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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 5

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The week began with a “fiscal cliff” deal that surprised no one and earned mixed reviews. It ended with another mixed unemployment report that is unlikely to change the general concerns about the nation’s economy.

Voters are evenly divided in their views of the last-minute deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” reached by President Obama and Congress. Most Democrats like it; most Republican don’t. Very few expect government spending to go down as a result.

Most voters continue to favor across-the-board spending cuts, but the “fiscal cliff” deal, in fact, contains by one estimate only $1 in spending cuts for every $41 in new taxes. Talk of further cuts has been pushed down the road.

Not that voters are surprised. A month ago, they predicted that significant spending cuts were unlikely. Voters at that time were looking for a deal to reduce the budget deficit that included more spending cuts than tax hikes, but they expected the finished deal to emphasize tax increases instead.

Despite the Inside the Beltway euphoria, the “fiscal cliff” deal is likely to spell trouble for official Washington, Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest weekly newspaper column. One reason, he says, is that “only 50% of voters now believe that middle class taxes will be heading up in 2013. The reality is that payroll taxes are going up. A middle class worker earning $50,000 a year will pay $1,000 more in taxes. Those who earn more will pay more. The evidence will be visible in everyone's first paycheck of 2013.”

But the bigger reason perceptions of the deal are likely to sour is Washington’s continuing failure to tackle government spending. “Compromise in Washington means agreeing to keep spending going up as it has for decades,” Scott writes. “That's not the sort of compromise voters are looking to see.”

Scott discusses the “fiscal cliff” deal and its impact with Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks.  Then he'll switch gears to discuss the heated debate on gun control with GOP strategist Kate Obenshain and Emily Tisch Sussman of Young Democrats of America. The show airs on 61 television stations nationwide. Find a station near you, and check local listings for times.

Following the elementary school massacre in Connecticut last month, most Americans (51%) for the first time are calling for tougher anti-gun laws.

As part of the current debate on guns, the National Rifle Association has called for federal funding of armed security guards in all schools. Most Americans would feel safer with an armed security guard at their child’s school. Most, however, think it should be a local issue, not a topic for the federal government.

While Friday’s jobs report was more of the same, the Rasmussen Employment Index found that more workers report their firms are hiring rather than laying people off. It’s the first time in six months that the gap has favored hiring. Overall, confidence in the workforce reached its highest level since November 2007.

At the same time, more Americans than ever (54%) believe that someone who wants to work can find a job. That’s the most upbeat assessment of the past four years. Still, only 27% think it’s still possible for anyone in America to work hard and get rich, the lowest level of confidence since June 2011.

Despite the continuing high unemployment rate, one-in-five employed Americans are now looking for work outside of their current company, even though a plurality (47%) says staying with their present employer offers better opportunity for advancement. Most employed adults (73%) are confident that when they do end up leaving their job, it will be their choice, not their employer’s.

The Rasmussen Consumer Index which measures consumer confidence on a daily basis ended the week at its highest level in five years. Its companion, the Rasmussen Investor Index which measures daily confidence among that group, fell back slightly on Friday but remains 13 points ahead of where it was three months ago.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s the lowest finding since the beginning of September but is up 11 points from a year ago.

As he has since Election Day, Obama continues to earn some of the highest job approval ratings of his presidency in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Obama's total job approval ratings for the month of December at 56% are at the highest level measured since May 2009.  Prior to the election, that finding had remained in the narrow range of 44% to 49% for two years straight. 

Democrats now hold an 11-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot. This matches the biggest advantage they’ve enjoyed during Obama's time in office.

However, voters are almost evenly divided as to which political party they trust more on gun control and job creation. They trust Democrats more on the environment and Republicans more in the areas of government spending and issues affecting small business.

Still, views of Congress remain low. Sixty percent (60%) of voters now believe that  most members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to sell their vote for either cash or a campaign contribution, and 57% believe their own representative is likely to have done so.

In other surveys last week:

 -- Two-out-of-three Americans (64%) believe in the God of the Bible. Only 12% do not believe in God at all.

-- Eighty percent (80%) of Americans are at least somewhat  happy with their lives, including 32% who are Very Happy.

-- Voters have a slightly less favorable opinion of the Environmental Protection Agency these days and still tend to consider it a drag on the economy. But they’re less enthusiastic about the need for congressional approval of EPA actions.

-- Sixty-five percent (60%) of Americans planned to be awake at midnight last Monday to welcome in the new year.

-- What a difference a week makes. Americans regard Christmas as the nation’s most important holiday, but only seven percent (7%) view New Year’s Day that way.

-- Most voters (55%) think capital gains should be taxed at about the same rate as other income.

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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.

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