Poll: Majority says Dem health care tactics an 'abuse of power'

A new Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans believes Democrats abused their power by using procedural shortcuts and controversial parliamentary tactics to pass the new national health care makeover. And in a striking finding, slightly more people blame the Democrats' tactics than Republican criticism for the threats of violence and vandalism that were reported after the bill's passage.

The poll asked, “Regardless of whether you favored or opposed the health care legislation Congress passed this past week, do you think the methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used to get enough votes to pass this legislation were an abuse of power or were an appropriate use of power by the party that controls the majority in Congress?” The results: 53 percent say the Democrats' methods were an abuse of power, while 40 percent say they were appropriate.

Breaking down the results by party, 86 percent of Republicans say the Democrats abused their power, while 58 percent of independents agree. Nineteen percent of Democrats say their own leaders abused their power, while 70 percent say Democratic methods were appropriate.

Next, the poll asked, “Do you think each of the following is a major reason, a minor reason, or not a reason these threats and acts of vandalism occurred?” Respondents were asked to consider three possibilities: “controversial political maneuvers by Democratic leaders to get the votes needed to pass the health care legislation,” “harsh criticism of the health care bill from conservative commentators on radio and television,” and “harsh criticism of the health care bill from Republican leaders.” Forty-nine percent said the Democrats' maneuvering was a major reason, while 25 percent said it was a minor reason and 22 percent said it was not a reason. Forty-six percent said conservative commentary was a major reason, versus 26 percent who said it was a minor reason and 23 percent said it was not a reason. And 43 percent said Republican leaders were a major reason, versus 29 percent who said they were a minor reason and 23 percent who said they were not a reason.

The new numbers suggest that the public remains troubled by the tactics used to pass the unpopular health care measure. And they suggest that Rep. David Dreier, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, was right when he said, at the time of the bill's passage, “The American people have gotten the message that process is substance.” The usual conventional wisdom says process is simply not important, but the health care debate seems to be an exception.

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