MURFREESBORO (WATE) – While many voters are still undecided, a new poll from Middle Tennessee State University found that Donald Trump had the advantage in Tennessee.
Ted Cruz was second among Republican voters and Hillary Clinton leads over Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. However, MTSU found Clinton’s statewide disapproval ratings were the highest of any top candidate on either ticket.
“We asked two types of questions about the presidential race to get a sense of where potential voters stand,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “First, we asked registered voters to name, off the tops of their heads, the one candidate they would most like to see win the election and the one candidate they would least like to see win the election. Second, we asked whether they would favor or oppose each of several specific, current candidates running. We then broke the results down for the self-described Democrats, independents, and Republicans who responded to our poll.”
Continuing coverage: 2016 election
Ben Carson, who led the presidential field among Tennessee voters in MTSU’s October 2015 poll, drew just 7 percent of Republican voters in the January. Thirty percent of independents were undecided and the rest chose candidates who pulled only single-digit percentages.
Despite favoring Trump, Tennessee Republican voters seemed open to backing either Cruz or Carson as alternatives — 65 percent said they “strongly favor” or “favor” Trump’s becoming president, but 60 percent said the same of Cruz, and 60 percent said the same of Carson.
Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll, said that even with the subsample’s larger error margin taken into consideration, the findings suggest a majority of state Republican voters would favor either Trump, Carson or Cruz. “The Republicans have what you might call a ‘deep bench’ of presidential candidates in Tennessee,” Blake said. “If the current favorite, Trump, were to fade, it appears majorities of GOP voters would be willing to back Cruz or Carson, perhaps especially if Clinton turned out to be the Democratic nominee.”