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Vanderbilt Poll Snapshot

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The Vanderbilt Poll is a charter member of the AAPOR Transparency Project.


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Joshua D. Clinton

John Geer

News Archives

Religious themes color politics in "born again' Tennessee

Marriage Equality in Tennessee? Vanderbilt Poll Shows Significant Shift

VU Poll: Support Growing For Medicaid Expansion In Tennessee

Vanderbilt University Poll: Tennesseans favor Medicaid expansion

Vanderbilt poll finds growing support for same-sex marriage

VU poll: Support for Medicaid expansion increases, Haslam's approval stays steady

Geer and Clinton present VU Poll results to TPA

Tennesseans show 'bittersweet' reactions to health law in Vanderbilt Poll

TN legislature should focus on economy: Vanderbilt Poll

"Bias against Mormonism may not keep Romney out of White House"

"Vanderbilt Poll: Santorum leading Republican candidate in Tennessee"

"Vanderbilt Poll: Tennesseans stout in support for Herman Cain"

"Vanderbilt Poll: Economy is troubled and taxing rich is the solution"

"Controversial bills might have cost TN General Assembly Popularity Points"


Phone: 615.875.6954
Fax: 615.343.6003


September 2016

In January 2011, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI) launched the Vanderbilt Poll to provide a non-partisan and scientifically based reading of public opinion within the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville. The Vanderbilt Poll conducts surveys at least twice a year, prior to the start of the state legislative session and at its conclusion. In September 2015, the Poll carried out its first survey focusing exclusively on the Nashville area. Our focus in all our polls is to uncover what citizens think about important public policy issues and to make our findings available to citizens, policy-makers, and scholars. Since 2011, the Vanderbilt Poll has surveyed over 18,000 Tennesseans and all poll results are available at

Vanderbilt University (VU) offers an ideal setting for polling opinion across the state and in the Nashville area. Not only is Vanderbilt located in the state capital, but it is also a private institution that does not rely on funding from the state or local government. This allows the flexibility to ask questions on controversial issues that may be facing the city and state. VU also has committed sufficient resources for us to employ state-of-the-art techniques in gathering the best possible data. Good polling is costly and cutting corners can lead to questionable data. Finally, CSDI and VU have extensive polling expertise among its faculty, students, and staff.

Joshua Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkleried Professor of Political Science, and John Geer, Vice Provost of Academic and Strategic Affairs and Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, have served as co-directors of the Vanderbilt Poll since its inception. Clinton received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, where he also earned an M.S. in Statistics and Economics. Geer received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he also earned an M.A. in Politics. Both have substantial experience in survey research, developing representative samples, drafting survey questions, and analyzing data.

We take our objective of providing an unbiased reading of public opinion very seriously. As a result, we conduct telephone interviews through both landlines and cell phones. We also weight all statistical results to achieve an accurate demographic representation. Beginning in May 2015, we began using a registered voter list to identify the sample of respondents. This allows us to gain better understanding about the opinions that state leaders hear and allows us to produce more reliable statistical estimates by eliminating the need to trim samples to exclude non-voters.

To help identify the most important issues facing our community and to ensure that our questions avoid ideological and partisan bias, we relied on the expertise of the Poll’s Board of Advisors. Our Board evaluated the poll prior to it going in the field. We started by soliciting suggestions from the Board about what topics to include on the poll and made every effort to utilize those suggestions. Once we wrote questions for the Poll, we got the Board’s reaction to our proposed questions and then made further revisions based on those reactions.

Current VU Poll Board members are:

  • Samar Ali, attorney at Bone McAllester Norton PLLC and co-founder of the Lodestone Advisory Group
  • Charles W. Bone, attorney and chairman of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC
  • José González, instructor of entrepreneurship and management, Belmont University
  • Tom Ingram, political strategist with The Ingram Group
  • Roy M. Neel, senior adviser to former Vice President Al Gore
  • Bill Phillips, government relations consultant and former Nashville deputy mayor
  • Bill Purcell, former Nashville mayor and partner at Farmer Purcell White & Lassiter, PLLC
  • Lisa Quigley, Chief of Staff for Rep. Jim Cooper
  • Anne Russell, special counsel at Adams and Reese LLP
  • Chip Saltsman, former chief of staff for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and political strategist
  • Jamie Woodson, President and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

In April 2015, the Vanderbilt Poll became a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative, which is dedicated to encouraging broader and more effective disclosure of research methods among survey organizations. Detailed information about the methodology of our polls can be found on our website at

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Upcoming Events

10/28/16 Rick Valelly, Swarthmore

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Latest Research

5/25/16 - CSDI Working Paper 2016-2 titled "Economic Development, Mobility and Political Discontent: An Experimental Test of Tocqueville's Thesis in Pakistan." has been released. The paper is authored by Andrew Healy, Katrina Kosec and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo

