PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans hold all sides of the healthcare reform battle responsible for the rash of threatening e-mails, phone calls, and vandalism that erupted last week after the healthcare bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Roughly half (49%) say controversial political maneuvers by Democratic leaders to secure the votes they needed were a major reason. Nearly as many blame harsh criticism of the bill by both conservative media commentators and Republican leaders.
Overall, a majority of Americans surveyed in the March 26-28 USA Today/Gallup poll believe each factor was at least a minor explanation for these extreme public reactions to the bill's passage.
Republicans mainly blame the actions of Democratic leaders while, in equal measure, Democrats mainly blame the rhetoric of conservative commentators and Republican leaders. Political independents are somewhat more likely to attribute responsibility to Democratic leaders' actions than to Republican leaders' words.
A striking Gallup finding in the immediate aftermath of the healthcare vote was that by 41% to 29%, Republicans were more likely to say they were "angry" about the outcome than Democrats were to say they were "enthusiastic."
One reason for Republicans' anger may be revealed in a new question asking whether Americans believe the methods Democratic leaders used to secure passage of the bill represented "an abuse of power" or "an appropriate use" of the majority party's power in Congress. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans see it as abuse of power, whereas a smaller majority of Democrats (70%) call it an appropriate use of power. The majority of independents agree with most Republicans on this question.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,033 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-28, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.