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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending October 24, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ronald Reagan famously declared in the 1980s that it was “morning in America,” and Americans believed. Not anymore.

Belief among voters that America’s best days are still to come now hovers near its lowest level this year. Only 24% think the country is heading in the right direction, tying the lowest level in over a year.

Fifty-five percent (55%) still consider American society fair and decent, but that’s down from the low to mid-60s prior to 2013.

Will new leadership make a difference? Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey finds that more Republican voters than ever think Donald Trump is likely to be their party’s presidential nominee next year.

Trump’s jump coincides with a good week-and-a-half by Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton who triumphed in her party’s first presidential race debate last week. Our latest Hillary Meter finds that Democrats - and voters in general - are more convinced that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee following that debate.

Clinton caught a break when Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will not challenge her for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination. Earlier this month, Biden was gaining on Clinton and trailed her only 48% to 34% among Likely Democratic Voters in a hypothetical matchup.  But many predicted her strong debate performance would cool Biden’s interest in the race.

The former secretary of State also emerged unscathed from a lengthy appearance Thursday before the congressional committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. Prior to the hearing, most voters said Clinton has not been telling the truth about what happened in Benghazi, according to a new Full Measure-Rasmussen Reports national survey.

Clinton has said the president’s plan to exempt up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation doesn’t go far enough, but most voters still oppose Obama’s plan. Trump says he will crack down strongly on illegal immigration and deport those who are here illegally.

In a hypothetical matchup, Trump and Clinton are in a near tie, but a sizable 22% prefer some other candidate.

The last thing a struggling Jeb Bush needs to do is have his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination focus on defending an unpopular president of recent memory, even if is his brother.

President George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan in October 2001 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks a month earlier. Afghanistan is now America’s longest-running war. Looking back, just 36% believe the United States should have gotten involved in Afghanistan in the first place.

Voters don’t think much of how the Obama administration is handling the war there, but just over half support the president’s decision to leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2016.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings remain unchanged, hovering the negative mid-teens as they have for most of his presidency.

Two Republican debates and the first Democratic debate are behind us, but there are many more to come, including perhaps most importantly the ones during the general election campaign between the two major party nominees. But do debates ultimately make any difference?

Congress came back this week, and the struggle to find a new House speaker began again in earnest. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan appears the likely winner. What do his fellow Republicans think of their 2012 vice presidential nominee these days?

In other surveys last week:

 -- California has passed what may be the toughest Fair Pay Act in the country, determining that men and women who do “substantially similar” work receive equal pay, regardless of whether they hold the same job title or work in the same location. Critics complain that the imprecise language of the new law will make it more of a benefit to lawyers than to employees suffering from pay discrimination, but Americans strongly support California’s new equal pay law.

-- One-in-four Americans (26%) have lost a close friend or relative to breast cancer.

-- Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the recent escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, but most voters here don’t want to see more U.S. involvement in the situation.

-- Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans still view Israel as an ally of the United States, but that’s down noticeably from previous years.  Democrats now view Mexico as a more reliable ally than Israel.

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