April 21, 2023 7:00am

Tennessee Three find broad support in Memphis, across the state

Power Poll members in state's four biggest cities object to expulsions

Photo of David Waters
Memphis, TN Correspondent

A large majority of Power Poll members in Tennessee's four largest cities object to the legislature's decision earlier this month to expel two Black lawmakers for violating House rules of decorum.

Only eight percent of Power Poll in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga gree that state Reps. Justin Pearson of Memphis and Justin Jones of Nashville, both Democrats, should have been expelled.

Fifty-seven percent of members believe expulsions were too harsh, although a lesser punishment was warranted.

And 34 percent believe there should have been no punishment at all. Two percent had no opinion.

The feelings of Memphis members more or less matched their counterparts in the other big cities.

In Memphis, 8 percent of Power Poll members agreed with the legislature, 51 percent said expulsion ws too harsh, and 39 percent said there should have been no punishment.

Pearson, Jones and a third lawmaker, state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, broke procedural rules to lead a protest from the House floor calling for gun law reforms.

The protest came days after a gunman killed six people, including three children, at Covenent Christian School in Memphis.

Republican House members, largely white and male, voted to expel Pearson and Jones, both of whom used a bullhorn during the protest. A motion to expel Johnson, who did not use a bullhorn, failed by one vote.

"It might have to do with the color of our skin," said Johnson, who is white.

Thirty-six percent of Memphis Poll members believe the expulsions were racist, 23 percent believe they were political, and 20 percent say they were anti-democratic.

Only 9 percent believe the expulsions were understandable. Another 11 percent call them unfortunate.

Meanwhile, a whopping 84 percent of members agree that the Shelby County Commission was right to return Pearson to the legislature.

Only 10 percent of members believe the commission made the wrong decision.

Power Poll members in all four big cities also were asked if the actions of the so-called Tennessee Three (Pearson, Jones and Johnson) moved the political needle toward gun control reform.

Forty-seven percent said the protests moved the needle significantly or somewhat, but 51 percent said very little or not at all. Two percent had no opinion.

Memphis members were less persuaded. Only 41 percent said the protests advanced the cause of gun control reform significantly or somewhat; 56 percent said very little or not at all.

Power Poll members in Nashville felt otherwise. A majority (53 percent) said the protests did advance the cause of gun control reform; 46 said very little or not at all.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

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.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll