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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- Week Ending June 6, 2015

Saturday, June 06, 2015

  The race for president is getting so crowded that it seems like soon there may be more of them than there are of us.

Former New York Governor George Pataki and Rick Santorum, the one-time Pennsylvania senator who came up short in the 2012 presidential contest, joined the crowded Republican field in the last couple weeks, but GOP voters think they have little chance of capturing their party's presidential nomination.

Earlier this week, longtime Senator Lindsey Graham entered the sea of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination, but GOP voters rate the South Carolinian the longest of the long-shots in the race so far. Perhaps most galling to Graham is that his nemesis, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, with whom he frequently clashes in Washington, is seen by nearly three times as many Republicans as likely to win the nomination.

By week’s end, there was one more Republican officially in the race, former Texas Governor Rick Perry. We’ll tell you how voters rate his chances early next week.

On the Democratic side, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley threw his hat in the ring last weekend. O’Malley is an even bigger unknown to members of his own party than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but both men have a steep hill to climb if they’re going to take next year’s Democratic presidential nomination away from Hillary Clinton.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the presidential contest yet, former Republican-senator-turned-Democratic-Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island this week became the fourth announced Democratic candidate. Rasmussen Reports will have numbers on Chafee’s run early next week, too.

Clinton, O’Malley and Sanders met this past week with leaders of the American Federation of Teachers in hopes of getting an early endorsement. The president of the teachers’ union is a close ally of Clinton’s. A plurality (47%) of Americans dislikes teachers' unions, and 61% believe it is too hard to get rid of poor teachers in America today. 

Just 29% of voters rate the performance of U.S. public schools as good or excellent.   Only 25% think most high school graduates produced by these schools have the skills needed for college, and even fewer (22%) believe they have the skills to enter the workforce.

The sorry state of education in America is sure to be an issue in the presidential race, as is immigration. With all the focus on the problem of illegal immigration, we often lose sight of the fact that most Americans continue to welcome those who immigrate to this country legally. They’re even more welcoming if illegal immigration can be stopped first.

As far as legal immigration is concerned, voters are more about fair play than about what might be better for the country.

Voters remain very positive about immigrants who come to the United States to work hard, support their families and pursue the American Dream. The problem is that far fewer voters think that is what most immigrants have in mind.

Seventy-three percent (73%) believe that when people move to the United States from other parts of the world, they should adopt America's culture, language and heritage. Only 15% think newcomers should maintain the culture, language and heritage of their home country.

Most voters still oppose the president’s plan to exempt up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation.

The president’s full-month job approval rating slipped to a low for the year in May. His daily job approval rating remains in the mid to high negative teens. 

Worried that many may be voting illegally, voters continue to overwhelmingly believe that Americans need to prove their identity before casting a vote.

Last August, 61% described voter fraud as a serious problem in the United States today, with 30% who said it is Very Serious.

The Senate voted Tuesday to give the National Security Agency the go-ahead to keep snooping on Americans in the name of national security. Americans have a love/hate relationship with the National Security Agency, but the love side of the equation’s been growing as they worry more about the threat of Islamic terrorism.

In other surveys last week:

-- Just 28% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction

-- Generally speaking, voters want the government to back off. Except when they don’t. So when is government a good thing?

-- Concern about global warming is up from recent months, but voters still aren’t totally convinced that humans are to blame.

-- Most voters still aren't ready to pay much, if anything, to fight global warming, but a slightly higher number are willing to spend more for the cause.

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