Party is all that matters when it comes to supporting the filibuster

June 04, 2021, 3:50 PM UTC

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to reject the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 takeover of the U.S. Capitol. Even though a majority of those voting supported the establishment of the commission, the proposal did not receive the 60 votes required to pass under the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule. 

The latest Economist/YouGov poll, like earlier ones, finds that support for the Senate’s filibuster rule is linked to partisanship. The party that controls the Chamber – currently the Democrats – thinks the filibuster is bad (32% say it is good, 68% say it is bad), while the minority party – the Republicans – thinks it is good (68% vs 32%). Those partisan positions always flip when the other party is in control because the rule often keeps the majority party from passing certain legislation.

Opinion of the commission itself is also closely linked to opinion of the filibuster. Those who approve of an independent investigation of the takeover describe the filibuster as a bad thing (35% say the filibuster is good, 65% say it’s bad), while those who disapprove of it say it is a good thing (75% good vs 25% bad).

Just as was the case in the Senate, there is majority support in this poll for an independent commission to investigate the events of January 6. Half (52%) approve, while three in 10 (30%) do not. Slightly fewer than nine in 10 Democrats (85%) and half of Independents (50%) approve of the commission, but just 19% of Republicans do.  

Republican dislike of the independent commission extends to those GOP members of Congress who supported it. Representative Liz Cheney (19% favorable, 56% unfavorable) and Senators Lisa Murkowski (16% vs 44%) and Mitt Romney (24% vs 60%) receive negative evaluations from Republicans in this poll, while Senators Josh Hawley (36% to 15%) and Ted Cruz (64% to 18%) — two leaders of the January 6 attempt to reject some state-certified Electoral College votes — are seen favorably by Republicans. 

There is some willingness – even among Republicans who support the filibuster – to change the filibuster rules to make using it more difficult, and perhaps to return it to its original rules. A majority of Americans say Senators should be required to hold the floor in person to carry out a filibuster (54%), something that 52% of Republicans favor. 

There is less support to change rules to make it harder to threaten to filibuster, so senators cannot block legislation with a threat alone (45% support this idea, 22% are opposed). Three in 10 Republicans (30%) and 63% of Democrats support this idea.  

Filibuster
 

A filibuster cannot be used for fiscal legislation and budgetary issues, which has been the case since the creation of the reconciliation process established by the passage of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. It also cannot be used on presidential appointments to the Cabinet and to the Supreme Court. A Republican-controlled Senate changed the rule in 2017 to allow only 51 votes to confirm Supreme Court appointments.  

All three Justices appointed by former President Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — were confirmed after this rule change and received 54, 50, and 52 votes respectively. Despite this change by a GOP-controlled Senate, half of Republicans (49%) say that Supreme Court appointments should need 60 votes to pass, not 51.  

In this poll, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to support the 60-vote majority for all types of legislation and appointments, even for those types of votes that now require only a simple majority. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between May 22 - 25, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.9% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty