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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- For The Week Ending May 12, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Is anyone in Washington listening? At week’s end, a Senate committee put increased border security on the back burner in an immigration reform plan that would move millions of illegal immigrants closer to citizenship.

But most voters continue to say that border security has to come first, and few believe the federal government is serious about that part of the bargain. If a new immigration law is passed, just 30% think it’s even somewhat likely that the federal government would actually implement the provisions to secure the border. That’s down from 45% in January.

Overall, 55% of voters still favor the concept of comprehensive reform giving legal status to those here now illegally and securing the border to prevent future illegal immigration. Still, skepticism about the second half of that deal is hurting prospects for reform. Only 38% think it’s at least somewhat likely that the House and Senate will pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation for President Obama to sign into law this year. 

Following President Obama’s high profile trip to Mexico, only 12% of Americans believe the Mexican government wants to stop its citizens from entering the United States illegally. Fifty-four percent (54%) think Mexico should be asked to compensate U.S. taxpayers to offset some of the costs of illegal immigration. 

Senator Marco Rubio, a man with eyes on the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has lost some ground while championing a comprehensive immigration reform plan. Three months ago, 44% of GOP voters viewed him Very Favorably. Today, just 31% offer such strong praise.

On the other side of Capitol Hill this past week, House hearings tried to get to the bottom of what happened last September when the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack. Most voters think the incident needs to be thoroughly investigated, and just 32% think the Obama administration has done a good job explaining what happened in Benghazi

Scott Rasmussen argues in his weekly newspaper column, though, that the Benghazi hearings are likely to be a bust. "With the public largely tuning out foreign policy topics, it will take some pretty spectacular revelations to change [public] perceptions," he writes. "Until that happens, it's likely that economic issues and the president's health care law will be the driving issues of the 2014 elections."

Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, joins Scott on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks to discuss the Benghazi hearings. Then, Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative's Christopher Griffin talk with Scott about whether the United States should get involved in the Syrian civil war.

What America Thinks airs on 64 stations nationwide. Find a station near you.

While voters generally approve of Israel’s decision to bomb targets in Syria, 73% think the United States should stay out of the conflict there

Speaking of the economy, 88% of Americans believe it will be at least somewhat difficult for recent graduates to find a job. That includes 45% who say it will be Very Difficult. But then 48% think most college graduates do not have the skills needed to enter the workforce. Still, while the numbers are bleak, they’re actually getting better. The 45% who think it will be Very difficult to get a job is down from 53% a year ago and 56% two years ago.

At the same time, belief that the U.S. economy is fair continues to fall. Just 36% of all voters now view the economy as at least somewhat fair. That’s down 11 points from 47% in February. Eighty-four percent (84%) of Political Class voters, however, view the economy as fair. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Mainstream voters disagree. 

Consumer confidence held rather steady in the week following the release of a better-than-expected jobs report.  Confidence remains just below the highest levels of recent years. 

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters now think the president is doing a good or excellent job handling economic issues. Forty-one percent (41%) rate his performance in this area as poor. He continues to get better marks for his handling of national security.

Twenty-five percent (25%) think the president’s policies are too friendly to big business, while 28% say they’re too hostile. When it comes to small business, however, only five percent (5%) think Obama’s policies are too friendly, while 46% feel his policies are too hostile.

Thirty-four percent (34%) give Obama positive marks for his handling of spending issues, and 39% say the same about how he’s doing in the area of taxes. 

The president’s health care law is more unpopular than it has been for months. Just 39% of voters now view the law at least somewhat favorably, while 55% share an unfavorable opinion of it.

Obama’s job approval ratings in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll have slipped a bit. 

While most Americans recognize that there are more gun owners in the United States today than there were 20 years ago, most don’t know that gun crime in the country has gone down in that same period of time. In fact, 64% of those who think the United States needs stricter gun control laws incorrectly believe than gun crime has gone up in the last 20 years

Kansas and Missouri are the latest states to pass legislation intended to block federal gun control efforts on constitutional grounds. Voters are closely divided over whether states or the federal government should be most responsible for setting gun laws. Thirty-eight percent (38%) favor their state blocking federal gun control laws if it considers them unconstitutional.

Often lost in the contentious debate over illegal immigration is the impact of legal immigration. Most Americans believe legal immigration is good for the country, but they incorrectly believe that in any given year illegal newcomers outnumber legal immigrants to the United States. Very few recognize how many legal immigrants enter this country each year. 

Most voters have a favorable opinion of immigrants who come to this country in pursuit of the American Dream, but only 50% now believe most immigrants work hard, support their families and pursue the American Dream. 

In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction

-- Democrats are back on top again on the Generic Congressional Ballot

-- Most voters believe it is not only fair that people who build successful companies become rich, but it also helps the economy in the process. 

-- Most Americans still believe government workers earn more and don’t work as hard as those in the private sector. They also think government employees have more job security.

-- When going through a tough time in their life, 53% of Americans expect their family would be Very Helpful. Twenty-four percent (24%) say the same about their local church or religious organization, while 22% think their friends would help that much.

-- Currently, Americans pay Social Security taxes only on the first $113,700 earned each year, but 64% of voters think Social Security taxes should be paid on all or most of what a person earns annually.

-- Eighty-one percent (81%) of voters rate the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink as good or excellent.

-- A New York real estate firm has offered a 15% raise to any of its 800 employees who tattoo the company’s logo on their bodies, and 10% of all Americans are willing to do it

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