U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty leads opponent Manny Sethi by 3 percentage points – 30 percent to 27 percent – although 32 percent of voters remain undecided, according to a new poll that an out-of-state firm released Monday.
Sethi and Hagerty want to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
JMC asked voters who they’d vote for if the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate were held today.
Exactly 30 percent of voters said they’d support Hagerty, while 27 percent would support Sethi. Another candidate, George Flinn, would get 3 percent of the vote, while 8 percent would support another candidate. And 32 percent of respondents remain undecided, according to the poll.
“In summary, Bill Hagerty has a lead in the primary race for the U.S. Senate, but it’s not a secure lead against Manny Sethi,” according to the JMC report.
According to the poll, Hagerty holds a narrow lead whether or not undecided leaners are included, although that lead is within the statistical margin of error.
“From a geographic standpoint, his [Hagerty’s] strongest area is in the western part of the state. Similarly, he runs strongest among ‘very conservative’ voters (40-31 percent/47- 36 percent if undecided ‘leaners’ are included),” JMC reported.
According to the poll’s crosstabs, Hagerty leads Sethi 31 percent to 16 percent in West Tennessee, and 30 percent to 27 percent in Middle Tennessee. Sethi leads Hagerty 30 percent to 29 percent in East Tennessee.
“The geographic breakdown of the respondents was as follows: 44 percent from eastern Tennessee, 45 percent from middle Tennessee, and 11 percent from western Tennessee.”
That geographic distribution significantly undercounts West Tennessee, and overcounts Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee, when compared with previous statewide Republican primary results.
Historically, West Tennessee typically accounts for 23 percent to 25 percent of votes cast in statewide Republican primaries.
Adjusting for that significant geographic undercounting of West Tennessee would likely result in a Hagerty lead beyond the poll’s margin of error.
JMC Analytics did not address the geographic undercounting of West Tennessee voters among poll respondents.
“Support also differs by the gender and age of the respondent: there is an 11 point gender gap (14 points with ‘leaners’ included) whereby male respondents support Sethi, while female respondents favor Hagerty. Finally, Hagerty’s biggest lead (9 points/13 points with ‘leaners’ included) is among those who are 65 years old or older.”
The poll also asked people whether they support wearing a mask to control the spread of COVID-19.
“On this subject, there was broad and overwhelming support among the Republican primary electorate. Even Evangelicals (thought to be more strongly conservative) are in favor 50-33 percent,” according to JMC.
“Similarly, support is strongest (69- 19 percent) among those at least 65 years old. However, there is considerable ideological polarization on this issue: those who are very conservative are opposed 45-39 percent, while those who are very liberal are 96-4 percent in favor.”
Hagerty’s campaign emailed The Tennessee Star about the poll several hours before JMC even released it.
“If it’s the poll they ran over the weekend, it was billed as the ‘Tennessee Governor Republican Primary Election Survey,’” said Hagerty campaign spokeswoman Abigail Sigler.
“A sloppy mistake raising questions about what else the pollster glossed over.”
Sigler went on to call the JMC report “a misleading poll intended to drive a false narrative.”
As The Star reported in 2018, members of then-gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee’s campaign team had direct ties to JMC Analytics through two of its general consultants, Blake Harris and Jordan Gehrke. In July of that year JMC released a poll showing Lee led the Republican gubernatorial primary for the first time.
Members of the Lee campaign did not disclose their connections to the polling firm as they promoted the results of the supposedly independent poll, which, as reported, called into question the accuracy of the polling data.
Voters later that year went on to elect Lee as Tennessee’s new governor.
Donald Trump’s Popularity Among Tennessee Republicans
Monday’s poll also reported that U.S. President Donald Trump remains in good shape among Tennessee’s Republican electorate.
“Among Republicans, Donald Trump remains popular, although his level of support is substantially different depending on the ideological predisposition of the respondent,” according to the poll.
“Among very/somewhat conservative voters, his approval is nearly unanimous, but that support sharply drops off among less conservative and non-partisan voters. Similarly, his approval is 8:1 among Evangelical voters, but is only 52-45 percent among non-Evangelicals. Similarly, his support drops off among the youngest (18-34) age group.”
JMC polled 33 percent of people on landlines and 67 percent of people through cell phones on July 18 and July 19. Exactly 600 people completed responses to 13 poll questions, according to the report.
“The margin of error, with a 95 percent confidence interval, was 4.0 percent,” according to JMC.
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