Exactly half of registered voters in Tennessee say they approve of President Donald Trump, according to a new poll from Middle Tennessee State University.
Pollsters also found that support for Sen. Bob Corker has deteriorated, perhaps due to his recent media feuds with the president. But Corker's remarks could have nonetheless had an effect on the president, as the percentage of voters who say they dislike Trump has also risen.
"Essentially, Corker’s negatives have increased markedly, but he has ended up only a bit behind Trump in terms of approval, and possibly on par with him," poll director Ken Blake said in a prepared statement summing up the results. “Meanwhile, some undecideds have switched to disapproval of President Trump, but Trump’s base is sticking with him."
Blake characterized Trump's approval rating as relatively high overall statewide, though the president won Tennessee with more than 60 percent of the vote less than a year ago. Trump's margin of victory in Tennessee was the largest in a presidential race since 1972, when President Richard Nixon took two-thirds.
Trump also has the benefit of a strong economy — typically a plus for a sitting president — but MTSU nonetheless found that 40 percent of Tennessee voters disapprove of the president. That's up 8 percentage points since the spring.
MTSU polled 600 registered Tennessee voters by cell phone and landline over a weeklong period that ran Oct. 16 to Oct. 23. The poll's margin of error is 4 percent points.
Corker's popularity falls
The poll was conducted during a brief lull in Trump's feud with Corker.
Surveyers conducted calls more than a week after the senator first referred to the White House as an "adult day care center" on Twitter and warned of the potential of "World War III" in a New York Times interview. They wrapped up a day before Corker publicly called Trump "untruthful," claimed that he'd diminished the nation's standing in the world and lamented that Trump had "proven himself unable to rise to the occasion" of being president.
Those criticisms may have driven a sharp rise in Corker's critics. More than 40 percent of Tennessee voters say they disapprove of the senator, a big, 14-point increase since MTSU's previous poll in the spring.
Pollsters found that Tennesseans who have been following the conflict tended to have taken a side. Forty percent told MTSU that they approve of Trump and disapprove of Corker; 34 percent approve of Corker and not Trump.
Pollsters also found that party affiliation was a major driver in how voters interpreted the dispute.
"It appears that Trump has generally weathered the conflict better than Corker among Tennesseans, with the exception of self-identified Democrats who strongly favor Corker," said Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll.
Haslam remains strong
Gov. Bill Haslam remains the most popular political figure statewide. His approval rating stands at 56 percent. Only 23 percent say they dislike the governor.
Sen. Lamar Alexander did not fare as well as Haslam. Forty-five percent of Tennesseans say they approve of Alexander — the same percentage as Corker — though significantly fewer Tennesseans told pollsters that they disapprove of Alexander.