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Poll: Most Tennesseans Support Childhood Immigrants, Some Marijuana Legalization

NASHVILLE – Most Tennesseans support protections for people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and the limited legalization of marijuana, according to a Middle Tennessee State University poll released Monday.

The poll comes as both issues have been heavily debated at the state and federal level.

A bill stalled in the Senate that would legalize marijuana, as did another that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who arrived as children.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has maintained a strong stance against the legalization of marijuana and President Trump has tweeted that protections for these undocumented immigrants under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is dead.

In both cases, it seems Tennesseans disagree with the politicians they've elected.

On immigration, the poll specifically queried Tennesseans on the group of immigrants known as 'Dreamers.'

Seventy-five percent of Tennessee voters polled believe these immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship.

Sixteen percent believe they should be required to leave, 6 percent say they should be allowed to stay but not be allowed to apply for citizenship and the rest said they didn't know or refused to answer the question.

On the legalization of marijuana, 81 percent of Tennessee voters polled supported legalization to some extent, 37 percent said marijuana should be legal for personal use, while 44 percent said marijuana should only be legal for medicinal purposes.

Sixteen percent said marijuana should remain illegal altogether.

“Immigration continues to be a nationally politicized issue for Tennessee voters,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll.

“But even among those who approve of President Trump, who has taken a hard line on the issue, most believe that those brought here as children should be allowed to stay.”

Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, said, 'If we assume that Tennessee voters who support (marijuana) legalization for personal use would also accept legalization for medicinal purposes only, there is a broad majority who support legalization in at least a limited form.'

The poll also found some correlations between certain beliefs and the issues.

Fifty-six percent of Tennessee voters surveyed identified as born-again or evangelical Christians, and of this group 51 percent said they supported the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. Among those who did not identify as either, 52 percent said the drug should be legal for personal use.

The poll supported by the university's college of media and entertainment and school of journalism was conducted by Issues and Answers Network Inc. The poll reached 600 registered Tennessee voters via random cell phone and landline phone numbers and was conducted March 22-29.

The poll cited an error margin of 4 percentage points.

Reporter Jordan Buie can be reached at 615-726-5970 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @jordanbuie.

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