Town Hall Protests: Whom Are They Helping?

The opinion world sorts out the latest Gallup poll.

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A new Gallup poll on health-care reform and the town hall protests has brought the big question of the past few days front and center: who's winning? Here are some of the proposed answers, including first takes on the poll numbers:

  • This Will Backfire  The Washington Post's David Broder has pointed Republican leaders to the example of Bruce Alger, who encouraged extreme protesters against vice presidential nominee Lyndon B. Johnson and lived to regret it. "Much improvement is needed in the health-care bills," Broder admits, "but I think these angry opponents are playing with fire."
  • Or Perhaps It Won't  Allahpundit over at Hot Air had a quick reaction to the pro-protest Gallup numbers: "Either indies have suddenly developed a taste for Nazi mobs of political terrorists or the Democrats' message war on ObsamaCare opponents is a rather epic fail."
  • Do The Gallup Numbers Matter?  "Here's the thing," wrote Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider, "It's all about a handful of Democrats who are on the fence with this stuff. Either they want to pass a bill they believe in or they don't. If otherwise pro-reform Democrats are swayed because of a few polls or some raucus town halls, they're not really leaders." Any further thoughts? "We'd like to know what Alexis de Tocqueville would've said about the healthcare protests," he added.
  • No Definite Answer  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight pointed out that "polls of this nature [...] are notoriously slippery." That said, he admitted that there are "some good numbers for the protesters." He continued, concluding that "while the upside is debatable, I certainly don't see much downside to conservative blogs in advancing stories about the protests"; since "health care reform is liable to succeed or fail based on the extent to which Americans--and the Congressmen they elect--are informed about the true nature of the bills pending [...] the real upside to the protests is that they perpetuate misinformation about the Democrats' bills."
  • Either Way, Obama's Losing  John Boehner at USAToday is convinced Americans "aren't buying" Obama's talk about the bill: "Americans don't want a better sales pitch; they want a better plan."

Update, 9:59 a.m.: The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder has also weighed in. "The Gallup poll is not that instructive; the drift rightward of independents could be happening."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.