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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- February 16, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Voters must sometimes wonder what part of the phrase “spending cuts” their elected officials don’t seem to understand.

In this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks, Scott Rasmussen and his guests, former DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Republican Senator Bob Corker,  discuss spending and other issues raised by President Obama in his latest State of the Union address. What America Thinks airs on 61 TV stations nationwide. Find a station in your area.

The economy, government spending and job creation were the top issues on voters’ minds before the president’s Tuesday night speech. They remain the top concerns after the speech, too. 

The president tackled the economy head on and called for more government spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education. Pluralities of voters believe such spending would help the economy, but most (55%) think spending cuts would help more.  Sixty-one percent (61%) think cutting the federal budget deficit would do more to help the economy than increased government spending for these kinds of projects.

But then voters are critical of the president’s handling of issues related to deficit reduction. Only 38% think he’s doing a good or excellent job in this area, while 44% consider his handling of these issues as poor.

Click here to see how voters rate the president’s performance in a number of key areas. Obama continues to earn some of the highest overall job approval ratings of his entire presidency in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll 

While more voters than ever (51%) are worried the government is not doing enough to help the struggling economy, 64% continue to believe spending cuts are the best course of action.    It’s important to note that even among those who want the government to do more, a plurality want it to cut spending.

Forty-six percent (46%) think the long-term plan for reducing the federal deficit should be based on spending cuts only, although nearly as many (41%) would rather see a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes.  That’s a big change from December when 66% wanted to see tax hikes included in the plan to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff crisis.

Scott Rasmussen’s latest book, "The People's Money", shows specific proposals supported by a majority of voters that would cut spending, balance the budget and completely eliminate the federal debt.  The New York Times bestseller is now available in paperback.

Just half (50%) of Americans believe that someone who works hard and meets their responsibilities generally gets ahead in the United States today. But slightly more think those who work like that make more money.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that it’s not only fair for entrepreneurs to get rich, it’s good for the economy

During the 2012 election, Republicans developed a makers vs. takers theme epitomized by Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the so-called 47%. New polling data suggests one of the reasons the line backfired is that support for an economic system that provides everybody with an opportunity to succeed is highest among lower-income voters. It’s higher among these voters than having an economy that provides for those who are truly unable to work.

Scott Rasmussen addresses the GOP’s messaging problems in his latest weekly newspaper column.  The party’s base needs to “do a much better job of spelling out choices to the voters,” he writes. “The party establishment needs to listen to GOP voters and find more effective ways of turning their ideas into an uplifting vision for the 21st century.”

Voters also express mixed feeling about a couple other items the president stressed in his State of the Union speech – gun control and global warming.

Yes, most Americans favor a ban on the sale of assault-type weapons, but they feel more strongly than ever that treating mental illness will do more than stricter gun control laws to help prevent mass killings. While 59% still think Congress and the president are likely to agree on more anti-gun laws, only 32% think those laws will decrease violent crime

Similarly, 61% of Likely Voters believe it’s at least somewhat important for Congress to pass major energy legislation aimed at reducing global warming this year, but just 40% think global warming is likely to be significantly reduced as a result. 

Voters remain closely divided over the president’s national health care law but also still believe overwhelmingly in individual choice when it comes to health insurance decisions. 

The Obama administration recently acknowledged its policy of using unmanned drones to kill U.S. citizens abroad who have terrorist ties, prompting outrage across the political spectrum. Most voters don’t like the idea and believe any such decision should be subject to checks and balances of some kind.

But back to pocketbook issues, most Americans (72%) remain concerned about inflation, and 68% expect to be paying more for groceries a year from now

Seventeen percent (17%) of consumers rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, while 42% feel it’s in poor shape. Among investors, 21% rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, but 38% rate it as poor.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of all American are at least somewhat confident in the stability of the banking system, while nearly as many (45%) lack that confidence. By contrast, in July 2008 shortly before the Wall Street meltdown, 68% were confident in the nation's banks.

In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction

-- Democrats hold a three-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot. The president’s party has led every week since Election Day, but this is the narrowest gap between the two parties in three months.

-- While demographers ponder the impact of the nation's declining birth rate, Americans worry more about a population that grows too fast rather than one that grows too slow.

-- Most voters still view Social Security favorably but lack confidence that the government program will pay them their full benefits. 

-- Most American Catholics have a favorable opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, but less than half think he shares the views and values of the majority of Catholics in this country.

-- Valentine’s Day is a day for love, but most Americans don’t show much love for the holiday. Nineteen percent (19%), in fact, dread it. And forget flowers and chocolate. What most Americans want is dinner with someone special on Valentine’s Day. 

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

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.

Remember, if it's in the news, it's in our polls.

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

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.

Remember, if it's in the news, it's in our polls.

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