NASHVILLE — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump continue to be the clear favorites for their respective parties' nominations in Tennessee thus far, according to a new poll.
The poll also finds residents are split over the expulsion of two Democratic lawmakers from the state House this year by Republicans punishing their impromptu floor protest for more gun control measures following a deadly mass shooting at a private school in Nashville.
The survey was sponsored by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a business-oriented think tank that promotes free-market solutions to state policy issues. It found that Bud Light has lost 22% of its fizz among state Republicans amid controversy over transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney's partnership with the beer brand.
The survey also showed registered voters were high on banning the video-sharing app TikTok in the U.S.
The survey, which has a 2.87 percentage point margin of error, shows Trump would have a 21-point advantage — 55% to 34% — in a 2024 general election matchup with Biden.
That indicates less support than Trump received in Tennessee in 2016 and 2020. In both elections, he won more than 60% of the vote in the state.
Biden and Trump respectively lead the 2024 field in their Tennessee primaries.
Democrat Biden's support was pegged at 63% in his primary in a matchup with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, politician and writer who has promoted a number of controversial views on vaccines. Kennedy garnered 7% support among Democrats. Marianne Williamson, an author and speaker, is at 2%.
Among Democratic primary voters, 26% said they remain undecided.
On the Republican side, Trump has 61% support, described by the Beacon Center as a "commanding" 49-point lead over Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, with 12% support. Former Vice President Mike Pence came in at No. 3 with 8% support.
State GOP loyalists will get a close-up of DeSantis on July 15. He is scheduled to be keynote speaker for the Tennessee Republican Party's annual Statesmen's Dinner fundraiser.
"These primary results reflect what we've seen in national polls for months, that a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is the most likely scenario in 2024," said Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham in a statement. "It is interesting that Trump fares substantially better against Biden than Ron DeSantis does, and the change came almost exclusively from Republican voters who say they would vote for Trump as their nominee but would not vote at all if DeSantis were the nominee."
As for the general election? National Democrats last carried Tennessee in 1996, going for then-President Bill Clinton and his running mate, Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee, in their successful bid for a second term. Four years later, in 2000, Gore was the head of the ticket and famously lost his home state and the presidency.
Since then, it's been fairly bleak for Democrats in the Volunteer State. Tennessee only has three statewide elections: president, U.S. Senate and governor. Democrats last won a statewide race when Phil Bredesen was elected to a second term in 2006. In 2018, Bredesen ran for U.S. Senate and lost to Republican Marsha Blackburn.
Despite being so heavily Republican, Tennessee voters are nearly split regarding the seven-count federal indictment of Trump on charges of conspiracy to obstruct, willful retention of documents and false statements in a case involving his alleged retention of top secret documents after leaving office.
Cunningham said in a phone interview that he was particularly struck that in a pro-Trump state, 44% of voters disapproved of Trump being charged in the classified documents probe. Forty-three percent said they approved of the legal action.
"It's interesting that independents prefer Trump by 21 points, while at the same time supporting Trump's indictment by 13 points," Cunningham said. "I think for some of the other ones, especially his indictment, they were like plus-20% the other way. For Republicans, we found out that 17% of people who voted for Trump in 2020 approved of the indictment, which is a huge number, and those are people who voted for him last time. That's why that 44-43 number is shocking because even plus-21 over Biden, a lot of them said, I think he ought to be indicted but I'm still going to vote for him."
As to TikTok, 56% of Tennesseans said TikTok should be banned. That includes a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents. Just 25% don't want to ban the popular video app, which was started in China.
The survey found 70% of Tennesseans surveyed saying they were somewhat to very dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed in. Among Republicans and independents, 85% agreed with that, as did 43% of Democrats.
Just 26% of those surveyed said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the nation's direction, with 53% of Democrats agreeing.
Tennesseans split 39% to 39% over House Republicans' expulsion of Democratic Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis for conducting an impromptu floor protest over gun violence this past legislative session.
Sixty-one percent of Republicans strongly or somewhat approved of the ouster effort, pollsters found.
But 15% of Republicans strongly or somewhat disapproved. And another 17% of Republicans neither approved nor disapproved. Sixty-three percent of Democrats strongly or somewhat disapproved of the ousters.
And in the independent/other category, just 25% strongly or somewhat approved of the ousters, while 22% neither approved nor disapproved of the action.
At the same time, 45% of voters in the independent/other category either strongly or somewhat disapproved of the ousters.
Regardless, the expulsions turned out to be fleeting. Both Jones and Pearson were reappointed to their seats by county commissioners or council members. Both men are now seeking the seats in special elections.
Voters were queried about expanding Tennessee's school voucher program. The question notes that families of eligible K-12 students can use a portion of their per-pupil funding on certain education expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring educational therapy or other educational purposes. It notes the program already exists in some counties. Legislative Republicans this year expanded the program, which relies on public tax dollars, into Hamilton County.
Asked whether they support or oppose expansion to all counties, 69% of survey respondents said they support expansion to other counties, with 75% of Republicans strongly or somewhat supporting it, 61% of Democrats and 71% of independents or others.
The survey found support for public charter schools, which are governed by a local independent board of directors and not a local school board.
Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they strongly or somewhat support expansion of charter schools into all Tennessee counties, while 23% said they were opposed. Sixty-five percent of Republicans backed expansion while 59% of Democrats also approved of it. Independents and other voters had strong support at 69%.
It also appears the Bud Light boycott has hurt the product's sales in Tennessee, with 22% of former Bud Light drinkers saying they have stopped buying the beer because of recent marketing.
Beacon's board of directors include Fred Decosimo of Chattanooga, a certified public accountant with Elliott Davis, and former state Rep. Ken Meyer, of Chattanooga, a Republican who represented parts of Hamilton County, including East Ridge.