Many Tennesseans Confused About New Voter ID Law

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Just under three in four Tennesseans say they have heard that state residents who go to vote will be asked to show a photo ID starting in 2012.

About half or fewer, however, know such specifics about the law as whether valid forms of ID include an expired Tennessee driver’s license, a University of Tennessee student ID, or an employee ID issued by a private-sector company, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

Overall, 71 percent of Tennessee adults say they have heard about the new law. Twenty-eight percent say they have not, and the remaining 1 percent give no answer or say they aren’t sure.

Reported awareness of the law is significantly lower among Tennesseans age 39 and younger, a bare majority (51 percent) of whom say they know about the law. Among Tennesseans in this age group who read a newspaper four times a week or less, awareness falls to 44 percent.

Among Tennesseans age 40 or older, by contrast, awareness stands at about 83 percent – 90 percent among those who read a newspaper daily. The poll detected no differences in reported awareness of the law among race, education, income and gender groupings. Democrats, independents and Republicans also were statistically equally likely to say they know about the law.

Knowledge levels about the law’s specifics, though, vary significantly, both in general and among key demographic and political groupings.

For example, fully 92 percent know – or correctly guessed, even though the poll questionnaire specifically asked respondents not to guess – that a valid Tennessee driver’s license will be an acceptable form of ID. A similarly high 78 percent correctly asserted that a valid U.S. military photo ID will be acceptable.

However, a bare 51 percent majority knew that a “valid employee ID issued by a major automaker to a worker at one of its Tennessee plants” would be unacceptable. Only 32 percent knew that “a valid University of Tennessee student identification card” would be unacceptable. And a scant 14 percent knew that an expired Tennessee driver’s license would be acceptable. The presentation order of the five knowledge items was randomized for each respondent.

The five questions about different forms of ID were used to form a test of knowledge about the new law, where poll respondents could score between 0 and 5 points. Overall, Tennesseans with some trade school education, a high school diploma or less averaged significantly lower (2.5 out of 5) on this test of specific knowledge about the law than did better-educated Tennesseans (2.8 out of 5).

Positive relationships between education and knowledge about public affairs are common in public opinion results. Meanwhile, among lesser-educated Tennesseans, women averaged significantly lower (2.3) than men (2.7). Age, race and income made no difference here. But political orientation did, with those on the political right averaging significantly better (2.8 out of 5) than those in the middle or on the political left (2.6 out of 5).

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Members Opinions:
October 25, 2011 at 9:30am
I don't understand the problem, get a photo ID!
James Adkins
October 28, 2011 at 9:52am
Show your ID!
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