Lee has 6-point advantage in new poll

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates talk education during SCORE event at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, January 23, 2018. (Photo credit: Belmont University)

Franklin businessman Bill Lee leads the contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a new poll. The JMC Analytics and Polling phone poll of 500 registered voters found 26% support for Lee, 20% for Randy Boyd, 19% for Diane Black, and 16% for Beth Harwell. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Polling site FiveThirtyEight gives JMC at C-plus ranking.

Among the poll’s findings:

“When testing the favorability of the top four contenders, all have over 90% name recognition. Bill Lee’s numbers are the strongest (52-17% favorability ratio). Beth Harwell also has a respectable 39-18% favorability ratio. Randy Boyd’s favorability ratio is 39-31%, while Diane Black is “underwater” 45-30%.”

“In summary, Bill Lee has a lead (but not a secure one) in the primary race for Governor, while the remaining three major candidates are statistically neck and neck with a relatively low undecided percentage less than two weeks from the primary.”

Here are the full results:


For this poll, a sample of likely households was chosen from the population registered to vote in the state of Tennessee for a “hybrid” automated (for landlines)/live (for cell phones) poll, where 79% of the phone numbers were landlines and 21% of the phone numbers were cell phones. There were 500 completed responses to 12 poll questions.

The survey was conducted July 18-21. The margin of error, with a 95% confidence interval, was 4.4%. The demographic breakdown of the respondents was 96-2% white/black (2% “other”), while the geographic breakdown of the respondents was as follows: 45% from eastern Tennessee, 37% from middle Tennessee, and 18% from western Tennessee (The explanation of the boundaries of these regions is graphically depicted in Exhibit A at the end of the poll analysis).


Question 1: Do you plan to vote in the August 2 Republican primary?

Yes 71%
No 17%
Undecided 13%

Question 2: (Only if “Yes” or “Undecided” is selected for Question #1) Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of President Donald Trump?

Approve 74%
Disapprove 16%
No Opinion 10%

Question 3: If the Republican primary for Governor were held today, which candidate would you support?

Lee 26%
Boyd 20%
Black 19%
Harwell 16%
Marceaux 1%
White <1%
Undecided 17%

Question 4: (Only if undecided selected for previous question) Given that you are undecided, which candidate are you leaning towards supporting?

Lee 27%
Boyd 23%
Black 21%
Harwell 18%
Marceaux 1%
White <1%
Undecided 11%

Question 5: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Diane Black?

Favorable 30%
Unfavorable 45%
No Opinion 23%
Never Heard 2%

Question 6: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Randy Boyd?

Favorable 39%
Unfavorable 31%
No Opinion 27%
Never Heard 3%

Question 7: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Beth Harwell?

Favorable 39%
Unfavorable 18%
No Opinion 34%
Never Heard 9%

Question 8: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bill Lee?

Favorable 52%
Unfavorable 17%
No Opinion 27%
Never Heard 4%

Question 9: What type of Republican would you classify yourself as?

Trump Republican 36%
Traditional Republican 25%
Libertarian 9%
Social conservative 7%
TEA Partier 5%
Undecided 19%

Question 10: Would you describe yourself as an evangelical Christian?

Yes 69%
No 22%
Undecided 9%

Question 11: To ensure that our survey responses are most accurate, are you male or female?

Female                                                            52%

Male                                                                48%

 Question 12: And for demographic purposes, what is your age?

18-34 7%
35-54 24%
55-64 21%
65 years old or over 48%


 JMC Analytics and Polling independently conducted this poll for the Tennessee Republican primary for Governor. There are two main takeaways from this poll: (1) Donald Trump remains popular among Tennessee Republicans, and (2) with the primary less than two weeks away (and as of yesterday, 160,653 have early voted in the Republican primary), Bill Lee leads in the race, and the other three major contenders are not far behind, although his “lead” is at the periphery of the margin of error, depending on whether undecided “leaners” are included.

Among Republicans, Donald Trump remains popular with overwhelming support across the board, although support is not so one-sided both among self-described “traditional Republicans” and those who do not describe themselves as Evangelical Christians.

