published Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Poll shows support drops for Tennessee lawmakers

NASHVILLE — Preston Bronaugh’s opinion of the Tennessee legislature turns on a single issue: its treatment of teachers.

“Teachers should be more valued than that. It’s just a travesty,” the Jefferson Street resident said last week. “What kind of incentive do they have to be teachers, coming out of school, if you’re going to put it to them like that?”

Support for the General Assembly has plummeted 20 percentage points since January, according to a Vanderbilt University poll, and the cause appears to be controversial votes such as the Republican-led fight to remake Tennessee’s laws on teachers unions.

Five months ago, state lawmakers were viewed favorably by nearly two-thirds of Tennesseans. Now not even half say they approve of the job the GOP-controlled legislature is doing.

The decline demonstrates the honeymoon period that began when Republicans swept into office last November has ended.

“That was before governing had taken place,” said John Geer, a Vanderbilt political science professor who helped conduct the poll. “It says they’ve made tough decisions, and once you do that, your popularity is going to drop.”

While difficult to isolate which issues have caused Tennesseans to sour on the legislature, the session-long debate over taking away teachers’ ability to negotiate union contracts appears to have contributed to the legislature’s slide.

A majority of respondents to the Vanderbilt poll said they oppose the law. The issue also came up frequently in interviews conducted last week with Middle Tennesseans.

“I’m not displeased by the governor,” said Bronaugh. “I just believe that some of the things that Republicans are voicing overall are counterproductive.”

Drops across the board

The legislature registered an approval rating of 45.8 percent in Vanderbilt’s poll of 700 Tennesseans. In January, 65.6 percent said they approved of the legislature.

Support fell equally among Republicans, Democrats and independents. All three groups approved of the legislature in January, but now only Republicans say lawmakers are doing a good job.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said Republicans bear sole responsibility for the drop in popularity.

“If there is unhappiness with the legislature, then it is unhappiness with a Republican legislature who spent this term beating up on teachers and did nothing about our rising unemployment,” he said. “I believe the Republican legislature is squandering goodwill and complicating life for our governor.”

But House Speaker Beth Harwell said she remained proud of the legislature’s record this session.

“I think the general public will always have a healthy cynicism toward government,” she said. “It [a decline in popularity] is not consistent with what I’m hearing from the public.”

Gov. Bill Haslam’s approval rating rose slightly to 56.3 percent. The Republican governor kept a fairly low profile during the fight over teachers unions and other controversial issues.

But Haslam’s disapproval rate rose as well, climbing to 21 percent from 15 percent in January.

“My husband voted for the first time for a Republican [in November],” said Susan Oakley, a clerk at the Eye Spec’s glasses shop in Hermitage. “He will never vote for a Republican again. He is hot. He’s been teaching over 20 years, and he’s not happy.”

Fred Stevenhagen, a Franklin developer, said there was a place for unions “in the ’20s and ’30s, when the sweatshops were around.”

“But I think it has decreased, and I think what we have to do is not forget about the unions, but temper our positions with the unions so that the benefit of the unions is for all Tennesseans, not just the unions.”

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u4icmusic said...

It's not only teachers. Who will the Republican attack next? The Republicans are destroying the middle class and the rich are getting richer. I'll never vote for a Republican, period.

June 19, 2011 at 9:44 a.m.
dave said...

The NEA is losing support is what this article should say. Folks are fed up with taxes being raised every time you turn around "for education...oh, it's for the children...."
Remember that is what that lottery money was supposed to go to...So where is all the funds raised by that???? The NEA has been calling the shots long enough and they don't like having their wings clipped. I am tired of paying fat cat salaries for marginal work... You can also recall the old adage "those that can't teach". What this is about is folks are tired of being raped with taxes. I for one are TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!

June 19, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.
u4icmusic said...

Dave, it appears the education system failed you since you don't even speak proper English. Maybe teachers should be paid even more. The correct verbage would be, "I for one am taxed enough already." Not "are" taxed enough already. Also, you should have written, "So where are all the funds raised by that???" Not "is" all the funds. Get an education before posting on here.

June 19, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.
Salsa said...

Check a list of the wealthiest members of Congress and you'll find that at least half of the richest members are Democrats (starting with position #1). Both Democrats and Republicans support the rich. The Democrats just lie more about their support.

