VU Poll: Support Growing For Medicaid Expansion In Tennessee

Professor John Geer and associate professor Josh Clinton are co-directors of the VU Poll. Credit: Vanderbilt

Professor John Geer and associate professor Josh Clinton are co-directors of the VU Poll. Credit: Vanderbilt

If Governor Bill Haslam were simply to go with what a majority of Tennesseans want, he would expand the state’s Medicaid program as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act.

A Vanderbilt poll finds support has grown to 60 percent of respondents, up from less than half in December.

“The data are compelling and – in this case – worth discussing,” says political science professor John Geer.

Divided by party, a slim majority of Republicans still oppose Medicaid expansion, but a smaller number than just a few months ago.

Pollsters asked basically the same question late last year, explaining in detail that Tennessee could provide health insurance to many of the working poor with the federal government picking up most of the tab. They also told respondents that if Tennessee chooses not to expand Medicaid, uninsured individuals would keep receiving care in emergency rooms and possibly increase health care costs for the insured.

“But then we also asked a very simple question about whether or not you oppose or favor expanding Medicaid without giving all the details about what that would actually entail,” says associate professor Josh Clinton.  “The numbers are like spot on.”

Since half the respondents got different questions and came up with the same results, Clinton figures the numbers are solid and support for expansion is indeed on the rise.

However, the poll intentionally sidesteps mention of President Obama or use of the word’s “Affordable Care Act,” figuring anti-Obamacare sentiment would alter some responses.

The Vanderbilt poll surveyed a thousand Tennesseans, mostly registered voters. It found job approval of Governor Bill Haslam nearly as high as ever, even after recent scandals.

Fewer than half had heard about problems with child death records at the Department of Children’s Services. Pollsters chose not to ask about an FBI investigation at the governor’s family-owned truck stop company, thinking respondents could confuse Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam with his brother, the governor.

Five VU Poll Takeaways
·      Governor Haslam’s support remains strong – 63 percent approve of his performance.

·      Support for Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are also relatively high at 53 percent.

·      Tennesseans generally oppose any legislation restricting guns, but over 80 percent support background checks.

·      Support of gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples increased to 49 percent. And 62 percent of Tennesseans now support employee benefits for gay domestic partners and spouses.

·      While Tennessee taxation is low compared to other states, only 26 percent think it is below average.

Here are some other interesting results.

·      The differences in approval ratings were drastically different when the Affordable Care Act was referred to as “Obamacare,” when the disapproval rating expanded from 27 percent to 52 percent.

·      On the issue of arming teachers, someone’s opinion largely depends on whether they own a gun. For gun owners, 60 percent like the idea. For non gun owners, only 23 percent think teachers should be armed.

·      Concerning tax collection on Internet sales, over 55 percent thought it was bad policy. When asked if it is fair or unfair to local businesses, the public was evenly split.

Leah Terry contributed to this report. 

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