In the Governor’s race, Bill Lee is currently out front, while Randy Boyd has a small lead over Diane Black for second place, although the point spread between Boyd, Black, or Harwell is not substantial. Lee has a fairly broad base of support, although self-described “Trump Republicans” favor Black over Boyd or Lee by an eight point margin if leaners are included. From a geographic and GOP factional perspective, Lee is (relatively speaking) the strongest in middle Tennessee; he narrowly leads in Eastern Tennessee and narrowly trails in Western Tennessee, although in each region, his lead/poll deficit is within the margin of error. This is a race with a respectable amount of voter engagement: 17% (11% if leaners are included) are undecided.

When testing the favorability of the top four contenders, all have over 90% name recognition. Bill Lee’s numbers are the strongest (52-17% favorability ratio). Beth Harwell also has a respectable 39-18% favorability ratio. Randy Boyd’s favorability ratio is 39-31%, while Diane Black is “underwater” 45-30%.

In summary, Bill Lee has a lead (but not a secure one) in the primary race for Governor, while the remaining three major candidates are statistically neck and neck with a relatively low undecided percentage less than two weeks from the primary.


31 Responses to Lee has 6-point advantage in new poll

  • Tennessee Jed says:

    Lee and Harwell surging. Should be a lesson learned for political operatives. Voters are tired of swamp dwellers and the constant barrage of negative ads.

  • Kyle Mallory says:

    69% o Tennesseef Republicans are not evangelicals.

  • MarLE says:

    Maybe the poll and its results were meant to get Trump to make the Diane endorsement that everyone in her campaign wants

  • Phil Lassiter says:

    Trump won’t endorse a loser. Real reason we will have a Gov with less than 30% of Vote is because more Dems are staying in their primary and not playing in Republican one.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Actually the very real reason we have officials for high office regularly elected with less than 50% of the vote, indeed sometimes less than 30% is because we tolerate a flawed electoral system where lack of runoffs is only the beginning of a whole list of idiocies.

      • MarLE says:

        Bet Stuart would have a much more sanguine take on this poll, with a lot less tutorial content, if Diane were in the lead

        • Stuart I. Anderson says:

          That’s a bet you would lose! Electing people under a “first past the post” system is a system that does nothing but favor incumbents as their support is concentrated voting for them while their opposition votes are divided between what is usually more than one candidate.

  • Tracy says:

    Oh Kyle Mallory, still grasping!

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    We ANYBODY BUT BOYD voters need polls, lots and lots of accurate polls. The game plan now calls for conservatives to WAIT-ADVOCATE-UNIFY. WAIT until election day August 2nd to vote. ADVOCATE for your favorite candidate until election day. UNIFY behind the candidate most likely to defeat Randy! right before voting.

    I will advocate for the election of Diane Black right up to August 2nd. On August 2nd I will check the polls one last time and vote for whomever has the most support whose name isn’t Randy!. If its Lee I’ll vote for him with the hope that over the next eight years it turns out that we are lucky.

    • Wesley Smith says:

      I’m curious where this hatred of Randy Boyd comes from. I understand he’s not your candidate, but his record on jobs and education seems pretty good to me.

      • Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Wesley, NEVER in my life have I ever “hated” anyone for their political views. NEVER! I don’t even mildly dislike people who don’t agree with me about anything. I simply think they are wrong.

        I am a solid conservative and I don’t think many would disagree that Randy! has the most liberal record of any of the four candidates running for governor in the Republican primary. Insofar as Black and Harwell have tepid conservative records and Bill Lee has no political record my primary goal in the election is the defeat of Boyd and I am willing to vote for any of the other three candidates to achieve that goal. The practical alternative to Boyd are Black or Lee. Black has a Heritage score of 78%, Lee has never shown the slightest interest in politics. I’m for Diane, but I will vote for Lee or even Harwell if they show themselves as per the polls to be most likely to defeat Randy!.

