Power Poll Shows Most Think Lee Will Be Elected Governor. Most Urban Leaders, Meanwhile, Say They Will Vote For Dean.
A majority of top leaders in Chattanooga say they plan to vote for Republican Bill Lee for Tennessee's next governor, and an even bigger share of local leaders predict Lee will win the gubernatorial race, according to a new Power Poll of business, civic, media and political insiders.
Lee, a Franklin, Tennessee businessman and cattle farmer who is making his first bid for elected office, enjoyed his best support in Chattanooga among the influential leaders surveyed across Tennessee over the past week. Among the 68 Chattanooga leaders who responded to the new Power Poll, 56 percent said they will vote for Lee, compared with 34 percent of the local leaders who said they plan to vote for Democrat Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor. The other 10 percent of the local leaders say they are still undecided.
This first Power Poll survey in Chattanooga was sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
When asked who they think will win the Nov. 6 gubernatorial race, 88 percent of the respondents in Chattanooga predicted that Lee will be the next governor, compared with only 12 percent who think Dean will be elected.
Support for Lee was strongest in Chattanooga of all of the four major metro areas included in the new Power Poll, which contacted 1,658 of the most influential leaders in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Among those surveyed, 34 percent responded to the anonymous email poll.
Dean was favored by a majority of the business, government and community leaders contacted for the Power Poll in the three biggest cities in Tennessee, although the overwhelming majority of respondents across the entire state still think Lee will be elected.
In his hometown of Nashville where Dean served as mayor from 2007 to 2015 and was previously a city legal director and public defender, 72 percent of the respondents said they plan to vote for Dean, compared with only 21 percent for Lee.
Dean enjoyed 70 percent support in Memphis and 52 percent support in Knoxville.
But nearly two-thirds of the leaders surveyed in all the major Tennessee cities still think Lee will be elected.
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Bruce Dobie, the president of Dobie Media, Inc., in Nashville, who created the Power Poll to gather and publish the opinions of those who run cities and states, said the support for Dean in the survey reflects the Democratic partisan leaning of Tennessee's biggest cities. Lee, who bills himself as a rural farmer, enjoys his strongest support in rural areas and small and suburban cities of Tennessee.
"What is so significant about this particular poll though is that while many of the respondents said they planned to vote for Dean, they still think he is going to be defeated," Dobie said. "Power Poll members are very plugged-in to political activity, and we find that when they predict an outcome they are almost always right. They possess more information than the average voter; thus their ability to accurately predict an outcome is greater."
In the RealClear Politics summary of public opinion polls done in the Tennessee gubernatorial contest, Lee enjoys an average 13.3 percent lead over Dean.
No Democratic candidate has been elected to statewide office in Tennessee since Phil Bredesen was re-elected governor in 2007.
"What the Power Poll is saying that even Karl Dean's most powerful supporters don't think he is going to win," Dobie said. "Bill Lee's cattle-farming, air-conditioning-fixing, family-loving, Jesus-worshipping, cowboy-boot-wearing, country-handsome bonafides are just so strong that this race, as Power Poll members seem to think, is lopsidedly in Lee's favor. Bill Lee has still not gone negative and is still loving everyone. As Power Poll members clearly indicate, that is enough to likely make him Tennessee's next governor."
Dobie said he created the Power Poll in Tennessee and hopes to expand the model nationwide to gather the thoughts and opinions of business leaders, nonprofit executives, important educators, elected officials, members of the media and other opinion leaders who have the greatest knowledge of and influence in their communities. Dobie said social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram create a lot of noise in the media, but the Power Poll "reduces the noise and isolates the opinions of those who are capable of making change and influencing opinion."
"Power Poll possesses something extraordinary—knowledge and awareness of what our leaders are thinking," he said. "Power Poll aims to conduct a conversation with its powerful members to figure out where their heads are and where they want their communities to go."