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Most Think Congress Doesn’t Read What It Votes On, Favor Putting Bills Online Well In Advance

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Speaker John Boehner like many of his predecessors has pledged that the new Congress will be more open and transparent than the previous one, but voters want even more openness than he has promised.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 11% of Likely U.S. Voters think most members of Congress read laws before they vote on them. Sixty-five percent (65%) don’t think that’s the case, and another 24% are not sure.  (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Just before Democrats in Congress passed the national health care bill last March, only 20% of voters believed most members of Congress understood what was in the plan.

Last-minute deal-making on the health care bill prevented its public posting until just before the vote, and in response to complaints about the handling of it and other legislation, Boehner has said all bills will be posted publicly online three days before the House votes. But voters say overwhelmingly that that’s not long enough.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of voters say that, except in extreme emergencies, legislation should be posted online in final form and available for everybody to read before Congress votes on it. Only eight percent (8%) disagree. This is nearly identical to findings in September 2009 after Congress had returned from a recess filled with angry town hall meetings over the health care bill, the bailout plans and the $787-billion economic stimulus.

Of those who favor posting proposed final legislation online, 92% don’t think Boehner’s plan goes far enough: 33% say bills should be posted one week before a vote, and 59% think posting should take place two weeks or more in advance. Just six percent (6%) say three days is good enough, and one percent (1%) feel one day beforehand is all right.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on January 15-16, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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