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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - For The Week Ending November 24, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Americans have a grimmer view of the economy since President Obama was elected, although it hasn’t made a dent in their holiday shopping. Many seem more accepting, too, of higher taxes in the future.

Fifty percent (50%) of American Adults now believe the economy will be weaker in a year's time. That's a 27-point jump from October and the lowest finding since September of last year. Thirty-six percent (36%) predict the economy will be weaker five years from now, the highest level of pessimism in nearly four years.

The increase in pessimism comes from Republicans and those not affiliated with either major political party. Just before President Obama was reelected, Republicans were evenly divided as to whether the economy would be better or worse a year from now. Today, only 11% of Republicans believe the economy will be stronger in a year.  An overwhelming 74% in the GOP believe it will be worse.

Among the unaffiliated, the number expecting it to be weaker jumped from 19% before President Obama’s victory to 50% today. For Democrats, the election did little to change their views—just over 6 out of 10 expect the economy to be stronger in a year. That was true both before and after the election.

While short-term confidence in the housing market remains unchanged, long-term confidence is at its lowest level in a year of monthly tracking. One-in-four homeowners (25%) now believe the value of their home will go down over the next five years. That's up from 12% in October and the highest level of pessimism in over a year..

 At week’s end, the Rasmussen Consumer and Indexes, which measure confidence in both groups on a daily basis, were down several points from a month ago. Fifty-six percent (56%) of consumers and 54% of investors believe the United States is currently in an economic recession.

Noting that most Republicans today believe their party’s leaders are out of touch with the base, Scott Rasmussen in his latest weekly newspaper column argues that the GOP needs to re-embrace the message of Ronald Reagan. “The Republican establishment grumbles about makers versus takers,” he writes. “Reagan looked at low-income Americans and saw people who wanted an opportunity to work hard and get ahead. He saw a nation that was happy to extend a helping hand to all who were willing to work. … For Republicans to win again (nationally), they will have to respect the people they want to represent.”

A cause of concern for many is the so-called “fiscal cliff” of big tax hikes and automatic spending cuts due on January 1. Congress and the president are expected to resume negotiations this coming week to avoid that outcome.  

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters nationwide favor a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to help reduce the federal budget deficit. Significantly, 52% of Republican voters agree with an approach that includes both tax hikes and spending cuts.

Still, by a two-to-one margin (55% to 27%), voters regardless of party affiliation would like to see more spending cuts than tax hikes.

But voters remain dubious that Congress and the president will actually cut the spending they promise to cut. Even if a long-term deal leads to real spending cuts, just 42% would be personally willing to pay “a bit more” in taxes to balance the budget if needed. An equal number (42%) are not willing to pay more even if they were assured that the spending cuts were real.

Speaking of taxes, 32% of voters now think raising taxes is the best way to make sure Medicare has enough money to cover all promised benefits. Slightly more (34%) believe the best option is raising the eligibility age for future generations. Ten percent (10%) support cutting the promised level of benefits, but 25% are not sure which is the best option.

Despite the concern about higher taxes and the state of the economy, Americans plan to be a little less tight with their money this gift-giving season. Fifty-six percent (56%) still say they will spend less on gifts than they did last year.  But that's down from 62% this time last year. Only 13% plan to spend more on gifts, but that’s up from a year ago. Thirty-one percent (31%) will spend about the same amount, a eight-point increase from this time last year.

The holiday shopping season keeps starting earlier and earlier. This year, 11% of Americans had finished the gift-buying before Black Friday. That’s up from seven percent (7%) who finished shopping early a year ago.

Taxes, the economy and the holiday shopping season will all be hot topics on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks, Scott Rasmussen’s new television program seen in over 60 markets nationwide. 

Forty-one percent (41%) of voters now think the country is heading in the right direction, just short of the highest level of optimism during the Obama presidency. That’s up 17 points from the beginning of the year and up 24 points from a year ago.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll will be back Monday morning after a short holiday break. Obama has been earning some of the best job approval ratings of his presidency since Election Day.

Democrats now lead Republicans by five points – 45% to 40% - on the Generic Congressional Ballot. This is the fourth time the Democrats have led on the generic ballot in the past six weeks and the largest lead they have held since early 2009.

As Congress enters a lame duck session, voters view the Democratic congressional agenda as more mainstream than the Republican oneVoters also now consider Democrats in Congress more bipartisan than they have in several years and congressional Republicans as less so. However, most think both parties continue to behave in a partisan manner.

All four of the top congressional leaders from both parties – John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell - are back and remain just as unpopular as they were before Election Day. The same goes for Vice President Joe Biden.

Interestingly, Scott Rasmussen explains in a new radio update, despite the power Reid and McConnell have in Washington DC as the leaders of the Senate, there are more voters who know nothing about them than ones with a favorable opinion of either of the longtime senators. Scott’s radio updates are heard nationally on stations across the country

Given the holiday, there was no Rasmussen Challenge  this past week. The contest will resume on Tuesday.

In other surveys last week:

-- Voters tend to blame the Palestinians for the escalating violence in Gaza but also are slightly more inclined to think the United States should stay out of the situation rather than help Israel. 

-- While voter opposition to the government bailouts of Wall Street has softened a bit, a majority (53%) still thinks more competition and less regulation is better for the U.S. financial industry than more regulation and less competition. LINK One in three (32%) takes the opposing view and says more regulation is needed. Voters for years have favored more competition and less regulation of various sectors of the economy.

-- Most voters give positive marks to the governmental response to Hurricane Sandy on the Atlantic Coast. But they’re almost evenly divided when asked whether states or the federal government should be responsible for most post-storm cleanup costs.

-- Over half (53%) of voters still think police officers should automatically check someone’s immigration status if they pull them over, although this is the lowest finding to date. Voters also continue to favor strong sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them.

-- One third (33%) of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the legal system in this country worries more about protecting national security rather than about individual rights. That’s the highest finding since April.

-- Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans now consider Thanksgiving to be one of the nation’s most important holidays. As it has for years, Thanksgiving ranks just below Christmas and the Fourth of July in terms of top holidays. It rates above Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Easter.

-- The Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest travel times of the year, but for most Americans, it’s still a stay-at-home holiday. Just 18% were planning to travel away from home this Thanksgiving. LINK Of those traveling, 74% plan to hit the highways and go by car.

-- Forty-six percent (46%) of Americans planned to celebrate Thanksgiving at home, while 41% intended to spend the holiday at a relative’s house.  Eight percent (8%) expected to have Thanksgiving dinner at either a friend’s home or a restaurant. Just four percent (4%) had no Thanksgiving dinner plans at all.

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