Democrats hold an advantage in Tennessee, one of the states critical to the party’s chances of taking control of the US Senate, according to new CNN polls conducted by SSRS. But in the governor’s race, Republicans have a strong advantage.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen holds a 5-point edge over Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 50% to 45% among likely voters in the Tennessee Senate race. Roughly 1 in 6 voters say there’s a chance they’ll change their mind before Election Day.
Republicans have the upper hand in the gubernatorial race. Republican Bill Lee leads Karl Dean in the race for Tennessee’s open governor’s seat by 52% to 43%.
Likely voters are a subset of registered voters in the poll and include those most likely to turn out based on a combination of self-reported intention to vote, interest in the election and past voting behavior.
Tennessee is one of the four states where Democrats are widely seen as having at least some chance of picking up Senate seats in November’s election. The others are Arizona, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema tops Republican Rep. Martha McSally by 7 points, Texas — viewed as more of a long-shot – and Nevada — generally viewed as the Democrats’ best chance for a Senate pickup. In order for the party to have any shot at taking control of the senate, it’s almost certain that at least one seat from Arizona or Tennessee would need to go Democrats’ way.
Tennessee has generally moved away from its more Democratic-friendly past. In Tennessee, likely voters are about evenly split on the president’s performance, 49% approve and 48% disapprove, far outpacing his nationwide approval rating in the latest CNN polling of 36%.
The Republican incumbent for the seat — Sen. Bob Corker — has been publicly critical of Trump. Approval ratings of the president are closely tied to preferences in the Senate race, according to the poll. Among those voters who disapprove of Trump’s performance in Tennessee, 92% of those who disapprove of the president back Bredesen.
Democrats hope that a ticket topped by Bredesen, the state’s former governor whose positive favorability ratings outstrip the negative by a 2–to-1 margin (52% favorable to 24% unfavorable among the state’s registered voters), can outweigh the state’s underlying Republican tilt. Blackburn, by contrast, splits public opinion, with 41% of registered voters viewing her favorably and 39% unfavorably, with 20% unsure. Bredesen’s edge here is driven by cross-party appeal. Although his favorability ratings are underwater among Republicans, 28% of them have a favorable view of him, while just 9% of Democrats have a positive view of Blackburn.
Health care tops the list of voters’ most important issues, with 29% calling it tops in their Senate vote in Tennessee. The economy follows in Tennessee at 22%, immigration lands third at 16%. Voters who say health care is their top issue are broadly supportive of the Democrat in both contests, breaking for Bredesen over Blackburn by 71% to 21%. Both economy and immigration voters favor the Republican in each state. Blackburn holds a whopping 50-point lead among immigration voters in Tennessee and a 10-point advantage among economy voters.
The CNN Polls in Arizona and Tennessee were conducted by SSRS September 11 through 15 among random statewide samples reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. In Arizona, results for the full sample of 1,001 adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, for the subset of 854 registered voters, it is plus or minus 4.1 and for the 761 likely voters plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. In Tennessee, results for the full sample of 1,000 respondents have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. It is 3.9 for the sample of 852 registered voters and 4.3 for results among the 723 likely voters.