Vanderbilt poll highlights challenges for Metro transit plan vote

(Fox 17 News/Google Maps)

A Vanderbilt University poll finds about 42 percent of people in Davidson County support the $8.9 billion plan and 28 percent are opposed. About 66 percent of Nashvillians say the city's transit system, as it is, needs major improvements to keep up with the city's boom.

The poll was conducted February 8-18, weeks after news of the mayor’s affair with her former head of security broke. It begs the question of whether the city hall scandal is having an impact on these numbers.

Vanderbilt University Professor of Political Science Dr. Josh Clinton is one of the primary researchers behind the poll. He said the results show supporters of the plan have a long way to go before May 1.

“There’s a sizeable percentage of Nashvillians who don't know what they think of the transit plan,” Clinton said.

Clinton says low voter turnout means campaign organizers have to not only convince people to vote for the measure, they have to get them to the polls in the first place.

“Even in a midterm election, turnout is only going to be about 30 percent for a special election in May," Clinton said. "It's going to be even smaller than that so really we're talking about a small number of Nashvillians who are going to decide the fate for the city.”

A new hurdle for the transit effort presented itself late January, when a major affair scandal rocked the mayor’s office. Barry, who used to be the face of the plan, didn't even speak at the campaign kickoff event February 11.

“She was a very popular mayor going into it, and this removes her from that spotlight,” Clinton said. “It’s a distraction for the proponents of the proposal.”

Fox 17 News tried to ask the mayor about what she thinks of the poll's results at a welcome reception for the Metro Police Citizen Police Academy on Monday, but she did not show up as scheduled.

Despite this, the Metro Council member who sponsored the transit plan said he feels optimistic.

“We’ve decided as a city this is a big moment,” said Jeremy Elrod, District 26 Metro Councilman. "Are we going to stay where we are? Are we going to take a step back, are we gonna take a step forward? And this transit vote is the biggest step forward we can take as a city, and I’ve got confidence we're going to approve it."

Fox 17 News crews have tried to interview Mayor Barry on several occasions over the last week at her public appearances. She has declined to talk to reporters, saying she's too busy.

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