June 19, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

u4icmusic said... "it appears the education system failed you since you don't even speak proper English. Maybe teachers should be paid even more."

Let me get this right. You find an example of a poorly constructed sentence and you think you have found "evidence" that it is time to throw more money at the education system?

Your dim witted approach is EXACTLY what has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

June 19, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
tbm said...

Ok Verb Boy. Dave's point is more important than his grammer. The Democrats and Republicans have you fooled, proper english and all. No matter which party is in control its the same old crap. Until we wake up and fire them crooks in control we are doomed.I have a feeling a 3rd party will soon emerge. Hope its not to late when they do.

June 19, 2011 at 11:44 a.m.
hambone said...

Wait till the fall and school starts again, we'll see how many teachers return to teach.

When the schools come up short handed will taxes have to be raised to get teachers to fill the empty positions?

June 19, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.
hotdiggity said...

Regarding teachers, once again the Repubs show their disdain for the average worker and seek to balance their books on the back of the people who teach our children.

The current administration and the right wing seem to forget that Tennessee was awarded a $500 million education grant in part because the Tennessee Education Association, a teachers’ union, agreed to reforms to better serve our childrens education. Governor Bredeson was key in promoting these reforms and winning this grant. So what does our new Governor do as one of his first orders of business? He spits on our teachers who have agreed to try to better educate our children by reducing their ability to negotiate a living wage. Mr. Bredeson, we miss you already. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/jan/15/clay-bennett-the-exit/?opinioncartoons

June 19, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
llamapop said...

To paraphrase a famous philosopher: They came for the unions. I said nothing because I am not in a union. They came for women's reproductive parts. I said nothing because I am not a woman. They came for my Medicare. I said nothing as I am not old. They came for me. There was no one left to speak for me. Wake up folks!

June 19, 2011 at 3:17 p.m.
brokentoe said...

“My husband voted for the first time for a Republican [in November],” said Susan Oakley, a clerk at

"How DARE THEY!! put a black man in the White PEOPLE'S House?!!!" They showed them democrats, even if it meant shooting themselves in the foot. The rest of us tried to warn y'all about the Repubs/GOP. This is NOT the same Republican Party of Lincoln. They're imposters! There's nothing "conservative" or "moral" about them. Just wait! Surely, there's more to come from these imposters.

June 19, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.
Selah said...

I agree with you brokentoe...THIS IS NOT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF LINCOLN...IT IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL...they are trying to establish a monarchy that keeps the wealth amongst a few and within a cast of families and those good enough to slide in...SLAVERY is coming for us all If YOU do not VOTE...make democrats change their stance on homosexuality and abortion...b/c this is the only reason many vote republican

June 19, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Told you so. Told you so. I could read the future in the "tea leaves."

June 20, 2011 at 1:49 a.m.
Selah said...

JUST REMEMBER TO VOTE...LET'S NOT LOSE THIS FIRE NOR FORGET THE DAMAGE AND FALSEHOOD WE WERE FED...been foolish before not again...

love it Hotdiggity... I miss Gov. Phil B already...We need him to run for Federal seat ...let's encourage back into the powerseats

Exactly right llamapop...until it hits u personally people fail to act...we must see the greater impact of what is happening even when it doesnt directly involve us...the Republicans do and they came up with the PLANS to do exactly what they are doing now...Guess what I am not even a Democrat or Independant

June 20, 2011 at 3:06 a.m.
Selah said...

Salsa...whose tax records have you been looking out...get some glasses...a good eye doctor in town...Dr. Miller on Gunbarrel RD.

June 20, 2011 at 3:07 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

The war on teachers, the war on women, the war on the middle class... what's with all these wars by the Republicans? Americans are not the enemy. Why the hatred against fellow Americans just trying to have a better life? Let's face it: they want to privatize everything for their cronies to take over and get rich profits from what used to be government jobs which had no profit. It has good and fair benefits for those who worked those jobs. Privatizing these jobs gets rid of decent wages and fair benefits and turns them to profits for the greedy GOP at the top of the heap. These people are mean, lazy, arrogant and shameless. Enough!

June 20, 2011 at 7:10 a.m.
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