Blackburn, Bredesen tied in ETSU opinion poll

Nathan Baker • Nov 2, 2018 at 11:40 PM

The major party candidates in the race for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat are in a dead heat, according to the latest opinion polling data released Friday by researchers at East Tennessee State University.

In a statewide survey, ETSU’s Applied Social Research Lab found that among likely voters, 44 percent favored Republican Marsha Blackburn, a sitting representative in the U.S. House, and 44 percent favored Democrat Phil Bredesen, Tennessee’s former governor.

The high-profile race has been close since the primaries confirmed the candidates’ nominations, and both national party organizations have pumped truckloads of money into the state as Republicans seek to hang on to their majority in the Senate and Democrats hope to take it away.

Not surprisingly, ETSU’s poll showed both candidates with strong leads among voters of their respective parties, but indicated Bredesen had an 11-point advantage among those who identified themselves as independent.

Broken down by age, Blackburn was a 7-point favorite with voters 55 and older, and Bredesen took a slight, 3-point advantage in the 35 to 54 demographic and an even larger, 13-percent lead among likely voters 18 to 34.

Confirming the results of polls published earlier in the election season, researchers said women support Bredesen at a significantly higher rate, 52 to 31 percent, and men favor Blackburn 57 to 35 percent.

“These are some patterns that are not super unusual,” Dr. Kelly Foster, director of ETSU’s Applied Social Research Lab, said. “We use a different sampling model that doesn’t use the voter rolls, so we’re more likely to get in younger and newly registered voters.

“We’ve conducted four iterations of the Tennessee Poll, but this year is the first time we decided to ask a few political questions to see what people think about the candidates.”

Who’s the favorite for the Governor’s Mansion?

According to ETSU’s polling, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee was favored over Democrat Karl Dean 47 to 36 percent, while 9 percent of likely voters were still undecided.

After a grueling and expensive primary season where expected frontrunners Diane Black and Randy Boyd both failed to secure the Republican nomination, Lee has pulled a double-digit lead over Dean in most polls, though the margin has appeared to narrow as Election Day approaches.

Where are we headed?

When asked about Tennessee’s current direction, the ETSU poll showed 52 percent of respondents believe the state is going in the right direction, while 20 percent felt is was on the wrong track. Those who self-identified as Republican or leaned Republican were much more likely, 73 percent, to say the state was on the right path, while 42 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats approved of its trajectory.

Older respondents and men were more likely to approve of the state of the state than those who were younger and women.