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Posted by on Aug 13, 2009 in Health, Politics | 44 comments

Poll: Town Hall Protests Increase Anti-Health Care Support Particulary Among Independents

A new Gallup poll finds that the angry Town Hall protests against President Barack Obama’s health care reform are scoring points for the anti-health care side — and picking up support among independent voters.

As we’ve noted here often, independent voters are not a monolithic block and in recent years some pollsters and analysts have contended that part of the reason for the increase in independent voter numbers has been due to Republicans who were not happy about the direction of their country. But it’s unlikely these numbers can be attributed entirely to that. As we reported yesterday, a Marist poll also found Obama’s independent voter support is eroding.

In polling, the trending is important and this latest poll coupled with the Marist poll suggest a shift:

The raucous protests at congressional town-hall-style meetings have succeeded in fueling opposition to proposed health care bills among some Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — particularly among the independents who tend to be at the center of political debates.

In a survey of 1,000 adults taken Tuesday, 34% say demonstrations at the hometown sessions have made them more sympathetic to the protesters’ views; 21% say they are less sympathetic.

Independents by 2-to-1, 35%-16%, say they are more sympathetic to the protesters now.

The findings are unwelcome news for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, who have scrambled to respond to the protests and in some cases even to be heard. From Pennsylvania to Texas, those who oppose plans to overhaul the health care system have asked aggressive questions and staged noisy demonstrations.

These numbers are also going to assure that the Town Halls will continue as they have unfolded since despite the debate over the tone, what it means for discussion, if it’s shifting some polling numbers health care reform opponents will figure “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” in terms of the protests. And if poll numbers continue to slide it will reduce Obama’s clout on this issue and make members of Congress up for re-election become skittish.

NBC’s First Read’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg give this take on a Town Hall yesterday:

While the focus of all these town-hall meetings across the country has been on health care, what has become clear is that the anger and frustration in the debate is about much more than that. Yesterday, one of us attended Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D) town hall in Hagerstown, MD, which is in a county McCain won but a state Obama overwhelmingly carried. The town hall had it all — shouting, shoving, at least one threat of pressing charges, two confrontations on race outside the town hall and people walking around with Obama-as-Hitler signs. At least the three-quarters of the crowd didn’t vote for Obama and said they would never vote for him. They were irritated with the direction of the country after the 2008 election, with a man as president they didn’t vote for, and with a Congress ruled by Democrats. They were angry with being out of power and having — because of being in the minority — what they felt was no say.

…. But there was no indication that these folks were so-called “Astroturf” grassroots supporters. There were many who were affiliated with the tea parties and even LaRouchies likening Obama to Hitler. One LaRouche organizer said he was there to “cause some trouble.” There also were some Obama supporters, who came, they said, because of being frustrated at what they’d seen on TV and were encouraged to come out by either MoveOn or Organizing for America. For many of the frustrated, there was real desperation in their voices — the belief, almost to the brink of tears, that the country is going to the pits. They are the true believers. They were also big-time Fox News viewers and Glenn Beck disciples, hammering home the perception that this is where these people get their news, er, information. One mother-daughter combo — unprompted — enthusiastically boasted, “Fox rules!” “It’s all we ever watch!”

Bill Clinton tried to repair health care, failed and never totally recovered politically. Is Obama destined for the same double-whammy fate?