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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 22, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and the question remains: Will taxes go up, or will they stay just the same?

Voter confidence is fading that Congress and the president will reach a deal to avoid the December 31 “fiscal cliff” of big tax hikes and automatic across-the-board spending cuts. But voters still see President Obama as more willing than congressional Republicans to accept a compromise, and that’s a big problem for the GOP.

As the fiscal cliff deadline approaches, Obama continues to enjoy some of the highest job approval ratings of his presidency. On the other hand, House Speaker John Boehner has now passed his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi to become the least-liked major congressional leader, a title Pelosi has held for several years. 

Obama has turned the fiscal cliff issue into a debate about fairness. Overall, voters are evenly divided as to whether or not the economy is fair. Half believe it’s fair to lower-income Americans, only 41% think it is fair to the middle class

Boehner was forced to pull his Plan B to extend the Bush tax cuts for all but millionaires off the House floor late Thursday because he didn't even have enough votes in his own party to pass it. Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest weekly newspaper column, Boehner's 'Plan B' Hurt the GOP , that Republicans continue to lose the tax fairness issue because “That's the issue Obama is talking about and Republicans are ignoring.” He adds,  “By agreeing to raise taxes on anyone, Boehner has antagonized his base. By refusing to raise taxes on enough upper-income Americans, Boehner has antagonized those in the middle.”

Republican congressional leaders had given ground in the fiscal cliff negotiations by proposing to raise taxes on those who make more than a million dollars a year, but most voters don’t think that goes far enough. Even if that were passed, 59% think Congress also should raise taxes on those who earn between $250,000 and a million dollars a year. 

Fewer voters than ever think the United States is overtaxed. Forty-six percent (46%) still believe the nation is overtaxed, but nearly as many (42%) disagree. As recently as April 2010, 66% of voters felt the country was overtaxed, but that figure was down to 56% by March of this year.

One factor that many in Washington blame for the gridlock in the fiscal cliff talks is an anti-tax pledge signed by most Republican members of Congress. Voters are evenly divided about candidates who sign a pledge not to raise taxes. However, Republicans who are represented by a pledge signer overwhelmingly want their congressman to honor that pledge.

Democrats continue to lead Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have every week since Election Day. Prior to that time, Republicans had consistently held a modest advantage with few exceptions every week since June 2009.

The fiscal cliff negotiations will be a hot topic on this weekend’s edition of Scott Rasmussen’s new television show, What America Thinks, aired on over 60 stations nationwide. Scott will talk with Republican Congressman Tom Cole on if and where his party is willing to compromise. The show also will examine how Americans are reacting to the horrific elementary school massacre in Connecticut and what they think the response should be.

A plurality (48%) of adults believes more action to treat mental health issues will do the most to prevent incidents like the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven percent (27%) think stricter gun control laws will do the most to prevent such shootings, while 15% put the emphasis on limits on violent movies and video games. But just 20% feel that schools can ever be made completely safe against violence like the December 14 incident.

Americans are now evenly divided over the need for stronger anti-gun laws. That marks the highest level of support yet for stricter gun control. Fifty-nine percent (59%) think Congress and the president are likely to create those tougher laws, but just 22% say it’s Very Likely. They're much less confident that limits will be placed on violent movies and video games. 

Most Americans favor a ban on the sale of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons, but just 23% think it would be good for the country if only government officials such as the police and military personnel were allowed to have guns. Only 26% would feel safer moving to a neighborhood where nobody was allowed to own a gun versus one where you could have a gun for your own protection.

On a more cheerful note, the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes, which measure daily confidence among both groups, are up slightly at week’s end from three months ago. 

At the same time, there has been a sharp increase in short-term housing market confidence over the past month. Thirty-one percent (31%) believe their home’s value will go up over the next year, the highest level of confidence since April 2010. Just 19% expect a decline.

Twenty-one percent (21%) of American think now is a good time for someone in their area to be selling a house. Anemic as that sounds, it’s the highest level of confidence in the local housing market recorded in regular surveys since April 2009. Interestingly, homeowners are slightly less convinced than others that now is a good time to sell.

It doesn’t necessarily bode well for the housing market, though, that 46% of Americans predict that they will be paying higher interest rates a year from today

More than 15,000 people participated in this year’s first-ever Rasmussen Challenge, with an average of 2,900 people playing weekly. And now we have a winner – Bill Kerins of Bucks County, PA. He wins a 16G third generation iPad with WiFi, valued at approximately $500. Given its success with the Rasmussen Reports audience, the Rasmussen Challenge will resume in 2013.  New contest details will be announced soon.

In other surveys last week:

-- As Christmas nears, adults remain closely divided as to whether they find the holidays joyous or stressful, but most still aren't having trouble getting in the holiday spirit. 

-- Three-out-of-four Americans have given to church, charitable or other non-profit groups over the past six months. 

-- Parties are a highlight of this Christmas season for many people, but traditional caroling isn’t nearly as popular

-- Voters are now almost evenly divided over the establishment of a single-payer health care system under which the federal government provides coverage for everyone. 

-- Thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. After Election Day, confidence in the nation’s course initially tracked in the low 40s, the highest level of optimism during the Obama years. Still, this week’s finding is up 13 points from the beginning of the year.

-- More voters than ever (41%) think that if a woman comes to the United States illegally and gives birth to a child here, that child should be a U.S. citizen. But 51% still disagree.

-- One-out-of-three voters (33%) continue to give the U.S. Supreme Court good or excellent marks for its job performance. Positive ratings for the high court have generally remained in the low to mid-30s since 2011, while poor marks have ranged from 16% to 28% in the same period.

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