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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls: Week Ending June 28

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Americans continue to worry about the state of the nation’s schools and believe the federal government still doesn’t get it.

Just 17% of voters believe U.S. public schools today provide a world-class education, down nine points from 2011 when President Obama first declared that as a necessary goal.  

But support for Common Core among Americans with school-age children has plummeted from 52% to 34%, as more now question whether the new national education standards will actually improve student performance. An increasing number of states are abandoning the standards which many complain force teachers to focus too much on one-size-fits-all standardized testing.

Fifty-four percent (54%) think schools place too much emphasis on standardized testing these days, and just 26% believe student scores on these tests should be the major factor in determining how well a school is doing. 

The end result is that just 19% of voters think most high school graduates today have the skills needed to enter college or the workforce.

Still, increasing numbers of young Americans are taking on crippling amounts of student loan debt to get college degrees that don’t help them get a job. Only 28% of Americans believe most college graduates have the skills to enter the workforce.

The president is proposing a government rating system that will tie a college’s performance in several areas including the earning power of its graduates to federal student financial aid. Americans like that idea, but they don’t trust the government to do the rating system fairly. 

Obama also is expanding his debt forgiveness initiative for student loans despite the opposition of most Americans. Eighty-eight percent (88%) believe lowering college tuition costs would do more to help college students than giving them easier access to college loans. 

On the political front this past week, incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran narrowly won a messy intraparty runoff in Mississippi by successfully soliciting black Democrats to vote in the GOP primary. In our first post-primary look at the Senate race in Mississippi, Cochran holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Travis Childers. 

Fewer voters than ever (25%), however, think their local member of Congress deserves reelection  Democrats lead Republicans by two points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. 

Both major political parties face the possibility of lengthy presidential primary seasons in 2016, but just 40% of voters think the current primary process is a good way to select a party’s presidential candidate.

Voters still strongly believe that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. But Clinton was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, too, only to lose it during the primaries to Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Clinton earns 45% to 50% of the vote against six leading Republicans in potential 2016 presidential matchups, running best against Texans Rick Perry and Ted Cruz and poorest against Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now makes the weakest showing.

A plurality (44%) of voters, though, continues to believe the circumstances surrounding the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya will hurt Clinton if she runs for president in 2016. 

As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are pointing fingers at the opposing party’s policies. Voters are evenly divided over whether it was the actions and policies of George W. Bush or Barack Obama that have contributed more to the crisis in Iraq today. But only 31% rate the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Iraq as good or excellent.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans expect the major oil companies to use the news from Iraq as an excuse to raise gas prices

The president’s overall job approval ratings began to fall late this past week, but it’s far too soon to know if this marks a trend of any kind.

Voters are more negative than ever about the state of the U.S. health care system, and once again a majority believes the new national health care law will make it worse. 

Voters are also concerned about the flood of young illegal immigrants on the southern border. Despite increasing calls for immigration reform, voters have long been clear what needs to be done first: Secure the border to prevent future illegal immigration

Consumer and investor confidence are up again this week.

In other surveys this week:

-- Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. The number who say the country is heading in the right direction has now been less than 30% for 15 of the 25 weeks so far this year.

-- Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans believe interest rates will be higher in a year’s time.

-- Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters think most Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda, the highest finding in five years. 

-- Republican Governor Brian Sandoval holds a two-to-one lead over Democratic challenger Robert Goodman in his bid for reelection in Nevada.

-- Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters believe, generally speaking, that trials should be held in the places where the crimes were committed, and 54% oppose moving the trial of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect out of Boston

-- Sixty percent (60%) of Americans don’t believe the Washington Redskins football team should change its name despite complaints that the name is offensive to American Indians.

-- Despite the current interest in the World Cup, just 19% think that, in five years, soccer will be as popular in the United States as it is around the world

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