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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending November 9

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Founding Fathers in their wisdom set up a federal government with three equal branches – the executive, legislative and judicial – to ensure a system of checks and balances that would preserve our democracy. But what happens when most Americans doubt the integrity of all three?

Consider first the Executive BranchMost voters now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. His daily job approval rating at week’s end ties his low for the year.

This rating is undoubtedly the result of increasingly negative opinions of the new national health care law as millions now appear likely to face major changes in their health insurance coverage – and big cost increases. Most voters opposed the law from the start. Fifty-three percent (53%) now view Obamacare unfavorably, with 42% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.

Seventy-one percent (71%) believe it’s at least somewhat likely that the president or senior officials in his administration were aware long before the law began being implemented that health insurance costs would go up for some Americans, contrary to what they said publicly.

Just over a year ago, most voters didn't know enough about Obama Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius to have any kind of opinion of her, even though the secretary of Health and Human Services was in the powerful position of implementing the health care law. Now that Obamacare's off to a troubled start, a plurality (44%) views Sebelius unfavorably.

Most voters also have consistently said that cutting government spending is the best boost for the economy, but 47% of voters give the president poor marks in this area.

Then there’s the National Security Agency domestic spying scandal. Fifty percent (50%) of Americans – one-out-of-two - now think it is at least somewhat likely that their own government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of a member of their family, with 27% who believe it’s Very Likely.

Next, consider the Legislative Branch -- Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters now say Congress is doing a poor job. That’s Congress’ highest negative rating in more than seven years of regular tracking.

Not only that, but 61% believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or campaign contributions. Most (56%) even think it’s likely their own representative in Congress has sold his or her vote.

Voters also remain strongly convinced that most members of Congress get reelected because the election rules are rigged in their favor. So is it any surprise that only 35% now think American elections are fair to voters? That’s the lowest level of confidence in regular surveys since September 2004.

As for the Judicial Branch – Sixty percent (60%) of voters think most U.S. Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

Judges are often criticized for legislating from the bench, and just one-in-three voters (33%) now believe most judges follow the letter of the law in their rulings.

Americans are even suspicious of the supposedly independent Federal Reserve. Only 34% have a favorable opinion of the nation’s central bank, and 74% want to audit the Fed and make the results available to the public.

No wonder just 24% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

But then voters have consistently said for the last several years that the economy is number one in importance, and where is the economy five years after the Wall Street meltdown?

At week’s end, one-in-four consumers (24%) said their personal finances are getting better, but 43% think they're getting worse. 

Friday’s government jobs report found that the unemployment rate has edged up to 7.3 percent in October.

No surprise there since the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence dropped in October to its lowest level this year. October marked the first month since November of last year that reported hirings did not outnumber reported layoffs.

Only 19% of Americans now believe the job market is better than it was one year ago. Looking ahead, 36% believe the unemployment rate will be higher one year from now, the highest level of pessimism all year.

With lower government spending in mind, however, most Americans still think the federal government should avoid a long-term role in aiding those who can’t find work.

Meanwhile, with a sizable cohort of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, just 41% of voters are at least somewhat confident that they'll get their full Medicare benefits, with only 12% who are Very Confident.

In other surveys last week:

-- Democrats maintain a six-point lead – 43% to 37% – over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

-- Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters favor a law just passed by the Senate that outlaws discrimination in the workplace against transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people. However, just 39% consider such discrimination to be even a somewhat serious problem.

-- Only 26% of voters favor U.S. military action against Syria if its government fails to destroy its chemical weapons capabilities as promised.

-- Thirty-six percent (36%) favor a stop and frisk law like New York City’s where they live that allows police to stop and frisk anyone on the street whom they consider suspicious.

-- Thirty-six percent (36%) of Americans believe the federal government should bail out Detroit to make sure the pensions of the city's retired employees are paid in full.

-- Most Americans think even though someone is old enough to vote or die for their country, they're not mature enough yet to decide whether they want to smoke. So they want to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 21.

-- As the crackdown on tobacco smoking continues, nearly nine-out-of-10 Americans say they’ve either quit the habit or have never smoked at all.  Here's what America thinks about smoking these days. 

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