New polling data shows overwhelming support for weakening the filibuster in the Senate.
Thousands of voters in 10 red, blue and purple states expressed disappointment with gridlock in the Senate and signaled strong support for the key pieces of Democrats’ proposal to change the rules to eliminate silent filibusters and instead require obstructing senators to occupy the floor and speak.
The poll was conducted for the pro-reform coalition Fix The Senate Now by the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling. It’s based on surveys with 5,566 registered voters across party lines in Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont from Dec. 10-11.
Asked if their senators “should vote for or against changing the Senate rules so as to reduce gridlock,” 61 percent said “for” while 25 percent said “against.” More to the point, by a 70-20 margin, respondents said filibustering senators should be required to “keep debating the bill on the floor.” The full results are available here (PDF).
A caveat: the survey frames the debate entirely on Democrats’ terms. It told respondents, for instance, that “1 in 11 federal judge positions are vacant because the Senate hasn’t acted on their nominations” without also mentioning GOP counter-arguments that because the Democratic majority frequently limits room for debate and amendments on legislation, Republicans must stall progress on legislation and nominations to force the majority’s hand.
“We don’t have a rules problem around here; we have an attitude problem around here,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the floor Wednesday.
But the results suggest Democrats will have the upper hand in the coming debate if their arguments penetrate to voters during the upcoming fight over filibuster reform, thanks to broad dissatisfaction with Senate gridlock.
If Republicans don’t provide Reid the two-thirds majority typically needed to change the rules, he has threatened to weaken the filibuster next month with a rarely used tool with which he can advance reforms with 51 votes. Senators from both parties continue to negotiate to avoid that outcome, though participants report no progress.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.