Gallup poll shows Democrats have most to lose at the summit

If Barack Obama hoped to put Republicans on the defensive by holding a health-care summit today, a new Gallup poll shows that he may have miscalculated badly.  Instead of holding Republicans responsible for not agreeing with Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, survey responders say that Democrats had better convince Republicans to move — or be prepared to start over from scratch.  A majority outright oppose any attempt to push ObamaCare through Congress using reconciliation as well:

Americans are skeptical that lawmakers will agree on a new healthcare bill at Thursday’s bipartisan healthcare summit in Washington, D.C. If an agreement is not reached, Americans by a 49% to 42% margin oppose rather than favor Congress passing a healthcare bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate. By a larger 52% to 39% margin, Americans also oppose the Democrats in the Senate using a reconciliation procedure to avoid a possible Republican filibuster and pass a bill by a simple majority vote. …

Not only are 49% of Americans opposed to passing a bill similar to the one proposed by Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate, compared with 42% in favor, those “strongly” opposed outnumber those “strongly” in favor by 23% to 11%.

A follow-up question asked specifically about the use of a parliamentary procedure that would allow the Democratic leaders to avoid a Republican filibuster. Again, Americans are opposed by a slightly larger, 52% to 39% margin, and those opposed are more likely to feel strongly about their opinion than those in favor, 25% to 11%.

How out of step are Democrats on this effort?  Among independents, reconciliation gets opposed 38/53, although they split evenly on support of current bills in Congress, 48/49.  However, far more independents strongly oppose those bills (24%) than strongly favor them (8%).  In contrast, 68% of Democrats favor using reconciliation to jam the bill down the throats of the opposition, and 70% favor the Democratic bills — although only 21% favor them strongly.

The summit has not raised expectations among any group; skepticism on results runs from 71% for Democrats to 87% for Republicans, with independents in between at the overall average of 77%.  However, it has left Democrats in a tough position.  The numbers on ObamaCare among the public have hardly budged in three months, remaining deeply unpopular with voters in any sampling type (this is among adults in general, rather than registered or likely voters).  Pushing reconciliation makes it even less popular and will likely fuel more Tea Party protests and a disastrous midterm election.  How can Democrats move forward without committing political suicide?

Obama apparently has an incremental approach up his sleeve, as we reported earlier.  While Gallup didn’t specifically survey on this question, moving away from the comprehensive reforms demanded by Pelosi at the beginning of the summit would do two things for Obama that he desperately needs — one, give him a victory on health care in any form, and two, allow him to drop the issue before his polling numbers begin to resemble those of George Bush in his last two years as President.  The question will be whether the Congressional Democrats will follow where Obama will lead them, and since Obama hasn’t shown any leadership on his domestic agenda all year, it’s going to be anybody’s guess how or if he’ll succeed.  Gallup’s poll shows that voters will hang this on Democrats no matter which way it goes, but especially if they do something other than start over from scratch.