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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls: Week of March 22

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is anyone in Washington, D.C., listening to voters?

Just 18% of voters believe most members of Congress care what their constituents think. That helps explain why only 29% believe their local representative deserves reelection this November, a new low in surveying going back to November 2009.

One political analyst suggests adding 100 to 200 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives to lower the voter-to-member ratio. But just 17% favor that idea. Instead of being more responsive to voters, 77% think a bigger House would just be more inefficient and bureaucratic.

Meanwhile, President Obama is proposing $55 billion in new government spending and higher taxes in 2015 despite the fact that only 25% of voters think government spending increases help the economy and just 21% say the same of tax increases.

It doesn’t help that 69% believe middle-class Americans currently pay a larger share of their income in taxes than wealthy people do.

The president also has ordered the Labor Department to revise federal rules to allow more workers to qualify for overtime pay. Just 37% of voters believe increasing the number of people eligible for overtime pay will help the economy. Only 25% think it will help businesses.

At the same time, 53% expect the nation’s health care system to get worse under the new national health care law passed by Congress and signed by the president, a finding that has ranged from 48% to 61% in regular surveys since late 2012.

Republicans have taken a one-point lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but both parties earn less than 40% support, which indicates a high level of voter unhappiness with both camps.

Many voters express concern about the partisan battling in Washington, but a closer look at what America thinks about taxes and government spending makes it clearer why the political parties disagree so strongly.

Obama has been pushing for bigger government and more spending throughout his presidency, which may be one reason why his daily job approval rating has been in the negative teens for most of his time in office.

But 52% of voters now favor U.S. diplomatic action, including economic sanctions against Russia over the latter’s annexation of Crimea. That’s up from the high 30s earlier this month.

As tensions with Russia escalate, voters give the president his best marks in the national security area in several months. Forty-five percent (45%) now rate his handling of national security issues as good or excellent, while 36% still think he’s performing poorly in this area.

The GOP needs to pick up six seats in November to take control of the Senate. We took our first look at two more races this past week.

Republican Congressman Steve Daines is well ahead of interim Senator John Walsh and fellow Democrat John Bohlinger in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Montana.

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown announced recently that he is exploring a possible challenge against incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but Shaheen leads Brown 50% to 41% in the possible Senate race in the Granite State.

At week’s end, consumers continued to have a negative view of the economy, with just 21% who rated the economy as good or excellent and 38% who described it as poor. Investors were only slightly more confident.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of all Americans do not think the economy is fair to those who are willing to work hard.

Still, 36% of homeowners expect their home’s value to go up over the next year, the highest level of optimism since October. A year ago, only 30% expected their home to be worth more in the short term.

Twenty-four percent (24%), however, say the interest rates they are paying now are higher than last year at this time, the highest finding in nearly two years.

Most Americans remain concerned about inflation, with 84% who say they are paying more for groceries than they were a year ago. That’s the highest finding in over a year.

Just 51% of Americans are at least somewhat confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry, with only 10% who are Very Confident.

In other surveys this week:

-- Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- With less than a month left until Tax Day, 51% of Americans have filed their income taxes, and nearly that many expect a refund.

-- The U.S. government announced recently that it is giving up its last bit of control over the Internet and turning it over to an international organization. But most voters think that’s a bad idea and expect countries like Russia and China to try to censor Internet content.

-- Just six percent (6%) of Americans consider St. Patrick’s Day one of the nation’s most important holidays, and adults under 40 are much more likely to celebrate it than their elders.

-- Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Americans say the arrival of spring puts them in a better mood.

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