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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Let’s put politics on pause to reflect at least briefly on the peaceful message of Christmas.

Americans overwhelmingly continue to celebrate Christmas, and it remains the nation's top holiday. It’s important to note, however, that Christmas, as most Americans remind us, is more about Jesus Christ than Santa Claus.

Americans also still strongly believe Christmas should be honored in public schools and that religious symbols like Christmas nativity scenes should have a place on public land. More than half of Americans believe there’s not enough religion in the public schools system today.

Along with the growing level of economic confidence in the country since Donald Trump’s election, we’ve found more enthusiasm for Christmas this year. Forty-six percent (46%) of Americans have friends or relatives traveling to their home to visit this holiday season. That's  the highest finding in regular surveying since 2009.

Seventy-three percent (73%) say they will decorate their home this year, also a new high.

But some things haven’t changed: Men are waiting to the last minute to do their holiday shopping, but they’re also planning to spend more than women compared to a year ago.

Police in Milan, Italy report the killing of the Islamic terrorist who mowed down unsuspecting Christmas revelers in Berlin earlier this week. While Europe reacts to the latest terrorist outrage, Americans aren’t overly concerned about terror on these shores this holiday season.

The radical Islamic State group (ISIS) has taken credit for the Berlin attack and threatens to attack U.S. churches. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of U.S. voters think ISIS is a serious threat to this country, with 68% who see it as a Very Serious one. President-elect Trump says ISIS – and radical Islamic terrorism – are his top national security concerns.

As recently as September, fewer than half of Americans were confident that the government can stop future domestic terrorist attacks.  But voters also tended to believe Trump would do a better job than his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton protecting them from terrorists.

Trump says the Berlin attack reaffirms the need for his plan to temporarily restrict immigration from countries with a history of terrorism. Most voters favor that plan.

But generally speaking, when it comes to legal immigration, voters here still oppose giving special preference to some over others.

Most voters continue to favor legal immigration but don’t support increasing the number allowed into the country even if illegal immigration is finally gotten under control.

Voters strongly believe in the dreams of newcomers to America but remain more skeptical about whether most new immigrants share those dreams.

Voters still have a lot to learn about Rex Tillerson, the high-powered CEO that Trump has nominated to be secretary of State, but they worry that his ties to Russia will be bad for the United States.

So what does America think about Russia these days?

Thirty-three percent (33%) of voters now think America is headed in the right direction. After being in the mid- to upper 20s for much of this year, the finding has now been at 30% or higher every week since mid-October.

Sixty-one percent (61%) believe American society is fair and decent, the highest level of confidence in three-and-a-half years.

Americans are more optimistic about the future than they have been in over four years.

In other surveys last week:

-- Americans think “safe spaces” and other tools used by an increasing number of colleges and universities to reduce student stress will end up hurting graduates when they enter the job market.

-- Voters here are still reluctant to get more involved in Syria despite the recent carnage in Aleppo.

-- In the closing weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama continues to earn some of the highest job approval ratings of his entire time in the White House.

-- The North Carolina legislature this week opted not to repeal legislation that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of their biological sex. Fifty-five percent (55%) of Americans with school-age children oppose allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

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