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Poll: 2 in 3 Tennessee Voters Favor Immigrant Tuition Break

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — About two out of three registered voters in the state think Tennessee students whose parents brought or kept them in the country illegally should be eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, according to a poll released by Vanderbilt University on Tuesday.

The wide support for extending the tuition break to those immigrant students who went to high school in Tennessee included 55 percent of Republicans, and drew about an even split among tea party members.

The Republican-led legislature declined this year to pass legislation to make the change.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who remained the state’s most popular politician in the poll with a 61 percent approval rating, also lent his support to this year’s in-state tuition bill. He posed for photos with some of the students when they visited the state Capitol.

“It’s fair to say that this is an issue that has broad support across the state,” said John Geer, co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

For first time since 2012, voters picked health care as the top priority of state government about as often as they said the economy was most important.

The responses also show why congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have a tough road ahead in reforming health care, said Josh Clinton, co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

Approval for the Affordable Care Act in the Republican state reached a new high in the poll’s history, albeit still low at 29 percent.

Support for fixing the Affordable Care Act, versus repealing it, or repealing and replacing it, grew to one in three respondents, a 5-percentage point increase since November. The poll also found 22 percent of Tennesseans favor a single-payer health care system, a 6-point increase from November.

Three key provisions of former President Barack Obama’s health-care law drew support from almost eight of 10 respondents, with wide support among all political affiliations: requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions; not charging people more due to those conditions; and letting young adults stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

The poll used a sample of 1,004 Tennessee registered voters reached by phone from May 4 through 15. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Vanderbilt typically conducts the poll at the start and the end of each legislative session. The poll released Tuesday covered a variety of topics, from the president’s approval ratings to name recognition in the 2018 governor’s race.

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