Vanderbilt poll: Trump leads Clinton in Tennessee by 11 percent

Privacy booths await early voters at the North River Civic Center in Hixson. Late Tuesday afternoon, Elections Programer Nathan Foster makes sure computers and network are set up and ready for today. "North River is a new location," Foster said. "Previously, it had been somewhere inside Northgate Mall. Now we have a stable location at the center. We're working with the city of Chattanooga to use this facility for as far as we can see," he said. There are four Hamilton County early voting locations: Eastwood Church in Collegedale, Brainerd Recreation Complex, North River Civic Center and the Hamilton County Election Commission office at Amnicola Highway, according to Foster.
photo In this Monday, Oct. 3, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, in Loveland, Colo. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

NASHVILLE - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leads Democrat Hillary Clinton here in GOP-friendly Tennessee by 11 percent with the help of women, independents, suburban and college-educated voters, according to a new Vanderbilt University poll.

Trump, the billionaire businessman and former reality star, bests former Secretary of State Clinton by 44 percent to 33 percent among voters surveyed in the Vanderbilt poll, the survey's directors, John Geer and Josh Clinton, said Thursday.

Seventy-three percent of Trump supporters here say they're angry versus just 13 percent for Clinton. But 66 percent of voters who said they are "basically content" favor Clinton.

The political science professors say at this point nothing short of a catastrophe could stop Trump from winning Tennessee. The GOP nominee has struggled in some battleground states with the same groups he leads Clinton with in Tennessee.

Seven percent of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed in the poll, conducted Sept. 19 through Sunday, said they back Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. One percent said they would vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Five percent said they backed another candidate or would not vote, while 7 percent said just short of a month before the Nov. 8 election that they still don't know how they'll cast their ballot.

The survey has a margin of error of 3.4 percent. It generally tracks findings from a Middle Tennessee State University poll released earlier this week, which found Trump in the lead with 48 percent versus 36 percent for Clinton.

"People are locked in," Geer told reporters Thursday, noting that while Trump's first debate with Clinton may be causing him problems elsewhere in the country, that hasn't been the case with voters here. "They have their preferences and they're not going to shift them very much, barring a cataclysmic event. Tennessee is going to go Republican. There's no debate about that."

Still, Trump is doing nowhere near as well in Tennessee as did 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who took the state by 20 percentage points over Democratic President Barack Obama.

Half of Tennesseans in suburban and rural areas said they back Trump, while Clinton struggled respectively with 23 percent and 29 percent support. But Clinton did fare better in urban areas, generally a good place for Democrats, with 49 percent compared to 27 percent for Trump.

Still, one surprising finding was that in Metro Nashville, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, Clinton support was at just 40 percent compared to 38 percent for Trump. That's within the poll's margin of error. In West Tennessee, which includes urban Memphis with its large black population, the margin was 46 percent for Clinton and 28 percent for Trump.

The MTSU survey found that 56 percent of white voters back Trump versus 23 percent for Clinton. Sixty-five percent of minorities, meanwhile, said they backed Clinton while just 9 percent said they supported Trump.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of men said they backed Trump compared to 32 percent who said they backed Clinton. And 42 percent of women said they support the Republican while just 33 percent back the Democratic nominee. Forty-two percent of Tennesseans with a degree said they are voting for Trump compared to 36 percent for Clinton.

Trump also does better among millennials, with 38 percent support versus 28 percent for Clinton. And Libertarian Johnson drew 22 percent of these voters ages 18-29.

Ward Baker, a Tennessee-based Republican political consultant, said he was surprised that the Vanderbilt poll showed 47 percent of Clinton voters were "very enthusiastic" about Clinton versus just 41 percent for Trump.

Because of that, he said, GOP candidates in down-ballot contests shouldn't rely solely on Trump enthusiasm to turn out their votes and should utilize data-driven turnout programs.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.