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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 8, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The GOP is losing the messaging war in the ongoing debate over how to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Voters are more confident that the president is willing to agree to a deal with both spending cuts and tax increases than Republicans are.

Just 40% think Obama will insist on tax increases only, while 51% feel the GOP will insist on spending cuts only. Most unaffiliated voters are skeptical that either side is really willing to accept a deal.

The president “is winning … largely because Republicans aren't even in the game," Scott Rasmussen explains in his weekly newspaper column. "The president has proposed a policy that addresses a perceived level of unfairness in the nation's economic arrangements. Whether it's the best approach doesn't even matter because Republicans in Washington haven't even tried to address the fairness issue. They keep arguing about economic theories."

On Scott Rasmussen’s weekly TV show, What America Thinks, noted economist Larry Kudlow says the term “fiscal cliff” is overheated. He prefers to call it a fiscal slope. The noted economist also says that the attitude in Washington towards entrepreneurs is more damaging to the economy than slightly higher tax rates.

Most voters continue to support the president’s call for higher taxes on upper-income Americans. However, just 19% agree with Obama’s call for increased federal spending to help stimulate the economy.

While hoping for a deal to avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts slated for January 1, voters aren’t confident that a deal will be any better. In fact, most voters think any deal reached by the president and Congress will raise taxes for the middle class. Few believe spending cuts will materialize.

Recognition is growing among voters that reducing the deficit will require cuts in both defense and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. However, in recent weeks, voters have grown less confident that the politicians will adopt a long-term plan to accomplish that goal.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of  voters put economic growth ahead of economic fairness. But there is a clear perception that higher-income Americans are not paying their fair share of the tax burden.

Most voters (52%) now consider the president a good or excellent leader, the first time his positives have broken the 50% mark since June 2009. He continues to earn some of the highest job approval ratings of his presidency in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Meanwhile,  just 10% of voters rate Congress’ job performance as good or excellent.

Democrats have jumped to an 11-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot, the largest lead they have held since late August 2008. The GOP is at its lowest level of support since January 2009. Up until about a month before Election Day, Republicans had generally held a modest lead on the Generic Ballot since June 2009.

For the third week in a row, 41% of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s up 24 points from a year ago and near the highest level of optimism during the Obama presidency.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of consumers say the U.S. economy is getting better these days, but 43% say it's getting worse. Among investors, 34% think economic conditions in the country are improving, but 44% disagree.

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans believe unemployment will be higher in a year's time. That’s the highest level of pessimism measured in several years.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence fell a point in November. It’s down two points since January but is up two points from this time last year. Twenty percent (20%) of workers report their firms are hiring, while 25% report their employer is laying people off. This is the fifth straight month that reported layoffs have outnumbered reported hiring. Prior to that, there had been eight straight months with more hiring than layoffs.

More Americans than ever (39%) now think that if people can’t find work for an extended period of time, the government should do nothing at all to help them. Only eight percent (8%) feel their unemployment benefits should be extended indefinitely.

Also potentially troubling for the president are the continued legal challenges against his national health care law. As part of that law, all companies must have health insurance coverage that provides no-cost contraceptives for women, but a federal appeals court has upheld a challenge by a Catholic businessman who says the law violates his religious beliefs. Forty-six percent (46%) of voters feel that if providing such coverage violates the deeply held beliefs of a church, religious organization or business owner, they should be allowed to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives. But nearly as many voters (41%) disagree.

Voters tend to agree with the federal government setting standards for health insurance coverage but think individuals should have the right to choose reduced coverage if it saves them money.

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In other surveys last week:

-- Despite continuing legal challenges, more adults than ever (82%) favor the celebration of all religions in the public schools. Most (73%) also still believe religious displays should be permitted on public land.

-- Americans will be cautious about how much they give to charity this holiday season.

-- Just 44% of voters think Social Security is a good deal for working Americans today. Only 42% are even somewhat confident that Social Security will pay them all their promised benefits in their lifetime, with 17% who are Very Confident.

-- Congress is considering getting rid of the dollar bill and replacing it with a coin as a budget-cutting move. Americans don’t like the idea - until they hear how much money it will save.

-- At midweek, 59% of American Adults had started their holiday shopping, up from 47% a week earlier. Fifteen percent (15%) were finished.

-- Concern about the safety of toys is at an all-time high this holiday season, but most Americans admit they have never purchased a defective toy.

-- Americans as a whole are pretty casual about discussing and viewing sports, but they believe overwhelmingly that sports are good for young people.

-- Baseball may be called America’s pastime, but the United States is clearly a football nation. Most sports fans (53%) say football is their favorite sport to follow.

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