September 27, 2021 6:00am

September Power Poll results are in

As Tennessee struggles to persuade residents to get vaccinated, as workplaces struggle to fill vacancies and as hospitals continue to feel the strain of COVID hospitalizations, just under half of respondents to a new Power Poll survey agree that employers should require vaccination.

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Chattanooga, TN Correspondent

As Tennessee struggles to persuade residents to get vaccinated, as workplaces struggle to fill vacancies and as hospitals continue to feel the strain of COVID hospitalizations, just under half of respondents to a new Power Poll survey agree that employers should require vaccination.

The Chattanooga Power Poll asked: “Employers increasingly are seen as key to helping boost vaccination rates here. Which employer-based tactic do you think will be most effective in getting vaccination numbers up?”

Forty-seven percent said “Employers should require vaccination if they determine it will protect workplace safety.”

That figure falls slightly below the 54% of respondents in a new national poll by CBS/SSRS who said they favor workplace vaccine mandates.

Next, 40% of Power Poll respondents said employers should take a less heavy-handed approach. They supported softer tactics such as education, time off to get the vaccine or even some level of compensation to encourage more vaccine uptake.

Another 13% noted that employers should simply back off. They agreed with the statement that “Employers should leave the decision to get vaccinated to their employees; it’s a personal choice.”

Local community activist Franklin McCallie, a retired educator, said vaccine mandates are, well, a must.

“Seatbelts are mandatory and save lives. Measles, mumps, and polio shots are required and save lives,” he wrote. “Mandatory coronavirus vaccinations will save lives.”

The vaccination rate in Tennessee lags behind the nation; convincing more people to take the shots has proven to be difficult. That has been especially vexing as the state recently notched an unfortunate No. 1 ranking as tops for COVID-19 infections in the nation.

For its part, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce recently announced the Healthy Chattanooga Coalition to help get vaccination levels in the region up to at least 60% by December (Hamilton County is sitting at about 47%).

Christy Gillenwater, president and CEO of the chamber, wants more businesses to join the coalition. She encouraged local businesses to check out the initiative's goals and methods at

The September Power Poll survey, conducted Monday through Thursday, was sent to 180 Power Poll members and drew 78 responses from various business, community and government leaders for a 43% response rate.

The monthly survey gauges what influential business, civic, education and nonprofit leaders and elected officials are thinking. While the survey is in no way considered a scientific poll, its results offer insights into the opinions and beliefs of key decision-makers in our area.

There was more support for President Joe Biden's recent executive order about vaccines. In response to the question: "Do you support President Joe Biden’s order that employers with more than 100 employees require vaccination or submit to weekly COVID testing?" 58% said "yes" while 42% said "no."

Those results reflect stronger support for a federal order to employers to mandate vaccines than a recent poll by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of that group said in a poll of 300 businesses across the state earlier this month about about 76% of businesses said they are not comfortable with a government mandate for employees.

Getting vaccination rates up will relieve stress on our health care system and will speed a more complete recovery from the pandemic. Wages are rising, but still employers are scrambling to fill jobs. More than half of Power Poll respondents said they have unfilled positions. In answer to the question: "Is your organization having trouble filling vacant positions right now?," 56% said "yes." The other 47% said "no."

The last several weeks have given us plenty of horrific events to watch unfold — think the U.S. Afghanistan withdrawal and migrants at the border. Then there is the upcoming Supreme Court case on abortion. And then there is government funding and the debt ceiling theatrics that we will be treated to as early as next week.

So to lighten the mood and remind us all about America's spirit of exploration, ingenuity and perseverance, we asked about Elon Musk's recent triumph with his SpaceX/Inspiration4 flight. Just how willing are Power Pollers to launch into space and sneak an out-of-this-world view of our planet Earth?

"If you had the money, would you hop on a SpaceX flight to orbit the Earth?," nearly a third answered with an enthusiastic "Yes!" But Earth dwellers ruled, with 55% saying "No" (three times) and 18% adamantly indicating their feet would stay on terra firma.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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