Disapproval of Sen. Corker rises in wake of feud with Trump

(l-r) President Donald Trump and Tennessee  U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

(l-r) President Donald Trump and Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

Disapproval of Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has risen to 41% among Tennessee voters, according to the latest MTSU poll, a 14-point climb since last spring and in the wake of his public feud with President Donald Trump.

Disapproval of Trump edged up, too, from 32% to 40% during the same period. But Trump’s approval held steady at 50% well above national approval rate of about 37%. Corker’s approval dropped from 52% in the spring to 45% now, putting his approval rate below Trump’s but in the same range, given the poll’s four-percentage-point error margin.

“Essentially, Corker’s negatives have increased markedly, but he has ended up only a bit behind Trump in terms of approval, and possibly on par with him,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “Meanwhile, some ‘undecideds’ have switched to disapproval of President Trump, but Trump’s base is sticking with him and keeping his approval rate relatively high in the state overall.”

Job approval ratings for Corker and Trump were combined to get a sense of whom Tennessee voters would favor if the two were pitted against each other. Among state voters who express an opinion about both men, 35% approve of Trump and disapprove of Corker. A statistically similar 32% approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump. Twenty-one percent approve of both Corker and Trump, and 13% disapprove of both.

As for approval of other key political players, the poll also found that:
• 56% approve of Gov. Bill Haslam, compared to 57% in the spring
• 48% approve of the Tennessee General Assembly, compared to 50% in the spring
• 45% approve of Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, unchanged from the spring
• 13% approve of the U.S. Congress, compared to 21% in the spring

The poll also asked how much Tennessee voters had read or heard about the recent conflict between Corker and Trump. Overall, 68% say they have read or heard ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about the conflict and 31% say they have read or heard ‘only a little’ or ‘nothing at all until now’ about the conflict. The rest say they don’t know or refuse to respond.

Overall, among Tennessee voters who say they have read or heard ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about the conflict: 40% disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump; 34% approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump; 15% approve of both Corker and Trump; and 12% disapprove of both.

Among Tennessee voters who said they had read or heard ‘only a little’ or ‘nothing’ about the conflict: 37% approve of both Corker and Trump; 27% approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump; 22% disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump; and 15% disapprove of both Trump and Corker.

Among self-identified Democrats (23% of the sample) a large, 71% majority of those who say they have read or heard ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about the conflict approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump. Even among Democrats who say they have heard ‘only a little’ or ‘nothing’ about the conflict, a 53% majority disapprove of Trump and approve of Corker.

Among self-identified Republicans (35% or the sample), a 65% majority of those who say they have read or heard ‘some’ or ‘lot’ about the conflict disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump. But among Republicans who say they have read or heard ‘only a little’ or ‘nothing’ about the conflict, a 56% majority approve of both Corker and Trump.

Finally, among the largest group of respondents, who identify as independents or something else (40% of the sample), a 40% plurality of those who say they have read or heard ‘some’ or a ‘a lot’ about the conflict disapprove of Corker and approve of Trump, followed by 36% who approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump.

The largest group of independents who say they have heard ‘only a little’ or ‘nothing’ about the conflict disapprove of both Corker and Trump (30%), followed by those who approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump (26%).

“It appears that Trump has generally weathered the conflict better than Corker among Tennesseans, with the exception of self-identified Democrats who strongly favor Corker,” said Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, “and perhaps some independents who appear to be disengaged from the story and either disapprove of both or approve of Corker and disapprove of Trump.”