Town hall attacks: as American as mom and apple pie

Angry attacks on the healthcare bill are as American as ... baseball, hot dogs, and big V-8 engines.

That’s what a majority of respondents said in a recent Gallup poll, anyway. Overall, the survey indicates that voter attitudes toward political discourse may be more rough-and-tumble than you might think.

Verbal fireworks are taking place all across the country at town hall meetings on healthcare legislation hosted by local members of Congress. Asked whether this anger is an “abuse of democracy” or “democracy in action,” 51 percent of respondents to the Aug. 12 survey chose the latter.

The survey also broke down respondents by political affiliation. Sixty-four percent of Republicans approved of the attacks. So did 55 percent of self-described independent voters. Democrats, however, didn’t agree: 53 percent of them judged the attacks to be abuse.

And booing members of Congress? Well, maybe that’s a little worse than just the angry attacks, according to the Gallup poll results. But a fairly large percentage of voters appear to think that disrespect for your elected legislator is a perfectly acceptable part of the nation’s political tradition.

Overall, 44 percent of poll respondents judged that booing members of Congress who make statements with which they disagree is democracy in action. But 47 percent judged it abuse of democracy.

A majority of Republicans and a plurality of independents thought that booing under such circumstances was perfectly OK.

Shouting people down, though – that’s where Americans draw the line. Fully 59 percent of respondents agreed that it is an abuse of democracy to “shout down supporters when they speak in favor of a healthcare bill.”

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