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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls For The Week Ending September 29, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The presidential race remains competitive even though voters still trust Mitt Romney slightly more than President Obama when it comes to handling economic matters. Will Wednesday night’s first presidential debate make a difference?

With a race this close, possibly but not likely, Scott Rasmussen argues in his latest weekly syndicated column. “Events in the real world matter more than debates,” Scott writes. “Only in the absence of other news could a slight change in the race coming out of the debates be decisive.” 

So where do we stand in the real world? Just 15% of consumers rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, while most (55%) give the nation's economy a poor rating. Among investors, 13% give the U.S. economy positive marks. Fifty-one percent (51%) feel the economy is in poor shape.

While the raw numbers are discouraging, there has been a modest increase in consumer confidence recently. For just the second time in three years, the number of Americans who predict a stronger economy a year from now (36%) is higher than those who expect a weaker one (34%). But the number who feel the economy will be stronger in five years’ time remains near its all-time low at 41%.

Most Americans still don't see a full recovery of the housing and stock markets happening in the next three years.

Just 36% think the United States has the best economy in the world, although that’s up from 29% a year ago and back to voter attitudes in 2010. The good news for the president is that Americans also have more confidence in his economic advisers than they did before.

This week, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, charging China with subsidizing automakers and auto parts companies in their country to keep their overseas prices low. While most Americans blame this country’s bad economy on government policies at home rather than on overseas competitors, 55% also think the government does not do enough to protect U.S. manufacturers and businesses from foreign competition. Despite general support for free trade in theory, 54% of Americans think the federal government should place tariffs on goods from countries that pay very low wages to their workers.

But most voters don't think the economy will get better no matter which candidate wins the White House in November. Only 34% think the economy is likely to get better if Obama is reelected and Democrats regain full control of Congress, marking little change from early July when the two sides ran nearly even. By comparison, 43% now believe the economy is likely to improve if Romney wins and the GOP is in charge of Congress.

Romney also continues to hold a seven-point lead in voter trust over the president when it comes to handling the economy. The candidates remain more closely divided in several other key issue areas, but the president has the advantage on energy issues.

At the same time, voters in general are slightly more confident that Obama has a better feel for the middle class than Romney by a 48% to 42% margin. Among voters who actually consider themselves middle class, however, Romney has a 46% to 44% edge in terms of which candidate they think understands their issues best.

Why does the race remain virtually tied in both the daily Presidential Tracking Poll and  the daily Swing State Survey?

Perhaps because while the economic news isn’t great, it isn’t as bad as it has been. Americans overall are starting to feel a bit better about the economy, Scott Rasmussen explains in a new radio update. “They may not be better off than they were four years,” he says, “but a growing number are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” (Catch Scott’s radio updates Monday through Friday on stations across the country.)

For example, while only 36% of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, that’s up eight points from a month ago and up 18 points from a year ago.

Longtime Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, Scott’s guest on this weekend’s edition of the nationally syndicated TV show What America Thinks, has a more partisan explanation for the state of the presidential race. Romney, Rangel insists, is “more like a high school kid running for president than a mature person who seems as though he knows what he’s talking about, and that he could be in charge. No one can challenge what he did in the private sector, but he doesn’t seem as though he is sure of himself.”

Rangel is one of several guests who will discuss with Scott the current state of the presidential campaign and look ahead to the upcoming debates. This weekend's show is available on more than 60 stations nationwide.  A longer interview with Rangel will be released online early next week.

None of the states Rasmussen Reports surveyed this past week could be classified as a swing state. Romney still holds a double-digit lead in Arizona. The president has similar leads in Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan. See Rasmussen Reports Electoral College Projections for an in-depth look at the state of the race nationally.

The Senate races we looked at this past week were slightly less lopsided but also no surprise. Democratic incumbents are leading in Michigan and  Pennsylvania. Independent Angus King who is expected to caucus with Democrats if elected is well ahead in the U.S. Senate race in Maine. Republican Congressman Jeff Flake leads Democrat Richard Carmona in the race for retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s seat in Arizona.

In  Massachusetts, one of the nation’s marquee Senate races, incumbent Republican Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren remain tied with 48% support each. Overall, the latest updates in our Senate Balance of Power rankings  suggest that the Democrats are favored to retain control of the Senate.

Republicans lead by just one point on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

In the Middle East, the Administration claim that recent anti-U.S. protests have been largely spontaneous and prompted by an anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube is rejected by most voters. Only 23% agree that the video’s to blame. Eighty-five percent (85%) believe it is likely that terrorists were involved in the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya.

The president in June 2009 in one of his first major foreign policy initiatives delivered a highly publicized speech in Cairo reaching out to Muslims worldwide after the conflict of the Bush years. But only 18% of voters think U.S. relations with the Islamic world are better now than they were four years ago.  As anger against America spreads in the Middle East, fewer voters believe the United States is winning the War on Terror and is safer today than before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

How did you do in this week’s Rasmussen Challenge? Check the leaderboard.

Monday’s the last day you can sign up for The Rasmussen Reader at the discounted price of $24.95 for a 12-month subscription.

In other surveys last week:

-- Voters are evenly divided when asked which of the major vice presidential candidates is more qualified to be president.

-- Most voters still want to repeal the president’s health care law, but voters are now evenly divided over whether repeal is likely.

-- An overwhelming majority of Americans think poverty is a major problem in the United States today, and just one-in-four think the current government-set poverty line is right.

-- More Americans than ever think that if someone can’t afford their mortgage payments, the government should help them. But 56% still say that if someone can't afford to make their increased mortgage payments, it's better for them to sell their home and buy a less expensive one.

-- Belief among Americans that the Federal Reserve Board chairman has too much economic clout has softened a bit from previous years, but a plurality continues to feel the chairman of the independent agency is influenced in his decision making by the president.

-- Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee are virtually tied in the race for governor in Washington State. Washington is one of 11 states holding gubernatorial contests this November.

-- Republican Ovide Lamontagne is slightly ahead of Democrat Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire’s gubernatorial race.

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