PRINCETON, NJ -- As the 112th Congress gets fully underway in Washington this week, Americans issue a clear appeal for bipartisanship from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Eighty percent say President Obama should work to pass legislation that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, even if it's not what most Democrats want, while 83% say it is "extremely" or "very" important that Republican leaders work with Obama and Democratic leaders to pass agreeable new legislation.
The vote Wednesday on H.R. 2, the bill that would repeal the entire healthcare legislation passed last March, is a major effort by the new Republican House leadership to confront President Obama's policies of the last two years. Most observers agree that H.R. 2 has little chance of becoming law, which could mean that Republican leaders at this point are interested in sending messages and responding to their conservative base, rather than in proposing realistic legislation.
Americans' sentiments about bipartisanship in the most recent poll reinforce previous Gallup research showing that the public tilts toward having leaders find ways to compromise in order to get things done, rather than sticking to principles at the risk of doing nothing.
Even partisans appear to want their leaders to work with the other side to pass legislation. Seven out of 10 Democrats say Obama should work to pass legislation with Republicans, even if it is not the legislation that most Democrats want. And more than three-quarters of Republicans say it is extremely or very important that Republican leaders work with Obama and Democratic leaders to pass legislation both parties can agree on.
That's not to say Americans are totally disinterested in having their parties hold firmly to their beliefs and positions. A little more than half of Republicans say it is extremely or very important that Republican leaders work to prevent President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate from "passing legislation that Republicans disagree with." That percentage is, however, well below the 77% of Republicans who say it is important that Republicans work with Obama and the Democrats. A sizable minority of Democrats and independents also say it is important for Republicans to prevent passage of legislation that Republicans disagree with, suggesting that this question is to some extent measuring agreement with the fundamental nature of a bipartisan government.
The new 112th Congress begins its work with a controversial and highly partisan vote aimed at repealing what President Obama might consider the most significant accomplishment of his first two years in office -- the landmark healthcare legislation passed last March. Many view the repeal effort as a symbolic payback to conservatives and Tea Party supporters, whose votes helped the Republicans take control of the House last November. Whether both parties' leaders continue such efforts to play to their bases in the months ahead remains to be seen. As far as Americans are concerned, however, political leaders would do well to focus more on compromise and agreement on mutually acceptable new legislation, rather than confrontation.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-16, 2011, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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 landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.