Most doubt an agreement will result from Thursday's summit
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are skeptical that lawmakers will agree on a new healthcare bill at Thursday's bipartisan healthcare summit in Washington, D.C. If an agreement is not reached, Americans by a 49% to 42% margin oppose rather than favor Congress passing a healthcare bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate. By a larger 52% to 39% margin, Americans also oppose the Democrats in the Senate using a reconciliation procedure to avoid a possible Republican filibuster and pass a bill by a simple majority vote.
These results are based on questions included in a USA TODAY/Gallup poll of 1,009 Americans conducted Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Much discussion has focused on what President Obama and Democratic leaders will do if -- as the general public anticipates -- there is no agreement on a new bill emanating from Thursday's summit. President Obama promulgated his proposed healthcare plan on Monday, and one option for the Democratic leadership is to go ahead and attempt to pass this type of bill without Republican buy-in.
The poll shows that American public opinion tilts against this option.
Not only are 49% of Americans opposed to passing a bill similar to the one proposed by Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate, compared with 42% in favor, those "strongly" opposed outnumber those "strongly" in favor by 23% to 11%.
A follow-up question asked specifically about the use of a parliamentary procedure that would allow the Democratic leaders to avoid a Republican filibuster. Again, Americans are opposed by a slightly larger, 52% to 39% margin, and those opposed are more likely to feel strongly about their opinion than those in favor, 25% to 11%.
The survey question defines the legislation in question as being similar to that proposed by President Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate. It is thus not surprising to find strong partisan differences in response to both questions about passage of a new healthcare bill.
Republicans are overwhelmingly against passing a bill similar to that proposed by President Obama. Democrats are in favor; although, about a fifth say they oppose such passage. Independents' responses are roughly the same as the overall national average.
The same type of partisan split occurs in reference to the use of a parliamentary procedure to get passage of the bill through the Senate without a Republican filibuster. Independents again mirror the overall national average -- 53% oppose and 38% in favor.
Of note is the finding that Republicans are more intense in their feelings than are Democrats in their responses to both measures. Republicans who oppose are more likely to say that opposition is strong rather than not strong. On the other hand, Democrats who favor are more likely to say their support is not strongly held.
Americans Hold Little Hope That Agreement Will Arise From Summit
More than three-quarters of Americans do not believe that the two sides will reach an agreement on a healthcare bill at Thursday's summit.
Although the bipartisan summit was called by President Obama, more than 7 out of 10 rank-and-file Democrats across the country are pessimistic that an agreement will be reached. Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans hold this view.
Obama Has Edge on Sincerity of Bipartisan Efforts
Despite the fact that Americans remain opposed to the passage of the type of healthcare bill President Obama has proposed, the American public gives Obama credit for his efforts at bipartisanship. Fifty-six percent believe that Obama and the Democrats will make a sincere effort at the summit to work with the Republicans in Congress on solutions to healthcare reform; 41% say that the Republicans in Congress will make a sincere effort to work with Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
The American public -- echoing the sentiment of many observers -- is highly doubtful that Thursday's healthcare summit at the Blair House in Washington will result in a bipartisan agreement on healthcare legislation. By all accounts, President Obama and Democratic leaders have anticipated such an outcome, and they may subsequently attempt to pass healthcare legislation similar to what Obama proposed on Monday. The current poll results, reflecting data from most surveys on healthcare reform over the past several months, show that Americans would be more opposed than in favor of such an action, particularly if passage is based on a reconciliation type procedure designed to avoid a Republican filibuster.
The public gives Obama some credit for his attempts at bipartisanship on this issue; more say that the president and Democratic leaders will make a sincere effort to work with the Republicans than say the Republicans will make a sincere effort to work with the Democrats.
Still, with Obama's job approval rating on handling healthcare below 50%, and evidence that opposition to new healthcare legislation is more firmly held than is support, the results underscore the difficult public opinion environment in which Democrats find themselves as they attempt to finalize their months-long efforts at creating new healthcare legislation.
Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 23, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.