Senate Democrats recently threatened to eliminate the filibuster if their “Build Back Better” and “For The People” bills weren’t passed. Such a strategy, however, holds serious political dangers for elected Democrats: A bipartisan majority of both Republicans and Democrats support keeping the filibuster, a new I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
Responding to recent events, the monthly I&I/TIPP Poll, posted also at TIPPInsights, asked the following question:
As you may be aware, the filibuster is a Senate procedure that has been used to prevent the Senate from passing controversial legislation, even if a simple majority of 51 senators support it. To end a filibuster, a cloture vote of at least sixty senators out of one hundred is required. Do you support or oppose the use of the filibuster in the United States Senate?
Overall, a solid plurality support keeping the filibuster. Of those queried, 46% said they supported the parliamentary maneuver, versus 31% who said they don’t. Another 23% said they weren’t sure.
Breaking the numbers down a bit further, 22% said they “support strongly” the filibuster, while 24% said they support it “somewhat.” For those rejecting the filibuster, 16% said they oppose it strongly, while 15% said they oppose it “somewhat.”
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all: Republicans and Democrats see almost eye-to-eye on this issue. Some 51% of Democrats support the filibuster, compared to 53% of Republicans, within the margin of error for the poll. And more Democrats (35%) actually oppose the filibuster than Republicans (24%).
These data come from the January I&I/TIPP poll, which was conducted online from Jan. 5-8 by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The poll of 1,308 adults has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
As is often the case, interesting differences emerge when looking at the demographic breakdowns of the data.
Independents and other non-major political parties are plainly not as keen on keeping the filibuster as the two major parties, with 38% expressing support versus 35% expressing opposition.
There are other pronounced differences when the data are viewed by ideological category.
Self-described conservatives (59% support, 22% oppose) showed greater pro-filibuster support than moderates (46% support, 31% oppose) and liberals (39% vs. 44%).
Yet, another interesting and perhaps unexpected contrast comes when looking at minority vs. White responses.
Blacks and Hispanics (51% vs. 30%), usually lumped together as a left-leaning voting bloc, surprisingly stood closer to the conservatives than to liberals. As a group, meanwhile, Whites support the filibuster by a far slimmer 43% to 33% margin.
And, once again, a gender split was evident. Males by 53% to 33% favored keeping the filibuster, while for women the comparable numbers were 40% to 30%. But women were among the least certain of their opinion of any group. Just 14% of men said they were “unsure,” while nearly a third (30%) of women said the same.
Why is this so important?
The battle over the $5 trillion “Build Back Better” plan has been put forward as a must-have for both congressional Democrats and President Biden. Democrats are pushing hard for a bill, but have run into opposition within their own party from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
As it is now, without their votes in a 50-50 Senate, Democrats can’t pass a BBB bill.
The political battle over the filibuster has grown intense as polls consistently show declining favorability for both congressional Democrats and President Biden. Many Democrats, after a year of frustration, see eliminating the filibuster as key to reviving their party’s legislative agenda and staving off a potential disaster in this year’s mid-term elections.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last week promised a vote on the filibuster before Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a national holiday fraught with the symbolism surrounding the issue of voting rights.
Getting rid of the filibuster is further complicated by the lack of popularity even among their own base voters for Democrats’ massive spending plans amid soaring inflation, as the I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
Moreover, Schumer sang a very different tune about the filibuster in 2017, when he jousted with then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over approval of former President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.
“Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change. No Senator would like to see that happen, so let’s find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation,” Schumer said back on April 7, 2017, pleading to keep the filibuster alive.
Today, “killing” the filibuster — which was first used in 1837 as a means of protecting the minority party in the Senate from being steamrolled by, in effect, one-party rule — has become a cause célèbre of sorts.
“Obama, Clinton, Winfrey Team Up To Convince Manchin To Kill Filibuster,” ran one headline late last week, showing how much pressure has been put on Manchin.
Manchin, a rare Democrat centrist, has endured a torrent of abuse and harassment by the far left. He shows little enthusiasm for compromising on his opposition to the massive $5 trillion Build Back Better bill. A recent report notes he’s even been conferring with centrist Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and former Trump advisor Larry Kudlow.
As 2022 As the New Year begins, I&I/TIPP plans to continue providing timely and informative data from our monthly polls on this topic and others of interest. TIPP has distinguished itself by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.