Filibuster Reform Poll: Americans Favor Requiring Real Debate

Nov 30, 2012 | Updated Nov 30, 2012

A majority of Americans are in favor of requiring senators who wish to filibuster a bill to actually stand up on the Senate floor and talk, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

The survey finds that 65 percent of Americans believe senators should have to "participate in debate for the entire filibuster," a proposal that has gained ground in recent weeks as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama have thrown their support behind reform efforts. Only 9 percent of those polled said that senators should be able to filibuster without being physically present, and another 26 percent said they were unsure.

The poll also suggest that the more politically engaged a person is, the more likely that person is to support reform. Seventy-nine percent of registered voters, but only 37 percent of those not registered to vote, said that senators who filibuster should be required to debate. Fifty percent of those not registered said they were not sure whether senators should be present for debate.

Furthermore, 91 percent of respondents who said the filibuster rule was a bad rule and 74 percent who said it was a good rule agreed that filibustering senators should be required to participate in debate. While 53 percent of those who were not sure of their opinion on the filibuster rule also said they were not sure whether senators should be required to be present for debate, 43 percent of that group said that filibustering senators should have to stick around.

The proposed reform received bipartisan support in the poll, with 71 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans agreeing that filibustering senators should have to participate in debate. Independents were more likely than either Democrats or Republicans to say they were unsure.

Older respondents were also much more likely than younger respondents to support reforming the filibuster, with 90 percent of those aged 65 or older supporting the present-for-debate requirement. Older Americans are generally more likely to be politically engaged; they may also be more likely to know that before 1975, participating in debate was a requirement for staging a filibuster.

Respondents to the survey were more divided on making it easier to end a filibuster: Thirty-four percent supported reducing the number of senators needed to end a filibuster to a simple majority of 51, 32 percent were opposed, and another 34 percent were not sure. The same uncertainty is reflected in views on the filibuster itself: Forty-five percent of respondents were not sure whether the filibuster overall was a good or bad rule, while 30 percent said it was a good rule and 25 percent said it was a bad rule.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted online Nov. 27 to 28 among 1,000 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. It used a sample that was selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church.

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