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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending February 21, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The United States prides itself on being a nation of laws, not a nation of men. But a surprising number of voters are ready to override those laws in order to have their way.

President Obama’s immigration plan and his national health care law both face legal challenges this year that could bring them to a halt. But one-in-four voters think the president should be able to ignore the courts if he wants to, and Democrats believe that even more strongly.  

Opponents of the president's actions say he does not have the constitutional authority to alter a law passed by Congress without congressional approval. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters think Obama has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than most other presidents. 

But 31% believe when it comes to issues that he considers important to the nation, Obama should take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed.  So much for our constitutionally mandated checks and balances between the three branches of government.

Twenty-four percent (24%) believe states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials disagree with them.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans think the Constitution should be left alone.  Thirty-three percent (33%) believe only minor changes are needed in the nation's foundational document. The rest are ready to rewrite it or scrap it completely.

While the Founding Fathers conceived this nation as one based on laws, they also insisted right from the start in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. But just 25% of voters believe the federal government today has that consent.

No wonder then that voter distrust in the federal government continues to climb. Only 20% now consider the government a protector of individual liberty, while 60% see it as a threat to liberty instead.

Voters still view the president’s order exempting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation as illegal and tend to think Congress should try to stop it. But they’re evenly divided over whether a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the way to do it. The House of Representatives has approved funding for the DHS that does not include money for the president’s amnesty plan, but Obama has vowed to veto any budget that doesn’t include that money.

As for Obamacare, voters still balk at its requirement that all Americans must buy or otherwise obtain health insurance.

While the president’s daily job approval ratings remain better than they were before Election Day, voters remain closely divided over his handling of national security and economic matters.

Ratings for Congress are still nothing to write home about, but they are more positive than they’ve been in nearly five years. Still, most voters think Congress is a bunch of sellouts. Voters continue to find the large number of millionaires serving in Congress troubling and to question how they got that way.

Republicans hold the edge over Democrats for the second week in a row on the Generic Congressional Ballot, but it remains very close as it has been for well over a year.

The president hosted a summit at the White House this week to discuss ways to counter terrorism worldwide. But in a recent interview, he said the media overhypes the threat of terrorism and downplays the greater long-term threat of climate change and epidemic diseases. Voters by far, however, see terrorism as the bigger long-term threat to the United States.

We were curious this week, too, whether Americans think global warming is to blame for the cold weather and heavy snows hitting much of the country.

Daily consumer and investor confidence are down slightly but still remain at higher levels than they have been in several years. But voters still feel the current economy isn't working for the middle class

While confidence in home ownership as a family investment has hit a year-high, Americans continue to have mixed feelings about whether now’s a good time to sell a home. Most homeowners are making their mortgage payments on time, but Americans don’t want the government assisting those who can’t.

Beginning-of-the-year confidence in the banking industry has faded, and concerns about rising grocery prices have returned to levels seen for the last three years.

In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty-two percent (32%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- It’s no secret that faith in God is important to many Americans in one form or another. But just how important is religion in their everyday lives, and how do they practice their faiths? 

-- This past Monday, we celebrated Presidents Day to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Americans think some other presidents deserve a federal holiday, too.

-- But the thought of adding any of the recent presidents to Mount Rushmore leaves most Americans cold.

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