    • MarLE says:

      Stuart….do you like giving DACA “kids” a path to citizenship? Do you like a 20T national debt? Do you like increased Military spending with no requirement of “fiscal housekeeping” (no waste there, apparently). Do you like a tax plan that favors entrepreneurs (think small plumbing company, landscaper or my personal favorite~ a self-employed engineering consultant ~ etc over a salaried executive) by giving them a 40% cut in their tax rate while giving the paycheck earner a 2% rate cut?
      None of this screams “competent Chief Executive” to me.

      • Stuart I. Anderson says:

        MarLE, Diane has a lifetime Heritage score of 78%, Ted Cruz has a 90%, I “love” Cruz, I am favoring Black in a field where she is up against Randy! a centrist, No Record Candidate Lee, and little chance/head for the tall grass when the canons of controversy sound Harwell.

        You don’t have to hire a Pinkerton man to discover lousy votes Diane has cast with her 78% conservative rating in a congressional career that began in 2011. Using the MarLE criterion we all have to vote for Lee because lucky Bill Lee has shown absolutely no interest in politics whatsoever so not only hasn’t he cast any lousy votes that comes as a natural side affect from holding elective office, he hasn’t even expressed ANY lousy political thoughts either. Lee therefore is the universal solvent, anyone can love him because, well, he’s such a nice guy.

        Sorry, I’m a conservative and in this “trifecta of mediocrity” Diane has the most conservative record and I perceive that she has the temperament to be the most conservative governor. I favor her, but if my fellow Republicans make Lee or Harwell most likely to defeat Boyd I will have no problem voting for one of them because I never forget the goal, ANYBODY BUT LEE.

        • Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Darn it, too many candidates! That’s ANYBODY BUT BOYD!!!!

        • MarLE says:

          The Trump tax plan doubled the standard deduction giving a family an extra 12K of deductions. BUT it simultaneously Took Away the Personal Exemption of 4K per person. So a family of 4 gained 12K but LOST 16K. I listened closely to see if anyone selling this would mention this. Diane, I watched carefully. I heard her constantly touting the doubling of the deduction but not once mentioning the loss of the personal exemption. I heard all about doubling the child credit but never once heard that the credit disappeared altogether once a child reached 16. Anyone think a 16 yo doesn’t cost a parent at least the same amount as a toddler? All of this makes me question her honesty. Add to that this new wrinkle of private funding for a WALL and equating this with the private funding for the Washington Monument. Really?????? A wall, presumably, is for National Security. A monument is not. REASONING ability seems lacking in trying to draw a parallel between these 2 remarkably different circumstances. You don’t fund the military with money from the couch cushions. And under NO circumstances should any private funding be tax deductible b/c if it is that means all the rest of us, the taxpayers, will make up the slack. Again not screaming “Chief Executive”

      • Caldwell Hancock says:

        Are these state taxing provisions?

        • MarLE says:

          Are you asking me……no, they are not state taxing provisions that I mentioned. But as you govern and conduct yourself in DC so shall you govern and behave at the State level. Honesty, esp honesty in selling government policies and programs, matters at the Federal AND State level. And the common sense and reasoning ability matters. I don’t want to spend the next four years saying “WHaaaaaaaaaaaaaat did she just say?????”

  • Ernest Jones says:

    My fattest hog has more sense than Bill Lee and apparently the 26% supporting him.

  • Phil Lassiter says:

    Pigs are very smart and the fattest is obviously the smartest so we are getting at least a Gov of average intelligence!! Yay!! Huge improvement from Hussein Haslam

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      My problem in voting for Lee is the fact that in every way we are being asked to buy a “pig in a poke.”

  • Rhett says:

    If you’re voting for the most popular, for someone you’ve heard of before, or voting out of spite for the sole purpose of making sure a certain person doesn’t win… then YOU are the reason for the flawed electoral system. I personally believe that any candidate that campaigns based on trying to hurt other candidates credibility instead of convincing the people of why they should get their vote, are not honest, are not trust worthy, and they are only in it for their own gain… don’t tell me that you are better bc this other person gave money to someone of a different party as a business decision and not political… tell me why I should support YOU…for what YOU can do for me….

