
The MTSU Poll was conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, following the first presidential candidate debate featuring Clinton and Trump. Registered voters in Tennessee were surveyed via random telephone calls to landline and mobile phones. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Likely voters were identified from among those participants by their responses to a series of questions about past voting behavior and intention of voting in the November general election. The poll captured responses from 600 registered voters, from whom 472 (79 percent) were identified as likely voters.
Telephone interviews for the poll were completed by Issues & Answers Network Inc. from among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters age 18 and over. Data were collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample of 51 percent landline and 49 percent cell phones. Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data represent Tennessee registered voters. The survey’s overall error margin of 4 percentage points indicates one can be 95 percent confident that the actual population figure lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the poll result. Error margins for subgroups can be larger, depending on the subgroup’s size.