Support is on the uptick for expanding Medicaid and approval for the governor is holding steady despite upheaval in his administration over how child abuse cases are handled, according to a recent poll.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of respondents said they are in favor of some sort of school voucher program, according to the Vanderbilt University poll conducted between May 6 and 13.
“It’s a story of stability, for the governor and the state legislature,” said John Geer, co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, which conducted the poll of 813 registered voters.
Medicaid, school vouchers and the future of the state’s Department of Children Services are still in flux as the governor decides how to move forward on those key policy issues.
Gov. Bill Haslam enjoys a 63 percent approval rating, down from 68 percent in Vanderbilt’s December poll, although the rating falls within the margin of error and is not statistically significant, said Geer. Haslam’s ratings are the fourth highest among fellow GOP governors, according to the poll.
Among Republicans, 76 percent approve of the governor’s performance, compared to 54 percent of Democrats. Sixty-eight percent of people who identify as belonging to the tea party also approve of the governor, as do 62 percent of independents.
The 51 percent approval rating of the state legislature is also on par with the university’s last poll that found 52 percent approved of the General Assembly. The difference, however, falls within the study’s margin of error.
Approval of the governor did not differ between people who have or have not heard or are aware of the ongoing investigations of the Department of Children Services, a state agency that the media has called into question over how cases for at-risk children are handled. According to the poll, 63 percent of voters who have heard or read about the investigation approve of the governor’s performance, the same as the percentage of people who said they have not heard or read about the investigation.
Thoughts about expanding Medicaid in Tennessee are shifting, according to Josh Clinton, an associate professor of political science involved in the poll. A third of respondents said they support the decision not to expand the state’s Medicaid program, which represents a 9 percent drop from December when pollsters last asked where people stood on the topic.
Just half of those who identify themselves with GOP leanings support not expanding Medicaid. According to the poll, 51 percent of Republicans said they support skipping out on expanding Medicaid, as did 54 percent of those with the tea party.
Haslam announced this spring  he would not take the federal government up on expanding the state’s Medicaid program to provide health care for more low-income people, also known as TennCare. He said he would instead research an alternative option to expand coverage.
The governor is also poised to pitch another school voucher program next year. This year, he offered the legislature a limited program providing “opportunity scholarships” to low-income students from the state’s worst performing schools to attend a private school instead. He later pulled his legislation after a legislator threatened to expand his bill.
The poll found 31 percent of respondents favor a statewide school voucher program and 35 favor a limited voucher program, for a total of 66 percent in favor of some voucher program. Twenty-six percent oppose a voucher program.