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TN Pulse Survey

The Tennessee Pulse is a cooperative effort of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group, the University of Tennessee’s the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the University's Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS).

The survey is intended to capture the attitudes and behavior of Tennesseans toward COVID-19 and the re-opening of the economy. The survey enables segmentation across a grouping of the state’s largest metropolitan counties (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan) and the remaining 89 counties of the state, as well as age, gender, and race. The survey will be administered on a bi-weekly basis throughout the summer.


  • Wave 1 of the survey was administered between May 18 and May 24, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 2 of the survey was administered between June 1 and June 7, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 3 of the survey was administered between June 15 and June 21, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 4 of the survey was administered between July 17 and July 26, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 5 of the survey was administered between August 17 and August 25, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 6 of the survey was administered between September 18 and September 23, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 7 of the survey was administered between October 20, 2020 and October 26, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 8 of the survey was administered between November 17, 2020 and November 22, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 9 of the survey was administered between between December 10, 2020 and December 15, 2020. See the results here.
  • Wave 10 of the survey was administered between January 14, 2021 and January 18, 2021. See the results here.
  • Wave 11 of the survey was administered between February 24, 2021 and March 1, 2021. See the results here.
  • Wave 12 of the survey was administered between March 24, 2021 and March 29, 2021. See the results here.
  • Wave 13 of the survey was administered between April 21, 2021 to April 26, 2021. See the results here.
  • Time Series results of the survey are also available. See the results here.

For the codebook and datasets, please email us at

Summary of Results

Updated September 16, 2020

Wave 5 of the Tennessee Pulse survey was administered from August 17 to August 25, 2020. A total of 1,103 Tennesseans were surveyed. See the Methodology section for each wave of the survey for additional information on data collection.

Tennessean’s attitudes appear to have stabilized with only slight movement from the findings in Wave 4. Encouragingly, attitudes regarding the outlook two weeks ahead show that 58 percent think the situation will be about the same compared to 48 percent in Wave 4. Only 24 percent think the situation will be worse, marked improvement over the 36 percent who held this view in Wave 4.

Slightly fewer respondents were extremely concerned about health-related issues. When grouped together with those who indicated that they were very concerned, the survey findings largely align with Wave 4. Concerns about the effects of Covid-19 on the U.S. have drifted down and there are diminished concerns about the impacts arising from travelers, though these changes are small.

On the other hand, there was a very slight uptick in concerns about personal finances and jobs, with the number of respondents indicating that they were extremely concerned or very concerned rising. Relatively few respondents were concerned about missing a payment or not paying a bill (17 percent), missing a rent or mortgage payment (10 percent) or not being able to buy groceries (9 percent). The number of people who have lost their job or source of income rose slightly to 16 percent. Thirteen percent have experienced a reduction in wages and 23 percent have had their hours of work reduced, reflecting small increases from Wave 4.

Consistent with other findings in Wave 5 compared to Wave 4, there has been only slight movement in the extent to which Tennesseans are engaging in social activities (like attending church or a private social event) or economic activities (like shopping or eating out at a restaurant). A significant number of individuals are simply not engaged with the economy. For example, 37 percent of respondents almost never or never go out to eat at a restaurant; 35 percent almost never or never shop at a department store; and 58 percent indicate they almost never or never attend large public events. It is not clear the extent to which these findings reflect underlying behaviors as opposed to Covid-19 induced behaviors.

A stable and consistent finding across all five waves of the Tennessee Pulse survey is that a significant number of individuals will not re-engage with society and the economy until a vaccine is developed and Covid-19 caseloads fall. These results demonstrate how the economy and the pandemic are inextricably linked together.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed practice social distancing. Survey respondents indicated an increased likelihood of wearing a mask when engaging in specific out-of-home activities. A local mask mandate is supported by 75 percent of those surveyed, similar to Wave 4. About two-thirds indicated that wearing a mask is a matter of public health.

The importance of an effective a vaccine to directly address Covid-19 cannot be overstated. And as noted above, a vaccine will be critical to the effective re-opening of the economy. Wave 5 reveals that 60 percent of respondents would either definitely or probably get a vaccine. This is down five percentage points from Wave 4.

Previous Summary

Posted August 12, 2020

Wave 4 of the Tennessee Pulse survey was administered between July 17 and July 26, 2020. A total of 1,075 Tennesseans were surveyed.

Tennessean’s concerns about their own health, family health and financial wellbeing have ticked up from Wave 3, consistent with rising Covid-19 caseloads and deaths across the state and the nation. For the first time since the Tennessee Pulse survey was introduced, health impacts were identified as a greater concern (52 percent) than concerns about economic impacts on the family (48 percent).

