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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 1, 2012

Saturday, December 01, 2012

How long will this current era of good feelings last?

President Obama, like most Election Day winners in years past, is enjoying a bounce in his job approval ratings in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll

For the second week in a row, 41% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s up 25 points from a year ago and close to the highest level of optimism during the Obama presidency.

Democrats now lead Republicans by five points on the Generic Congressional Ballot. This is the third week in a row that the Democrats have led on the ballot and ties the largest lead they have held since early 2009. Before this recent turnaround, Republicans had led on the generic ballot nearly every week for three-and-a-half years.

Prior to Election Day, voters trusted Republicans on seven-out-of-10 key issues.  Now, in the first survey following the election, Democrats are trusted more on nine of the major issues we regularly track. Republicans have a very slight 44% to 42% advantage when it comes to the economy, but they’ve generally held much bigger leads in recent years.

In short, the president and his party have a strong hand politically for now, as Scott Rasmussen explains in a new radio update. Still, money talks, as the old saying goes, and, troubling for Obama is the pessimism many voters are feeling about the economy. Just 16% of all Americans now believe today’s children will be better off than their parents, the standard past generations have set as their goal. Only 29% believe it is possible for anyone living in America to work hard and get rich.

Just over half (52%) of Americans still think buying a home is the best investment a family can make. But that compares with 73% who thought a home was a family's best investment in September 2008 right before the Wall Street meltdown.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of consumers think the economy is currently in a recession, a view shared by 57% of investors. 

Confidence in Obama’s handling of the economy has fallen back to pre-Election Day levels. Forty-two percent (42%) of all voters now think the president is doing a good or excellent job handling economic issues, but just as many (41%) rate his performance in this area as poor.

Perhaps most worrisome for the president is the fact that while a sizable number of voters believe the U.S. health care system is now in good shape, 50% expect it to get worse over the next couple years. Most voters have yet to feel the impact of Obama’s national health care law, much of which goes into effect in 2014.

“Early in his first term, Obama bet his legacy and the future of his party on his national health care plan,” Scott Rasmussen writes in his latest weekly newspaper column. “If the health care law is successfully implemented and working well in 2016, the president may have convinced a majority of Americans that the federal government is the solution and not the problem. If the health care law is perceived as a failure, most Americans are likely to conclude that Bill Clinton had it right when he declared that ‘the era of big government is over.’ "

Currently, there’s a huge partisan difference of opinion about the federal government. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats have a favorable opinion of it. Eighty-six percent (86%) of Republicans – and 73% of unaffiliated voters – do not.

Most voters also favor keeping government out of the marketplace. Just 24% have a favorable opinion of socialism. Interestingly, though, while Republicans and unaffiliateds offer strongly negative assessments of that economic system, Democrats are evenly divided.

Despite being tarnished in recent years by the bailouts and the Wall Street meltdown, capitalism earns much higher marks from voters across-the-board: 68% view it favorably, 25% unfavorably. When referred to as the free enterprise system, ratings are even higher among all voters: 76% favorable, 14% unfavorable.

But the first major hurdle the president and his party have to clear is the pending “fiscal cliff” of big tax hikes and deep spending cuts coming on January 1. A bare majority (51%) of voters thinks an alternative deficit-cutting deal between Obama and Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff is likely, but that includes only 16% who say it’s Very Likely. These feelings haven’t changed since just after Election Day.

Any such deal is likely to include tax increases on higher-income Americans, but a plurality (48%) of voters believes if Congress and the president raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit, they are likely to use the money for new government programs instead. 

Voters continue to like the idea of across-the-board cuts in federal government spending but are notably less enthusiastic if the defense budget is exempted. Significantly, exempting the military does not increase Republican support for spending cuts. Seventy percent (70%) of GOP voters support across-the-board cuts with or without the military included. However, including all spending rather than exempting the military dramatically increases support for cuts among Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Scott Rasmussen will be discussing our latest numbers on the impending "fiscal cliff," the health care system and the political unrest in Egypt on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks, now available on over 60 TV stations nationwide. Scott also will be joined by ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap for the program’s first-ever sports segment to discuss college football, the Super Bowl and America’s passion for sports.

Speaking of Egypt, voters are much more pessimistic about the government changes there brought about by the Arab Spring protests, but most believe the United States should stay out of that country’s growing political unrest. oters have consistently opposed U.S. involvement in recent Middle East conflicts.

Confidence that the United States is winning the war on terror is down to 44%, its lowest level in over a year. 

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In other surveys last week:

-- Gas prices continue to fluctuate like a bouncing ball, with most Americans now saying they are paying less or about the same amount for a gallon of gas as they were this summer. But 64% still think it is likely that the price of gas will rise above $4 a gallon in the next few months

-- At the start of the National Football League season, the San Francisco 49ers were the fan favorites to win Super Bowl XLVII. As the playoffs approach, fans still give the ‘Niners the edge to win it all, but it's close. Nearly as many pick the New York Giants to win their second in a row.

-- Most Americans like Hostess Twinkies and are following news about the company that makes them. They tend to blame a recalcitrant labor union for putting that company out of business.

-- With the Hostess Twinkie making headlines, 51% of Americans admit to having a sweet tooth, and 19% say they eat sugary snacks every day. Twice as many (37%) say they're overweight.

-- Most Americans plan to decorate their homes again this holiday season, but the majority hasn’t started yet. 

-- Forty-seven percent (47%) of Americans now have started their holiday shopping. Americans still strongly prefer signs in stores that say “Merry Christmas” rather than ones with “Happy Holidays.” 

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Wall Street Journal profile called Scott Rasmussen "America's Insurgent Pollster." The Washington Post described him as "a driving force in American politics."  If you'd like Scott to speak at your conference or event, contact Premiere Speakers Bureau.

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