A Majority of the Public Supports the Filibuster

by John Sides on November 18, 2009 · 8 comments

in Legislative Politics,Public opinion,Senate procedure

Jon Bernstein wants new polling data on the filibuster. The new CNN poll has one question about this:

As you may know, the filibuster is a Senate procedure which has been used to prevent the Senate from passing controversial legislation or confirming controversial appointments by the President, even if a majority of senators support that action. A vote of at least sixty senators out of one hundred is needed to end a filibuster. Do you favor or oppose the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate?

Just over half, 56%, favor the use of the filibuster, and 39% oppose it. Very few (5%) report having no opinion.

Of course, one poll with one question wording is hardly dispositive. I agree with Jon that we need more.

{ 8 comments }

Tom November 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I suppose they could have worded the question:

“As you may know, the filibuster is a Senate procedure which has been used to prevent the Senate from passing BAD legislation or confirming BAD appointments by the President…”

I think that might have generated just about the same type of response.

I mean, come on, could they at least try to avoid bias?

Jonathan Bernstein November 18, 2009 at 6:22 pm

The power of Plain Blog: I ask for a polling question, and CNN goes back in time a couple of days to insert it into their poll, so they can release it a few hours before I post.

Zorro for the Common Good November 18, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Wait a second. Only 56% of the public supports the filibuster? Sorry, but that’s not enough. It should only be preserved if 60% support it.

tom veil November 19, 2009 at 9:56 am

It would be interesting to see how the numbers shift if CNN referred to it as “the modern filibuster, a procedure invented in 1975.”

Steve Smith November 19, 2009 at 10:18 am

poorly worded question. some support filibuster because they oppose bill, some support procedure.

evan500 November 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Yes, note the question refers to stopping “controversial appointments” or “controversial legislation.” Given that it is now being used routinely to stop all manner of business, the question skirts the real issue.

Brad F November 19, 2009 at 2:32 pm

You afe talking about the American public here.

The second question should have been: Do you know what a filibuster is?

Yes: 14%
No: 86%

My favorite quote of all time from Winston Churchill: The best argument against democracy is spending 5 minutes with the avg voter.

Cliff November 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

TPM just posted an interesting observation. The original purpose of the filibuster was to have unlimited debate, for whatever means. But the “modern” filibuster does nothing of the sort. In fact it does the opposite — it keeps debate from happening. Koger’s observation that the airplane put an end to the old fashioned filibuster seems to be missing the fact that the information age has accelerated debate. Does the filibuster really make any sense?

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