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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary could sharply redefine the Republican race, but our polling suggests a Bernie Sanders win in the Granite State won’t remake the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Despite the closeness of the Iowa caucus on Monday, Hillary Clinton’s support nationally among likely Democratic voters remains unchanged since the first debate in October, according to our latest look at the Clinton-Sanders race released Friday. Sanders, the favorite son of neighboring Vermont, is the projected winner in New Hampshire in most polls, but after that the states appear a lot harder for him to run against an establishment favorite like Clinton.

Clinton seemed receptive the other day to naming President Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court if she is elected to succeed him this fall. Only 40% of Democrats favor putting Obama on the high court, but 60% of the voters in his party say they would vote for the president's reelection if he could legally seek a third term.

Donald Trump insists his second-place showing in the Iowa caucus isn’t bad, but perception among his fellow Republicans that he will be the party’s presidential nominee has fallen sharply in our latest Trump Change survey.

All eyes will be on Trump at tonight’s GOP debate in New Hampshire where he continues to lead the Republican pack by 10 or more points in most surveys. Rasmussen Reports will release fresh numbers from the Republican presidential race Monday morning.

If Marco Rubio can hold on to or even build on his third-place finish in Iowa, New Hampshire should weed out one or more of the other more centrist Republicans like Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina. Jeb Bush’s game plan is anyone’s guess, regardless of how he finishes, since he sits on a far bigger campaign war chest than any of his opponents - except Trump who so far has self-financed his campaign.

With just the first round of the presidential contest over, most voters still think the next occupant of the White House is likely to be a Republican.

But voters still express skepticism about the fairness of elections in this country. Just 21% believe the federal government today has the consent of the governed.

As is often the case, many of the presidential candidates claim to be running against the status quo in Washington, D.C. That’s not surprising when you consider that 81% of voters think the federal government is corrupt.

No wonder most voters, as they have in surveys for years, still prefer a smaller, less active government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger, more active one with more services and higher taxes. 

Americans do have confidence, though, in how the government responds to public health emergencies. That helps explain why they aren’t overly concerned about the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

The president visited a mosque in Baltimore, Md. this week to challenge what he considers anti-Muslim attitudes among many Americans. In a survey just before the massacre in December by radical Muslim terrorists in San Bernardino, California, 49% of U.S. voters said Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions, and 71% thought Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith

As it has every year since 2013, Obama’s monthly job approval rating improved slightly in January. His daily job approval remains in the low negative teens this week. 

Just 31%, however, think the country is heading in the right direction

In other surveys last week:

-- Consumers are feeling pretty confident that they will have money left over after they’ve paid their bills this month, but they’re less sure where they are headed financially in the month to come.

-- Most Americans agree that too many people are in prison today, but many also feel conditions in America's prisons aren't tough enough.

-- Americans by a two-to-one margin  think it’s a bigger problem for U.S. law enforcement that too many criminals are set free than that too many innocent people are arrested

-- Sixty-three percent (63%) of black voters still believe American society is unfair and discriminatory. Just as many (61%) of whites and a plurality (45%) of other minority voters say society here is fair and decent.

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