5/15/16 - CSDI Working Paper 2016 -1 titled "Social Exclusion and Political Identity: The Case of Asian American Partisanship" has been released. The paper is authored by Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhorta and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo

12/15/15 - CSDI Working Paper 2015 - 3 titled "Delegation and Bureaucratic Policymaking in the Presence of Binding Legal Constraints: Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There..." has been released. The paper is authored by Alan E. Wiseman and John R. Wright



6/30/15 CSDI Working Paper 2015-2 titled "Controlling Agency Choke Points: Presidents and Regulatory Personnel Turnover" has been released. The paper is authored by Kathleen M. Doherty, David E. Lewis and Scott Limbocker.

4/1/15 CSDI Working Paper 2015-1 titled"Incorporating Legislative Effectiveness into Nonmarket Strategy: The Case of Financial Services Reform and the Great Recession"has been released. The paper is authored by Craig Volden and CSDI Affiliate Alan E. Wiseman.

12/19/14 CSDI Working Paper 2014-7 titled ''Spatial Models of Legislative Effectiveness''has been released. The paper is authored by Matthew P. HittCraig Volden, and CSDI Affiliate Alan E. Wiseman.

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Media Spotlight

Vox - 10/14/16 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels and Chris Achen's book "Democracy For Realists" is described as  "...the best book to help you understand the wild 2016 campaign."

NY Times - 9/12/16 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels discusses "The Rise of Presidential Extremists."

NY Times - 5/23/16 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels and Chris Achen ask "Do Sanders supporters favor his policies?"

Salon - 5/10/2016 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels research is discussed in Neal Garber's piece entitled "There are no Reagan Democrats: The GOP has become the party of rich, white, southerners."

Los Angeles Times - 5/9/16 - CSDI Co-Director John Geer and Lynn Vavreck's  SpotCheck project is mentioned in David Lauter's article "Why it took two weeks for a Donald Trump attack ad to anger people. "

Los Angeles Times - 5/2/16 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels and Chris Achen argue "The Presidential Primaries are Out of Control - and the Party Conventions are Broken."  

Washington Post - 3/7/16 - CSDI Co-Director Larry Bartels economic voting model is used by Dr. Matthew Atkinson and Dr. Darin DeWitt to analyze the 2016 Presidential Race.

NBC News - 2/22/1- CSDI Co-Director Josh Clinton, Hannah Hartig and John Lapinski ask Where Will Bush Supporters Go?"

NBC News - 1/27/16 - CSDI Co-Director Josh Clinton, graduate affiliate Carolyn Roush and Dr. John Lapinski explain "Where Sanders and Clinton are Dominating." 

The Guardian - 1/15/16 - CSDI affiliate Marc Hetherington asks "What would Lincoln do: is Obama right he would have better bridged the divide?"

NBC News - 1/5/16 - CSDI Co-Director Josh Clinton, graduate affiliate Carolyn Roush and Dr. John Lapinski examine "How Republicans and Democrats Feel About Their Opponents."

Monkey Cage - 12/28/15 - CSDI affiliate Alan Wiseman and Craig Volden reveal the 10 most effective lawmakers in the US Congress

NBC News - 11/17/16 - CSDI Co-Director Josh Clinton, graduate affiliate Carolyn Roush and Dr. John Lapinski explore the differences between Carson and Trump supporters.

VU Poll - November 2015 - 8/19/15 - CSDI Co-Director Josh Clinton, graduate affiliate Carrie Roush, and Dr. John Lapinski, Director of the Elections Unit at NBC news take a closer look at Trump supporters.

Washington Post - 8/3/15 - CSDI Co-Director David Lewis and graduate affiliate Mark Richardson's Survey on the Future of Government Service is examined - 7/22/15 - CSDI Co-Director John Geer is quoted in an article about Donald Trump's participation in the upcoming republican presidential debate in Cleveland.

The Fiscal Times - 7/20/15 - CSDI Co-Director David Lewis is quoted in an article about Jeb Bush's plan to reduce the federal workforce.

Newsweek -7/17/15 - CSDI Co-Director David Lewis discusses "How to Keep Good People Working in Government."

Tennessean - 7/10/15 - CSDI Co-Directors Joshua Clinton and John Geer Op-Ed, "Beware of Internal Polls to Name Nashville's Next Mayor


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Contact the CSDI

The Center for the Study of
Democratic Institutions
Vanderbilt University
PMB 505
230 Appleton Place
Nashville TN 37203

CSDI Poster




Phone: 615.875.6954
Fax: 615.343.6003