Most of the Major Pieces of Legislation Signed by Obama are Popular with Americans Who are Familiar with Them

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – February 7, 2010 – The results of a new Harris Poll are something of a paradox. When asked separately about seven of the most important bills that were passed by the last Congress, including those passed in the very productive lame duck session in December, majorities of those who are familiar with them rate each of them good rather than bad. The three most popular bills, rated good by the most people who are familiar with them, are the 9/11 First Responders bill (88%), the bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits (73%), and the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law (68%).

    However, when the public is shown the list of the seven bills and asked about them all together, a substantial 61% to 39% majority of all adults rates them negatively. In an earlier question, before any of the specific bills were mentioned, a 46% to 33% plurality of all adults rated the new laws passed over the last two years negatively, with 21% not sure.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Some of the other interesting results of this poll are:

    • Familiarity with the 7 bills in the list varies greatly. Fully 80% of all adults are very or somewhat familiar with the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. 77% are familiar with the Health Care Reform bill. 72% are familiar with the bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits. 68% are familiar with stimulus package of increased government spending and tax cuts. 56% are familiar with the 9/11 First Responders health care bill. But only 37% are familiar with the ratification of the Start 2 Nuclear Arms Control bill, and only 39% are familiar with the Financial Regulation bill (the Dodd Frank Bill);
    • Approval of the bills by those who are very or somewhat familiar with them also varies greatly, with between 88% and 51% rating them good rather than bad. The most popular bills are the 9/11 First Responders bill (88% good) and the bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits (73%). Also very popular are the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law (68%), the ratification of Start 2 (67%), and the Financial Regulation bill (63%). The people familiar with the other two bills – the stimulus package and the Health Care Reform bill are split almost equally (51% to 49% for both) between those who think them good or bad;
    • Unsurprisingly there is a huge partisan split in attitudes to these pieces of legislation, with Republicans tending to be much more negative and Democrats much more positive about the legislation. However, large majorities of Republicans think that two of these pieces of legislation are good – the 9/11 First Responders bill (82%) and the extension of the Bush-era tax-cuts and unemployment benefits (89%). Large majorities of Republicans think that each of the other five pieces of legislation are bad.

    So What?

    These findings suggest several conclusions about public opinion and how it is formed and influenced. One conclusion is that the big picture-how people feel overall-is not the sum of all the small pictures, or how people feel about the details. It is also clear that emotions tend to trump detailed analysis; rhetoric often trumps information; and that partisanship often trumps rational analysis. All of this confirms that Democracy is messy, and the truth of Churchill’s famous remark that Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all of the others.

    TABLE 1

    RATING RECENT BILLS

    A number of new laws were passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President in the last two years, including several that were passed in December. Overall, how would you rate the legislation that was passed?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Political ID

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Positive (NET)

    33

    8

    59

    29

    37

    27

    33

    34

    Excellent

    8

    3

    17

    5

    13

    4

    6

    12

    Pretty good

    25

    6

    42

    24

    24

    23

    28

    22

    Negative (NET)

    46

    75

    20

    52

    35

    48

    50

    56

    Only fair

    23

    29

    16

    27

    19

    28

    25

    23

    Poor

    23

    46

    5

    26

    16

    21

    25

    32

    Not at all sure

    21

    17

    21

    19

    28

    25

    17

    10

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

    TABLE 2

    FAMILIAR WITH RECENT BILLS

    How familiar are you with each of the following bills that have been passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President in the last two years?

    Base: All adults

    Familiar (NET)

    Very familiar

    Somewhat familiar

    Not familiar (NET)

    Not very familiar

    Not at all familiar

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military

    80

    37

    44

    20

    10

    10

    The Health Care Reform bill

    77

    33

    44

    23

    14

    9

    The bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits

    72

    31

    41

    28

    15

    14

    The Stimulus Package of increased government spending and tax cuts

    68

    26

    42

    32

    19

    13

    The 9/11 First Responders health care bill

    56

    22

    35

    44

    22

    21

    The Financial Regulation bill

    39

    14

    25

    61

    31

    30

    The ratification of the Start 2 Nuclear Arms Control treaty

    37

    15

    21

    63

    27

    37

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

    TABLE 3

    RATING FAMILIAR BILLS

    Overall do you think it is good or bad that each of these bills was passed?

    Base: American adults who are familiar with each bill

    Good

    Bad

    %

    %

    The 9/11 First Responders health care bill

    88

    12

    The bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits

    73

    27

    The repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military

    68

    32

    The ratification of the Start 2 Nuclear Arms Control treaty

    67

    33

    The Financial Regulation bill

    63

    37

    The Stimulus Package of increased government spending and tax cuts

    51

    49

    The Health Care Reform bill

    51

    49

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

    TABLE 4

    RATING FAMILIAR BILLS

    Overall do you think it is good or bad that each of these bills was passed?

    Summary of those saying good

    Base: American adults who are familiar with each bill

    Total

    Political ID

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The 9/11 First Responders health care bill

    88

    82

    93

    87

    88

    92

    87

    86

    The bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits

    73

    89

    64

    70

    71

    73

    76

    71

    The repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military

    68

    37

    90

    67

    78

    67

    62

    63

    The ratification of the Start 2 Nuclear Arms Control treaty

    67

    29

    93

    66

    79

    59

    63

    62

    The Financial Regulation bill

    63

    31

    91

    54

    73

    48

    61

    63

    The Stimulus Package of increased government spending and tax cuts

    51

    20

    82

    42

    54

    48

    52

    44

    The Health Care Reform bill

    51

    11

    86

    45

    56

    47

    53

    43

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.


    TABLE 5

    RATING BILLS ALL TOGETHER

    Viewing these bills listed below all together, how would you rate them?

    • The repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military
    • The Health Care Reform bill
    • The bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits
    • The Stimulus Package of increased government spending and tax cuts
    • The 9/11 First Responders health care bill
    • The Financial Regulation bill
    • The ratification of the Start 2 Nuclear Arms Control treaty

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Political ID

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Positive (NET)

    39

    13

    64

    37

    43

    35

    39

    36

    Excellent

    7

    2

    13

    4

    12

    3

    4

    7

    Pretty good

    32

    10

    50

    33

    32

    32

    34

    29

    Negative (NET)

    61

    87

    36

    63

    57

    65

    61

    64

    Only fair

    44

    54

    33

    44

    45

    45

    42

    46

    Poor

    17

    33

    4

    19

    12

    19

    20

    18

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39369

    Q880, 885, 890, 895

    The Harris Poll ® #15, February 7, 2011

    By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.