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Listen to Me: Spotlight Tennessee

In the latest installment from our Listen to Me series, where we ask voters what they think of the political system, we travel down south, to country music’s heartland — Tennessee.

In 2008, the state cast its 11 electoral votes for then-presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain took Knoxville by 23 points, but the state’s two other big cities, Nashville and Memphis, veered blue with President Obama taking Shelby County by 27 points.

While the state will most likely vote red again this November, 37 percent of the vote in the state primary earlier this year went to candidate Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney came in second, despite support from state GOP leaders and a heavily outspent primary campaign in the state.

Most voters participating in NewsHour’s Listen to Me campaign from Tennessee — where the unemployment rate is at a steady 8.5 percent compared to the national 7.8 percent — listed the economy as the most important issue to them this election season — stressing that their hopefulness for for the future depends on both parties’ combined attempts to combat the country’s fiscal woes.

For Susanne Green of Chattanooga, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. “Historically, if you look at trends throughout time, there’s periods where we cycle,” Green said. “I think the political system is working through a lot of heavy-duty problems, and a lot of personal and global issues that are kind of colliding.”

Joseph Brian Wilson, also of Chattanooga, said he thinks the “government’s way too big.” “It controls too many aspects of our economy, and the little people,” he said. “The entrepreneurs really don’t have much traction.”

Voter Amy Hubbard of Knoxville said she doesn’t think the political system is necessarily broken, but “reflective” of the election cycle’s time and place.

Member stations East Tennessee PBS and WTCI contributed to this report

We’ve traveled the nation asking voters what issues matter to them most. Now, it’s your turn. Submit your own Listen to Me video here.

Know a language other than English? Become a NewsHour translator and help make the election more accessible.

For more election cycle coverage, visit the NewsHour Politics page.