Beacon Poll: January Results

January 3, 2024 8:05PM

Today, we released our third quarterly Beacon Poll, a statewide poll of 1,302 registered Tennessee voters comprised of questions about political races, policy issues, and more.

In what is expected to be a competitive Senate primary in Tennessee, the Beacon Poll finds Gloria Johnson with a significant lead over her main rival Marquita Bradshaw. While Johnson has an enormous 30-point lead over Bradshaw among Democratic primary voters (41%-11%), a plurality of voters (45%) are still undecided in the race to determine who will take on Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn.

Despite a large number of undecided voters and a more limited sample size, Gloria Johnson is in an excellent position in the Democratic primary against 2020 Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw. It is clear that Johnson’s ad spending and financial advantage over the rest of the Democratic field has started to pay off. While a 30-point advantage is certainly substantial, there is still a lot of time left before election day and with a plurality of Democratic primary voters undecided, there is still plenty of room for movement in this race.

One of the biggest issues in the state legislature this year will be the debate over a statewide educational choice proposal by Governor Bill Lee. According to the Beacon Poll, it appears a large majority of Tennesseans are with the Governor when it comes to making Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) available to students statewide. A whopping 68% of Tennessee residents support Governor Lee’s proposal, while just 19% oppose his plan. The plan is supported by an overwhelming majority of Republicans (85%), as well as a majority of Independents (56%) and Democrats (56%).

In addition, Tennesseans would be much more likely to vote for a legislator who supports statewide ESAs, with 52% of likely voters saying they’d be more likely to vote for a legislator who supports statewide ESAs compared to 12% who said it would make them less likely to vote for that legislator. Twenty-eight percent said it would have no impact on their vote.

In a head-to-head presidential matchup of likely Tennessee voters, Donald Trump maintains a 32-point lead (63%-31%) over Joe Biden. When Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is included as an Independent third-party candidate for president, Trump’s lead over Biden drops to 26 points (51%-25%) with Kennedy garnering an impressive 16% of the vote. Additionally, in the Republican primary for president, Donald Trump has an enormous 60-point lead over his closest Republican rival Ron DeSantis (72%-12%) while Nikki Haley comes in third at 7%.

There has been a lot of discussion in the national press about what would happen if Donald Trump and/or Joe Biden decided not to run for president. The Beacon Poll shows that a strong plurality of likely Republican voters (46%) prefer Florida Governor Ron Desantis if Trump were not to run. Vivek Ramaswamy would take second place at 18% and Nikki Haley is in third with 14% of the vote.

On the Democratic side, there is much more parity between the candidates. Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the field if Joe Biden were not to run, with the support of 27% of Democratic voters. However, she is followed closely by Bernie Sanders (19%) and Hillary Clinton (18%). Despite being viewed by many as the heir apparent if Biden were not to run, California Governor Gavin Newsom only receives the support of 12% of Democratic voters while Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg rounds out the field with 9%.

The question of whether Trump voters would still vote for him even if he were convicted of one or more of the crimes he has been charged with is much more nuanced than the discussion in the media. While 63% of Trump voters say they would vote for him even if he was convicted of a crime, a considerable 22% of Trump voters say it would depend on the specific circumstances of the conviction, while just 9% of Trump voters say they would not vote for him.

When it comes to property tax increases, Tennessee residents want the state government to intervene. Only 11% of Tennesseans believe decisions on property taxes should be left solely up to the local mayor and city council/county commission, while 74% of residents believe the state should have some say in property tax increases. Nearly four in 10 voters believe that a combination of statewide regulation and local decision-making best reflects their views on property taxes, and 35% prefer the state to implement an outright cap on property taxes. Additionally, 67% would support a statewide property tax cap if such increases had to be approved by referendum, while only 13% would be against a cap.

Interestingly, Tennesseans have much more faith in local media than they do in national media. Sixty-six percent of respondents have a lot or some faith in local news organizations while 31% do not trust local media much or at all. Fifty-one percent of Tennesseans have a lot or some faith in national news organizations with 45% not trusting national media much or at all.


You can read the full poll with party crosstabs here.
You can read the full poll with demographic and regional crosstabs here.
You can read the full poll of likely voters here.
You can find the polling graphics here.