The Beacon Poll: July 2023
Today, Beacon released the Beacon Poll, the first of many quarterly surveys asking Tennessee voters how they feel about a variety of issues. Groups and politicians conduct polls all the time, giving us a glimpse into voters’ perspectives on elections and pressing issues. But there is no consistent statewide survey that accurately assesses where Tennesseans stand on matters impacting their lives on an ongoing basis. Until now.
Once per quarter, the Beacon Poll will track how voters feel about the direction of our nation and our state, as well as within important arenas like education and healthcare. We will ask about the job performance of state leaders like the governor and legislature. And as election season heats up, we will ask who they plan to vote for to give you a sense of where the state is heading politically.
In this first poll, we found that voters from both parties are clearly eager for change when it comes to education. Only 36% of voters are satisfied with the K-12 public education system in the state, while 56%, including a plurality of Democratic voters, are unsatisfied with the current public education system. This was apparent when voters were asked about educational choice, Education Savings Accounts, and charter schools. A whopping 77% of Tennesseans agree that more public and private educational choices are needed, while only 9% disagree. When it comes to Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), the vast majority of voters (69%) believe that the program should be expanded statewide; only 17% disagree. The most notable finding was that ESAs are extremely popular even with Democratic voters (61%-26%). Additionally, the expansion of public charter schools to all counties was widely popular with 65% of Republicans, 59% of Democrats, and 69% of Independents all supporting the expansion.
As the 2024 primary field for president continues to take shape, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are clear favorites in their respective parties. In Tennessee’s Democratic primary for president, Biden has 63% of the vote while Robert Kennedy Jr. garners 7% and Marianne Williamson is at 2%. Interestingly, a notable 26% of Democratic primary voters remain undecided. On the Republican side, Donald Trump (61%) has a commanding 49-point lead on Ron DeSantis (12%) while Mike Pence comes in 3rd at 8%. If the general election were held today, Donald Trump has a 21-point lead (55%-34%) over Joe Biden in Tennessee, while Ron DeSantis leads Joe Biden by 16 points (52%-36%).
There were many other interesting results from this poll. It appears that 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 a recent marketing campaign. When it comes to an issue that recently made waves on a national scale, public opinion in Tennessee on the expulsion of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the legislature for breaking House rules while protesting for gun control is completely split down the middle, with 39% approving of the expulsion and 39% disapproving.
Another interesting note is that 56% of Tennesseans believe that TikTok should be banned, which includes a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, while only 25% don’t want to ban the popular app. Additionally, Tennessee voters are nearly split on the recent indictment of former president Donald Trump; 44% of voters disapprove of Trump being charged in the classified documents probe while 43% of voters approve of the indictment. This is despite the fact that Trump leads Joe Biden by 19 points in a head-to-head matchup.
With a lack of consistent and reliable polls in the state, we are happy to offer a transparent and unbiased look at what Tennesseans really think. While Beacon obviously holds certain policy positions, this poll is all about finding where Tennesseans really are and what issues they care most about by offering the public full transparency in terms of results, questions, and demographic info.