Source: The Tennessean | Joel Ebert | May 30, 2017

As the field of candidates to be Tennessee’s next governor continues to take shape, U.S. Rep. Diane Black is the most recognizable name among Democrats and Republicans, according to a new poll.

The poll, released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University, found that 49 percent of registered voters in Tennessee recognize Black’s name. That’s significantly higher than any others — Democrat or Republican — who are either in or considering entering the race, with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, being the next most recognizable.

Thirty-eight percent of registered voters recognized Dean, while House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, came in third, with 34 percent.

Among the others who have entered the race or are considering launching a campaign, respondents recognized the following:

  • Sen. Mae Beavers (Republican) – 28 percent
  • Former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd (Republican)  – 26 percent
  • Sen. Mark Green  (Republican) – 21 percent
  • Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (Republican) – 14 percent
  • Williamson County businessman Bill Lee (Republican) – 14 percent
  • House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (Democrat) – 8 percent

Separating out the various names for their party affiliation, Black, who has been in Congress since 2011 and is the current chairman of the House Budget Committee, maintains a significant advantage in terms of recognition.

Among the Republican field, 48 percent of registered voters recognize Black’s name, while Boyd and Harwell are tied for second with 30 percent.

Professor John Geer, who is a co-director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, said the tie between Harwell and Boyd could be attributed to the former ECD commissioner’s continuing statewide tour.

Beavers, who has frequently made headlines in recent years, was recognized by 24 percent of respondents while Green came in with 21 percent.

The poll was performed after Green had been nominated to serve as President Donald Trump’s Army secretary. Green later withdrew his name from consideration amid criticism.

Norris and Lee have significant work to do in terms of getting their names out there — with just 14 and 13 percent of registered voters saying they know their names, respectively.

Among Democrats, Dean has a significant advantage over Fitzhugh. Fourty-five percent of respondents recognize Dean’s name while Fitzhugh had just 10 percent.


Geer said despite the results of the latest poll, it is too early to read much into the name recognition findings.

“These results offer very early preliminary looks at these potential candidates for governor. No one should hang a lot on these results,” Geer said. “They will change a lot in the coming months. You can become well known very quickly. Even so, these numbers will provide an important baseline as we continue to poll about the upcoming race for the governorship of Tennessee.”

As of Tuesday, only Dean, Lee, Boyd and Beavers are technically in the race. Green is considering re-entering the race in the near future.

About 1,000 registered voters in Tennessee participated in the latest Vanderbilt poll, which was conducted between May 4 and May 15. The margin of error was +- 3.3 percent.