Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) has opened up a ten point lead over Randy Boyd, her closest rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Tennessee, according to a new poll released by The Tennessee Star.
Black received the support of 21 percent of likely Tennessee Republican primary voters to lead the field of five contenders, followed by Boyd in second place with 11 percent. Rounding out the bottom tier of candidates are Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) with 6 percent, Bill Lee with 4 percent, and former State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) with 3 percent.
The good news for Black’s four rivals for the GOP nomination is that 52 percent of likely voters in the August 2018 Tennessee Republican gubernatorial primary are still undecided.
The poll also provided information on Tennessee Republican voter attitudes on six key policy questions that are expected to drive the debate in the Republican gubernatorial primary over the next eight and a half months. Likely Tennessee Republican primary voters in 2018:
- Overwhelmingly oppose providing taxpayer subsidized in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students by a whopping 88 percent to 6 percent margin, more than 14-to-1 against.
- Overwhelmingly oppose Republican candidates who accept money from the Tennessee Education Association and the National Education Association, 76 percent to 6 percent, more than 12-to-1 against.
- Oppose Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin. 36 percent are more likely to support a candidate who promises to repeal the gas tax, while 26 percent are less likely to support such a candidate.
- Support passage of a bill that would require students at public schools and colleges in Tennessee to use restrooms and locker rooms matching the gender listed on their birth certificates or the gender which is consistent with their physical characteristics by a 75 percent to 13 percent margin, almost 6-to-1 in favor.
- Think our education system spends too much time on testing: 58 percent think our education system spends too much time and focus on these tests, while only 12 percent think our system spends too little time on tests.
- Oppose the removal of Civil War monuments honoring Confederate soldiers and Generals: 64 percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments, while 26 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the removal of these monuments.
The poll of 1,028 Tennessee Republican likely primary voters was conducted between December 12 and December 18 for The Tennessee Star by Triton Research using IVR technology (automated phone response), and has a 3.1 percent margin of error.
The respondents were balanced between the three regions of Tennessee according to recent Republican primary voting behavior: 34 percent from East Tennessee, 39 percent from Middle Tennessee, and 27 percent from West Tennessee.
Diane Black dominated in Middle Tennessee, where poll respondents preferred her over Randy Boyd by a 33 percent to 5 percent margin, with 42 percent undecided. In West Tennessee, poll respondents preferred Black over Boyd by a 16 percent to 9 percent margin, with 65 percent undecided.
Boyd led over Black in East Tennessee by a 20 percent to 12 percent margin, with 52 percent undecided.
Almost all the movement in the race since the June 2017 Tennessee Star Poll, which showed that none of the likely contenders for the nomination–seven at the time– had more than ten percent support and 61 percent of poll respondents were undecided, has gone towards Black.
In that earlier poll, Black and Boyd were in a statistical tie for the lead, with Black at 9 percent and Boyd at 8 percent. State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville), who has subsequently announced his candidacy for the 7th Congressional District seat instead of the governor’s race, was in third with 6 percent. Harwell and Lee were tied for fourth with 4 percent each, Beavers was in sixth with 3 percent, and State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), now a federal judge nominee, was in seventh with 2 percent.
In the six months since the June 2017 Tennessee Star Poll, all 9 percent of the undecided voters have moved to support Black. Black and Boyd have split the 8 percent of the vote from the two candidates polled in June who are not now in the race.
Black has more than doubled her support with a 12 percent increase from 9 percent to 21 percent.
Boyd has gained three points, moving from 8 percent to 11 percent, Harwell has gained two points, moving from 4 percent to 6 percent, and Lee and Beavers have neither gained nor lost support, remaining at 4 percent and 3 percent respectively.
Only Black has seen an increase in support that is beyond the poll’s 3 percent margin of error.
The latest Tennessee Star Poll results were similar to results released on Wednesday by a group known as Tennesseans for Student Success (TSS) with one notable exception. Instead of showing Diane Black with a 10 point lead over Randy Boyd, 21 percent to 11 percent, the TSS Poll showed Black with a 3 point lead over Boyd, 16 percent to 13 percent.
The two polls differed methodologically in at least one major way.
The Tennessee Star Poll was conducted over a more recent six day period (December 12 to December 18), while the TSS Poll was conducted over a one month long period that began more than a month and a half ago (November 5 to December 4), as The Tennessean reported.
Typically, most professional polling firms try to conduct their polls within a two to six day period so they capture an accurate snapshot of public opinion at a specific period in time that is not influenced by intervening news events of significance.
Since The Tennessee Star Poll is more recent than the TSS Poll, it may also have captured recent movement towards Black.
“It is still very early in this race and most voters haven’t picked a candidate yet, or may still change their minds over the next seven months, so the current ‘horse race’ standings don’t really concern me,” gubernatorial candidate Mae Beavers told The Star.
“What should concern all the other candidates is the fact that my views and the issues that I have been talking about to voters, including blocking illegals from receiving taxpayer supported tuition, keeping men out of locker rooms at our schools, repealing the unnecessary gas tax increase, and protecting and preserving our monuments and recognition of Tennessee history, all resonate strongly,” Beavers continued, adding:
As voters hear my views, they will find that I am the only candidate who shares their opinions, and I expect their votes to quickly change the poll numbers in my direction. Voters will eventually learn that I am the only one willing to speak up and take their side on those issues.
The Star did not receive comments on the poll results from any of the four other Republican gubernatorial candidates.
In the same poll, Tennessee Republicans gave President Trump an 84 percent favorability rating, but gave Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) only a 22 percent favorability rating, with a 60 percent unfavorable rating.
UP NEXT: Senate GOP Primary Poll Results (to be published tomorrow, Friday, December 22)
(Note: We will release the complete top line poll results tomorrow.)
You can read page 2 of the poll results here: