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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending May 10

Saturday, May 10, 2014

“Put your money where your mouth is,” as the old saying goes. But Americans seem reluctant to open their wallets to fund some of the big projects they profess to believe in.

Voters tend to agree with President Obama, for example, that global warming is causing extreme weather problems in the United States, and by a 49% to 40% margin they say it needs to be dealt with right away. But more voters than ever (50%) are not willing to pay one cent more in taxes and higher utility costs to generate clean energy and fight global warming. Another 22% are only willing to spend $100 more a year.

Fifty-three percent (53%) favor new environmental regulations the Obama administration is pushing ahead with that limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired fuel plants which it says contribute to global warming.

But only 28% are willing to pay higher utility costs to reduce America’s use of coal to generate electricity.  Interestingly, nearly half (48%) of voters still have a favorable opinion of the U.S. coal industry, compared to 39% who felt that way about the federal Environmental Protection Agency last fall.

Also, consider that 57% of Americans don’t think the United States spends enough money on roads, bridges and tunnels.  A plurality (48%) in February favored the president’s proposed new $302 billion program to help rebuild and repair this infrastructure.

Unable to get Congress to fund the new program, however, the president this week proposed lifting the ban on tolls on Interstate highways to let states generate revenue for road repairs. But guess what? Despite their concern about highway spending, 65% of Americans oppose that idea. As is often the case with government programs though, this opposition may be due in part to the fact that only a small percentage – 27% in this case – think the money will be properly used.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters worry more that the government will not do enough to help the troubled economy rather than that it will do too much. But that doesn’t translate into more government programs: 63% think cutting spending rather than increasing it is the best thing the government can do to help the economy.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes. Just 27% favor a more active government instead.

But again some of the opposition taxpayers express is undoubtedly due to skepticism about how their money is being spent. Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters, for example, now think the average government employee earns more annually than the average private sector worker even though 67% believe those employed by a private company work harder.

Just 12% of Americans think the government should hire the long-term unemployed. Only 36% believe it would be good for the economy if the government hires more people.

Yet this is at a time when 69% still know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, and 42% know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up looking for work.

Despite the drop in the national unemployment rate announced by the government a week ago, consumer and investor confidence have both fallen slightly since then.

Voters still trust Republicans more than Democrats on most of the major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports, including the number one concern, the economy.  But  Democrats hold a four-point lead over the GOP on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

The North Carolina Senate race is now almost dead even. Among Likely North Carolina Voters, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary, earns 45% support to incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan’s 44%. The race at this point turns on Hagan’s support of the new national health care law, and she is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in this election cycle because of that law.

Nationally, most voters (53%) still view Obamacare unfavorably. Fifty-six percent (56%) think it will drive up the cost of health care.

This coming Tuesday, primary voters in Nebraska and West Virginia will choose the Senate candidates for their respective parties.

The president’s overall daily job approval remains in the high 40s as it has been for much of the time he’s been in office.

In other surveys this week:

-- For the second week in a row, 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s the lowest level of optimism since early December

-- Most voters suspect the Obama administration hasn’t been completely forthcoming about how it reacted to the murder of the U.S. ambassador and several other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the Benghazi matter deserves further investigation, while 34% say the case should be closed.

-- As the devastating civil war in Syria drags on into its fourth year, U.S. voters remain just as reluctant about American involvement. Only 18% believe the United States should do more to bring about a change in the government in Syria.

-- Most Americans (56%) still support the death penalty despite the recent botched lethal injection given to the convicted murderer of a 19-year-old woman in Oklahoma.

-- Thanks to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Americans are talking about racism in professional sports. We decided to find out what America thinks about the current state of race relations in the world of sports.

-- A plurality (45%) believes the penalties levied against Sterling by the National Basketball Association for racist comments he made are generally fair, but only 38% think he should be forced to sell the Clippers.

-- Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters still are not confident that the Medicare system will pay them all their promised benefits.

-- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will renew efforts proposed by his predecessor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of so-called “super-size” sugary drinks. But just 19% of Americans favor a law where they live that bans the sale of any cup or bottle of a sugary drink over 16 ounces.

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