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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 21, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Americans need a little holly jolly time as the year comes to an end.

Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 37% felt that way.

More voters than ever (66%) believe the economy is unfair to the middle class.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) now oppose the new national health care law’s requirement that every American must have health insurance. That’s the highest level of opposition to the individual mandate to date.

Positive reviews of President Obama’s leadership fell again this month and now stand at their lowest level in two years. Only 39% of voters give the president good or excellent marks for leadership, down 16 points from a year ago.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings appeared to be improving slightly after weeks at the lowest levels of his presidency but in the last few days have fallen lower again. 

Despite his support of the new bipartisan budget deal, nearly half (49%) of voters now rate the president poorly on his efforts to reduce the deficit, and he only fares marginally better when it comes to policies related to economic fairness.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) now view the federal government unfavorably, a new high.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger one with more services and higher taxes.

Sixty-one percent (61%) also favor a federal budget that cuts spending, although voters are more closely divided over the new budget deal that restores billions in across-the-board sequester spending cuts from earlier this year. 

The budget deal includes no new taxes but does raise some user fees. Only 22% of voters believe additional tax hikes are needed to fund the federal government.

Just 15% of voters think the House of Representatives is doing a good or excellent job, while 13% say the same of the Senate. Still, that’s an improvement over the seven percent (7%) who rate the overall performance of Congress as good or excellent.

Republicans and Democrats are running even on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

But for the next few days, the unhappiness with the national political scene will take a backseat as 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas with their families. After all, for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Most Americans (53%) continue to have no problem getting into the holiday spirit, unchanged from last season. Still, while 45% consider the season joyous, just as many (43%) say it is generally stressful for them.

It probably doesn't help that at the beginning of the week, just one-in-three had finished their holiday shopping. The level of gift-buying appears little changed from recent years, despite the lukewarm level of investor confidence

An overwhelming majority of working Americans say they have time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but 40% have to work at least some major holidays.

Twenty-four percent (24%) of all Americans plan on traveling away from home this holiday season, and 84% of those travelers will be visiting family and friends.

Forty-nine percent (49%), however, believe airline deregulation has made flying more expensive. But regular fliers are less critical of deregulation and more likely than non-fliers to think it has made air travel cheaper.

Thirty-three percent (33%) are still concerned about the safety of most toys being sold this holiday season, but that’s the lowest level of concern measured in yearly tracking since 2009.

In other surveys last week: 

-- While 2013 will be known for plenty of domestic matters, U.S. foreign policy was also in the spotlight for much of the year.

-- Just 21% of voters think the federal government should grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden full amnesty from prosecution in exchange for the return of all classified information that he still possesses. 

-- The Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on in-flight cell phone use, but 65% of Americans don’t think people should be allowed to chat on their cell phones during a flight

-- The Chinese landed a lunar probe earlier this week, the first manned landing on the moon in nearly 40 years, but just 42% of voters believe the United States should resume manned space missions to the moon within the next decade. That’s unchanged from a year ago.

-- Time magazine named Pope Francis its “Person of the Year” earlier this month, and nearly one-in-four Americans agree that the pope was the year’s most influential person. The president was a close second.

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