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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending March 18, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Finally, the political debate has turned away from gotcha fake news stories to real issues – Obamacare and the biggest proposed cuts in the federal government in decades, to be precise.

President Trump this past week proposed a federal budget that boosts spending on national security but cuts the size of the rest of the federal government dramatically. Lawmakers in both parties are upset, but voters won’t be surprised: They’re well aware of politicians’ unwillingness to reduce government spending.

Voters, on the other hand, think thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every program of the federal government. But Republicans continue to be defensive about cuts in military funding, while Democrats remain loyal to entitlements.

Republicans are far more supportive of Trump’s budget plan than Democrats and voters not affiliated with either major party are.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republicans favor the proposed major cuts in the EPA. Just as many Democrats (69%) are opposed. But only 21% of all Americans believe federal subsidies to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) should be discontinued.

Voters agree, however, that any new spending approved by Congress should be offset by cuts in other areas of the federal budget.

With Congress debating its future, voters are a little more protective of Obamacare, but most still believe big changes in the health care law are likely in the next few months.

While voters tend to agree that “Obamacare is collapsing,” 52% worry the president and congressional Republicans will change it too much. Thirty-six percent (36%) are more concerned that they’ll change the health care law too little.

The Republicans’ proposed replacement for President Obama’s chief legislative achievement is barely a week old, but voters are dubious about its impact on the cost and quality of health care.  Still, the new proposal already earns better marks than the law it’s intended to replace.

Voters feel more strongly than ever that reducing health care costs is more important than mandating health insurance coverage for everyone, Obamacare’s chief requirement.

With the cost to taxpayers steadily climbing, House Republicans have proposed replacing Obamacare’s subsidies to help lower-income Americans buy health insurance with tax credits. Voters are closely divided over whether that’s a good plan, with the usual wide partisan division of opinion.

The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, and 42% of voters support the Trump administration’s plan to cut it by over half as a boost to the economy. Just as many (42%) are opposed. 

The president’s effort to protect the country from potential terrorists has been halted again by a federal judge. At issue is his revised temporary travel ban on those coming from certain terrorist haven countries. Most voters favored the temporary ban when Trump first proposed it.

Voters are more confident that the president has a plan for the nation than they are in either of the major political parties. But voters have more faith than they’ve had in the past that Republicans know where they are going, too.

The president’s job approval rating rebounded slightly at week’s end.

After months of media and Democratic charges that Trump paid no taxes, a leaked copy of his 2005 tax return shows that he paid 25% of his income in taxes, compared to the 19% paid most recently by Obama. But even during the presidential campaign at the height of the false tax allegations against Trump, 85% of voters said a candidate’s policy positions are more important than the amount of taxes he or she has paid.

The president’s shocking claim that Obama had the "wires tapped" at Trump Tower during the heated presidential campaign has once again raised questions about the secret - and potentially illegal political - operations of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters believe America’s intelligence agencies have their own political agenda.

The newest wave of disclosures from the Julian Assange-fronted WikiLeaks shows the sophisticated level of spying the CIA is now capable of, and voters wish they didn’t know.

Forty-two percent (42%) of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

In other surveys last week:

-- More and more schools around the country are eliminating long-standing systems that rank high school students on the level of their academic achievement including the designation of senior class valedictorians and salutatorians. But Americans aren’t eager to embrace the change.

-- Lawmakers in Hawaii are considering a bill that would require all pregnancy centers to refer patients to facilities that provide abortions, a move pro-lifers say violates their religious beliefs and free speech rights. While most voters are pro-choice, few favor a law like the one in Hawaii.

-- Pope Francis in a recent interview indicated that he is open to the idea of married men becoming priests in order to combat the Catholic Church’s shortage of clergy, and most American Catholics approve.

-- Just 19% of voters think “The Terminator” should run for the U.S. Senate.

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