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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- For The Week Ending August 25, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Voters are clear that the economy is the most important issue in this year’s presidential campaign, but right now “legitimate rape” and a plan to reform Medicare seem to be dominating much of the media coverage.

Short- and long-term confidence in the nation’s economy continues to hover around lows for the year.  

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of homeowners believe the value of their home will go down over the next year.   One-in-four (24%) think the value of their home will go down even further over the next five years. Fewer than half (47%) believe their home is worth more than what they still owe on the mortgage.  

Twenty-six percent (26%) say their home is worth less now than when they bought it. 

Just 14% of consumers rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, a view shared by just as many (13%) investors. Fifty-two percent (52%) of consumers rate the economy as poor, as do 53% of investors.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index® provided the one piece of good economic news this week: Americans are feeling better about their finances this month than one year ago when their confidence hit an all-time low. LINK

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Voters continue to view tax and government spending cuts as beneficial to the economy.  They remain closely divided over whether the government will do too much or too little to help the troubled economy. But even those who want the government to do more are evenly divided between those who want government to cut spending and those who want more government spending.

Yet most voters don’t expect spending cuts no matter which candidate wins the White House and which party wins control of Congress. 

No wonder then that both candidates are having a hard time connecting with voters, Scott Rasmussen argues in his latest syndicated newspaper column. “Neither man at the top of the ticket has proven adept at connecting with working-class voters who hold the key to this election,” he says. “Voters want a president who will focus on making the government work for America rather than forcing America to work for the government.”

Still, Republicans have the voter edge on the economy as they head into their national convention this coming week, Scott explains in a new radio update. (Listen to Scott’s radio updates three times daily Monday through Friday on a radio station in your area, courtesy of the WOR Radio Network.) But what are the politicians talking about instead?

Democrats hope to make inroads in the senior vote by raising concerns about the Medicare reform proposal made by Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan. But most seniors are more fearful of President Obama’s health care law than they are of Ryan’s plan. These findings parallel results among seniors in several key states we’ve polled in the last few days.

Most voters, by the way, still want to repeal the health care law, although there doesn’t seem to be too much discussion of that issue on the hustings either. 

Perhaps the biggest political news of the week was Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s statement in a television interview that in cases of “legitimate rape,” women’s reproductive systems shut down to prevent pregnancy. Democrats and the media quickly seized on the comment to ridicule and attack Akin, and the resulting uproar prompted Romney and other leading Republicans to call for Akin to step down as the party’s Senate candidate in Missouri. So far he has refused to do so.

Akin who was leading embattled Democrat Claire McCaskill in late July is now trailing her 48% to 38% in Missouri's U.S. Senate race.  A seat that had once been leaning in the Republican direction has shifted to Safe Democrat in the Rasmussen Reports Senate Balance of Power rankings

At the same time, Romney’s lead in Missouri has vanished.  Obama now earns 47% support to Romney’s 46%. At the end of July, it was Romney by six, and he has been ahead in Missouri all year. Missouri now moves from Leans Romney to a Toss-Up in the Rasmussen Reports Electoral College Projections.

The critical battleground state of Virginia remains a Toss-Up, with the president and Romney each earning 47% of the vote there now. 

In the no surprise department, Obama is well ahead in Connecticut and New Mexico, while Montana remains Romney country all the way. 

While the two contenders still run neck-and-neck in the daily Presidential Tracking Pollthe president now leads in states with 247 Electoral College votes, while Romney is ahead in states with 196. Seven states with a total of 75 Electoral College votes are rated Toss-Ups.

Ever since the president’s “You didn’t build that” comment, the Obama campaign has fought back against the perception that he values government workers more than small business owners. Regardless of whether the comments were taken out of context or reflect his true beliefs, the president trails badly among the nation’s entrepreneurs. But he’s well ahead among government employees.

Voters are evenly divided as to whether Ryan or Joe Biden is better qualified to serve as president. Not surprisingly, there’s a huge partisan divide on the issue.

The race for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat remains one of the tightest of the year, with Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine each drawing 45% of the vote. This race is rated a Toss-Up in the Rasmussen Reports’ Senate Balance of Power projections

Also rated a Toss-Up is the Senate contest in Connecticut for the seat being vacated by long-time Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman. Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon holds a narrow 49% to 46%  lead over Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy. 

Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg continues to hold a modest lead – 47% to 43% - over incumbent Democrat Jon Tester in Montana’s U.S. Senate race. This race also remains a Toss-Up.

Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich receives his highest level of support yet against former Congresswoman Heather Wilson in New Mexico’s U.S. Senate race. Heinrich is ahead 48% to 41%. The latest numbers shift the race from a Toss-Up to Leans Democrat.

Elections for 33 U.S. Senate seats will be held in November. When the dust settles, Rasmussen Reports projects that the GOP and the Democrats can each count on 47 seats while six are Toss-Ups. 

Republicans still hold a modest lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have virtually every week since June 2009. 

Then there’s the forgotten war, an issue that virtually never comes up on the campaign trail. The death toll for U.S. troops in Afghanistan passed the 2,000 mark earlier this month, and voters are more pessimistic than ever about the country’s involvement there. Forty-one percent (41%) believe things will get worse in Afghanistan over the next six months. Still, voters tend to believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror.

Look for the new TV show, “What America Thinks, with Scott Rasmussen,” debuting the weekend of September 8 on more than 50 stations, headlined by WCBS in New York and KCBS in Los Angeles. Emmy Award winner Matthew Cohen will direct the show. (See list of stations here.) 

In other news last week:

 -- For the second week in a row, 29% of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction. Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters continue to think the country is heading down the wrong track,

 -- Fewer adults than ever (15%) now report than they are paying higher interest rates than they were one year ago, and expectations that those rates will be higher in a year's time are at their lowest level this year. 

 -- Despite concerns about the economy and inflation, most Americans with school age children plan to spend more money getting them ready for school than they did a year ago. 

 -- Most Americans still think their fellow citizens are honest, but even more agree that Americans aren’t as honest as they used to be. 

 -- Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Likely Voters believe most politicians break the rules to help people who give them a lot of money. Just 13% disagree.

 -- Most voters continue to believe it is not possible to run for the presidency without help from lobbyists and special interest groups. But by a slight 47% to 42% margin, they also still think that media bias is a bigger problem than big campaign contributions

 -- Voters still agree with the president’s new policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to get legal work permits, but they strongly oppose also making these young people eligible for driver’s licenses or taxpayer-funded benefits. 

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