Gallup gauges responses to angry mobs

GALLUP GAUGES RESPONSES TO ANGRY MOBS…. Far-right opponents of health care reform have engaged in some very ugly tactics lately, including, but not limited to, shouting down opponents, making death threats, vandalism, and an unhealthy obsession with Nazis.

Any chance the right’s thuggish extremism might spark a public backlash? Apparently not, at least not yet.

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.

There are a few angles to this. You’ll note, for example, that when the breakdown is 34%-21%, it means there’s a large plurality with no opinion or whose attitudes haven’t changed one way or the other. For that matter, there’s no way to know from the poll if those who say they’re more sympathetic to right-wing protestors have actually agreed with the protestors from the outset.

That said, the poll clearly doesn’t point to the results Democrats were hoping to see at this point. If there’s a widespread public backlash to right-wing thuggish mobs, this poll didn’t find it.

There is, however, the bigger picture to consider: how does this affect the reform debate? Or, more specifically, does it affect the reform debate at all? Opponents of reform intended to use August to intimidate lawmakers and convince the public that changes to the status quo are a bad idea. August is nearly half over, and much of the ongoing discussion is over whether right-wing activists are going too far, whether the opposition is genuine or manufactured, whether thuggish tactics are “un-American,” etc.

There’s very little evidence, at least at this point, that the larger debate has changed in any meaningful way, and even less evidence that the Democratic majority in Congress has been swayed to follow right-wing demands.

It’s only August 13, and there’s plenty of screaming left to do, but it seems likely that when the congressional recess ends in September, we’ll see the same political landscape that existed at the end of July.