This story was updated May 17, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.
NASHVILLE — Buoyed by independents and even some Republicans, former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen is viewed more favorably by Tennessee voters than Republican rival U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the U.S. Senate race, according to a new poll.
Sixty-seven percent of 1,400 registered voters surveyed held a favorable view of Bredesen while 49 percent viewed Blackburn favorably, according to the survey conducted by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
The April 26-May 8 survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
Among independents, Bredesen was viewed favorably by 69 percent of respondents while just 44 percent said they saw Blackburn, a conservative firebrand, favorably.
Even among Republicans, Bredesen had 52 percent favorability. Seventy-two percent of GOP voters saw Blackburn in a favorable light.
Eighty-five percent of Democrats said they saw Bredesen favorably, while just 23 percent of Democrats saw Blackburn favorably.
"This is a significant lead for Bredesen, but it's not a lock," said Dr. John Geer, a Vanderbilt political science professor. "Partisanship could swing voters back in Blackburn's favor and bring home the GOP base."
Still, Geer noted, "if this election were held today, Marsha Blackburn would be in trouble."
Viewed another way, 27 percent of voters said they were favorable to both Blackburn and Bredesen. Five percent were unfavorable to both candidates. Twenty-four percent were favorable to Blackburn but not Bredesen. But 42 percent said they were favorable to Bredesen and not favorably inclined to Blackburn.
In subcategories of Republican, Democratic or independent voters, the margin of error rises slightly. Geer said he and Clinton opted to expand the poll to 1,400 to minimize that. Geer estimated the margin of error at between 5 and 5.5 percent in the smaller categories.
Besides having been a popular two-term governor, Bredesen has been advertising on television since early March, while Blackburn has yet to go up on the air in any significant manner.
The race to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga has attracted national attention because other polling has indicate Bredesen makes it competitive.
At the urging of some Republicans, former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., entered the GOP primary last October, then earlier this year he exited and joined others in calling on Corker to reconsider his decision to retire. Corker did, briefly, and said he would stand by his original decision and not run.
Neither Bredesen nor Blackburn have significant opposition their respective Aug. 2 primaries. The general election is Nov. 6.
In a recent poll of 625 voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, 46 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Bredesen while 43 percent said they backed Blackburn. Eleven percent of voters surveyed were undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent, meaning it was a virtual statistical dead heat.
According to Vanderbilt pollsters, Tennessee voters continue to "skew" center-right. Thirty-two percent self identified in the poll as Republicans, while 31 percent described themselves as independents. Twenty-five percent identified as Democrats.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.