Saturday, November 1, 2014 · 1:25 a.m.
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Gov. Bill Haslam. (Photo: Staff)

Two days after deciding to let federal administrators handle the implementation of a new health care exchange for Tennessee, a Vanderbilt University poll showed more than 50 percent of Tennesseans would have preferred for the governor to keep the responsibility in state hands. 

The poll of 829 registered voters was taken between Nov. 27 and Dec. 9—one day before Haslam announced his decision. When asked to state their preference between a state-run or federally administered exchange, 53 percent chose the state-run option, as opposed to 33 percent who said they would have rather left the exchange under federal control. 

In addition, 73 percent of those polled identifying themselves as Republicans said they would have preferred a state-run exchange. The figure conflicts with the decision Haslam was quick to describe as not being motivated by political factors, but instead driven by a lack of clarity from the federal government.

Haslam, who had repeatedly said he thought Tennessee would be better-equipped to administer an online clearinghouse on its own, said Monday that his decision was driven by not having a clear-enough picture of what state implementation of a costly state-run system would look like, while remaining under certain federal guidelines. 

"They seem to be making this up as they go," he said. 

Dr. John Geer, professor of political science at Vanderbilt, said the findings were an accurate depiction. 

"If a health care exchange must be created, the voters of Tennessee place more trust in the state than the federal government to do it," Geer said in a news release. "And Republicans are even more trusting of the state to run a health care exchange than Democrats. That may be a surprise to some, but it makes sense that Republicans have long had more faith in state governments than Democrats."

Despite disagreeing with his decision, the governor enjoyed a high margin of approval—with 68 percent of participants saying they agreed overall with Haslam's performance in the state's top executive position. 

Additionally, 52 percent said they approved of the GOP-dominated General Assembly, set to reconvene in January. 

Other findings from the poll showed that only 21 percent of participants said they approved of the job being done by members of Congress. The trend did not hold for opinions of both Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, who collected approval ratings of 60 and 56 percent, respectively.

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, has a margin of error of 4.3 percent. Complete results are expected to be posted on Vanderbilt's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions website.   

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