When asked how their concerns have changed over the last two weeks, 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were more concerned compared to just 31 percent of respondents who were more concerned in Wave 3. The share who were less concerned than two weeks ago fell from 13 percent to 5 percent. When asked about the situation two weeks from now, only 16 percent indicated that the situation would be better compared to 36 percent who held the same view in Wave 1. Wave 4 shows that 36 percent of respondents now believe the situation will be worse in two weeks, compared to 17 percent in Wave 1.

Most Tennesseans have not experienced significant financial impact from the spread of Covid-19. Fewer than 5 percent of respondents indicated that they had lost their job and just over one in ten indicated that they had been laid off. However, 71 percent had some concern over their financial situation and 64 percent had some concern about losing their job.

Compared to Wave 3, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Tennesseans who are less likely to engage in activities outside the home, like shopping, dining out, visiting the gym and attending church services. This reduced economic and social mobility accounts for roughly one-third of respondents, depending on the specific activity in question. On the other hand, a relatively stable one-third of respondents continue to be comfortable engaging on these out-of-home experiences. A vaccine and declining caseloads will be important to citizen re-engagement based on the survey findings.

Wearing a mask is identified as an important step individuals are taking to protect themselves from Covid-19. Wave 4 shows that 77 percent of Tennesseans wear masks when in public compared to 68 percent in Wave 3. A recent national Civiqs poll shows that 56 percent of respondents wear a mask whenever they leave the home and 33 percent sometimes wear a mask when they leave the home. An Associated Press-NORC poll found that 86 percent of respondents wear a mask when leaving home.

New questions introduced in Wave 4 ask about which activities are associated with mask usage, for example, going to a department store or a social gathering. In general, none of these individual out-of-home activities are associated with mask usage above 50 percent. The apparent inconsistency between the overarching question of mask use and specific forms of use is likely due to the broad nature of the overall question: “I wear a mask or face covering in public.” This question does not address the frequency of mask use or where masks are used.

When asked about the benefits of wearing a mask, only about 14 percent said there was no benefit or they were not sure. By far, the most trusted source of information on the usage of masks was the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Nearly three quarters of respondents support a local mask ordinance. In communities where local health departments have the authority to issue such rules, 80 percent of those surveyed supported a mask mandate compared to 70 percent in other counties of the state. Two-thirds of Tennesseans said that a mask was a matter of public health, 27 percent indicated it was a matter of individual choice and 7 percent indicated that mask use sends a political signal.

Waves 1 through 4 of the Tennessee Pulse show the importance of a vaccine to survey respondent’s re-engagement with the economy and society, as noted above. Almost 66 percent of those surveyed in Wave 4 said that they would definitely or probably take a free vaccine. On the other hand, about one in five Tennesseans indicated that they would definitely or probably not take a free vaccine. The remaining 14 percent were unsure.

Previous Summary

Residents of the state remain almost evenly split, with 48 percent indicating that COVID-19 health effects would have more important impacts on the family compared to 52 percent indicating that economic impacts would be more significant.

Respondents who were older, women and African Americans, as well as those who reside in the state’s larger metropolitan counties, were more likely to indicate that COVID-19 health impacts would be most significant. These findings are consistent with the results from Wave 1 of the Tennessee Pulse.

The survey reveals that there has been no meaningful change in concerns regarding possible contraction of COVID-19, one’s own health and the families’ health. Similarly, there were no significant changes in concerns over one’s financial situation, the ability to keep a job and access medical care.

Survey respondents’ willingness to leave the home and re-engage in social, cultural and recreational activities is largely unchanged compared to May 18-May 24. People are no more likely to eat at a restaurant, shop at a department store, go to church or a large public event, go to the gym, recreate outdoors or travel in state or out-of-state than they were in May.

A significant share of respondents continue to engage in behaviors that protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Eighty-two percent indicated that would stay home if ill, 67 percent indicate they wear a mask or face covering in public, 77 percent practice social distancing and 78 percent wash their hands after being in public. A large share of those surveyed, 41 percent, indicated that they have simply decided to stay home. This is down slightly from 43 percent of the respondents in Wave 1.

Awareness of the Tennessee Pledge—a coordinated plan for re-opening of businesses across the state that is intended to ensure a safe return to work—ticked up slightly in Wave 2 compared to Wave 1. However, the same number of respondents (26 percent) indicated that their place of business or employer had taken the pledge.

When asked whether the situation will be better, about the same or worse two weeks ahead, 30 percent indicated that the situation would improve, compared to 36 percent in Wave 1. Only 24 percent of women and 16 percent of African Americans thought that the situation would be better in two weeks. About half of those surveyed (49 percent) indicated the situation would be about the same in two weeks.

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