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Rhett, rather than following the yings and yangs of the campaign as orchestrated by paid campaign professionals, I think it’s much better if you approach voting in an entirely different way. Are you a liberal, centrist, or conservative? If you are a liberal your really should be a Democrat and vote in their primary. If you are a centrist Boyd is obviously your candidate. He has a long record in the Alexander/Haslam wing of the party and has been consistent about expressing those views. If you are a tepid conservative either Black or Harwell will do but you may favor Harwell on personality grounds though she doesn’t have much of a chance of winning. If you are a more or less solid conservative Black is by record and temperament somewhat more conservative than the rest and she’s your candidate. Lee is probably the most religious man, and if you are much more religious than you are political I can see why he would appeal to you, otherwise I can’t.

      We have a flawed electoral system because we don’t have runoffs, we have open primaries, we don’t elect our attorney general, it’s too easy to get on the ballot etc. not because of the choices people make. The voters could be more informed, but what else is new.

      • Rhett says:

        So, I order for you to vote for someone, they need to have political experience or seem like they firmly fit in a political category. What if a person is conservative, but has the same belief on a certain subject that a liberal also believed? Does that not make him worthy of being considered bc his views are according to his parties script? And trust me, Bill is a lot more than just religious.

        • Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Of course, we should hear people out, that’s what campaigns are for. A candidate for high office should have a body of political work that identifies the candidate as liberal, centrist, or conservative. Having that body of work gives me the confidence that over the term of office the candidate will approach the problems he confronts from a certain perspective. That’s more important to me than campaign charges or promises ginned up by a campaign staff during the campaign. THEN if there is a belief or two that differs from what is expected from the ideology that the candidate follows he should have a good explanation for the seeming inconsistency. If so, NO PROBLEM.

          What bothers me about Bill Lee, but not quite to the point of my saying “no way” in the face of eight more years of the Haslam/Boyd administration, is the fact that he is a well educated wealthy man who is well into middle age who has no political record. He has no proven ideology. Yet, he is running for the highest political office in the state and we have two alternatives other than Randy! who most definitely do. Bill may be “. . .a lot more than just religious” but he is not at all political and he is running for the highest POLITICAL office in the state.

          • MarLE says:

            I heard Diane out and here is what she wants to do with Teacher pay…”Increase teacher salaries where there is a need: For example, teacher shortages in Pre-K through Grade 6 include Special Education and English Language Learners (ELL).” Increases for teachers in Special Ed and ELL ( who do you suppose needs these services?)as if those 2 categories don’t already take a disproportional amount of dollars spent! Are you kidding me? But you love it, right Stuart?

  • Tricia Stickel says:

    I have no hatred for either Randy Boyd or Diane Black. If you keep doing what you do, you will keep getting what you get. Both have been “in the system” too long, already beholding to policy and appointments. An outsider, an excellent businessman, a man of great character, a man who knows who is in charge of all things, a man of great compassion and conviction. This will be an entirely new direction for Tennessee for a man who is not beholding to any individual or group, or lobby. #gobilllee

    • Donna Locke says:

      Bill Lee is not an outsider. He has state contracts.

      • Martin Polk says:

        No one has to be an insider to get state contracts. Every business goes through a bidding process, Donna. So let’s not act like he’s not an outsider when he clearly is and you’re just mad because your’re voting for Diane Black who’s the epitome of a corrupted insider.

        • Donna Locke says:

          Martin, Bill Lee has been playing the game a long time. And to say he is not beholden to anyone is absurd when he is dependent on government contracts and also is touting his allegiance to a religious lobby.

          Throwing in with theocracy and opposition to individual civil liberties is where the Tea Party got off track, by the way. I am quite familiar with the original Tea Party goals, which did not include such.

          None of the candidates is my perfect candidate. I try to pick one who will do the least damage, according to my own priorities. Some of the issues — I am pro-choice on abortion and for LGBT equality and civil rights — I don’t worry so much about in some races when I very much disagree with a candidate’s position; I know the candidate’s positions would be blocked legally at this point.

          Bill Lee is a Haslam on immigration. Everything points to that.

          • Donna Locke says:

            Also, I have never gotten angry over an election. Sad and exasperated, but not mad. Not my nature.

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