NASHVILLE — As he heads into his final two years as Tennessee’s chief executive, Gov. Phil Bredesen continues to enjoy high marks from state residents on his job performance, a new poll shows.
The statewide survey of 625 voters shows 65 percent believe the Democratic governor’s performance has been “excellent” or “good.” Thirty-two percent rated it as only “fair” or “poor.” Three percent said they were undecided.
“Sixty-five percent is a pretty solid rate for a governor, especially a Democrat in Tennessee,” said pollster Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based firm that conducted the survey on behalf of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The poll found 17 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independents think Gov. Bredesen is doing an excellent job. Fifty-three percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents credit the governor with doing a good job, the poll showed.
Eighteen percent of Democrats think the governor is doing only a fair job, according to the poll. The figure was 28 percent for Republican poll respondents and 26 percent among independents. Seven percent of Democrats polled, 8 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of independents gave the governor poor marks on job performance, according to the poll.
Among poll respondents giving Gov. Bredesen a thumbs-up was Chattanoogan Rebecca McGhee, who usually votes Republican but credits the Democratic governor with reining in soaring TennCare costs and fraud. She also appreciates his work on education and keeping the state’s budget on an even keel, she said.
“I think he’s done a real good job,” said Ms. McGhee, a retired Hamilton County school teacher and administrator. “I think he’s had experience in the health care field and knows how to manage things fiscally.”
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Robin Smith said the governor has been “very strategic in some of the things he has done.” Mrs. Smith said the public sometimes is not aware of some of the governor’s actions, citing the past siphoning off some road funds for the general fund.
“He has his positives,” she acknowledged. “But I do think he does have a very well-oiled communications machine that handles a lot of the issues that could stick to any other governor.”
Saying he was “very pleased” with the poll’s results, Gov. Bredesen said that “obviously when you’re this far into a term as I am, with so many things going on with the economy, to be up there is very gratifying.”
“I’ve certainly found that even people who don’t agree with every single decision are generally positive on the fact that I’m rolling up my sleeves and trying to make things work,” he said.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga political scientist Robert Swansbrough said he believes governors such as Gov. Bredesen may benefit in part from the public’s “real negative views” of the governors they succeed.
Gov. Bredesen, for example, was preceded by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, whose second term was embroiled in revenue upheavals that led him to push unsuccessfully for a controversial state income tax. Gov. Bredesen flatly has ruled out an income tax, although he did successfully push lawmakers to boost cigarette taxes in 2007.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...