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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Americans don’t feel safe at home and are increasingly estranged from their government and their leaders.

Even as a radical Islamic group announces its intention to attack American shopping malls, belief among voters that the United States and its allies are wining the War on Terror has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 11 years of regular tracking.

Voters agree with President Obama that America is not at war with Islam, but they are far less convinced than he is that the economic measures promoted at a recent White House summit on violent extremism will help protect this country.

They also disagree with the president when he says global warming is a bigger long-term threat to the United States than terrorism.

Obama’s refusal to describe Middle Eastern terrorists such as the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria as “radical Islamic” even has some critics wondering if the president loves his own country enough. Voters overwhelmingly say they love America, but one-out-of-three doesn’t believe Obama feels that way.

Congressional Republicans, worried about the direction the president’s negotiations with a hostile Iran have taken, have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress despite outspoken White House opposition. Do voters think it's right for political opponents to criticize the president's foreign policy?

Not that the president doesn’t have many supporters. Voters remain almost evenly divided when it comes to the job he is doing, although those who Strongly Disapprove continue to outnumber those who Strongly Approve.

Democrats have edged ahead of Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but the parties keep exchanging the lead, generally separated by two points or less in weekly surveys for over a year now.

No wonder then that voters strongly expect gridlock between the president and the GOP-led Congress to continue for the next two years.

Then again, maybe that’s what they want. Voters aren’t happy with the president’s veto this week of a bipartisan bill passed by Congress calling for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. But rather than work to meet the president halfway, they want Congress to keep doing what it wants even if Obama doesn’t like it.

Ratings for Congress overall are up only slightly, but they’re the most positive they’ve been in nearly five years.

Voters are feeling better about the U.S. Supreme Court, too, but one-third still don't think the high court puts the brakes on the federal government enough.

After all, most voters no longer believe the United States has a government “of the people, by the people and for the people."

For example, they remain more conservative about money matters than about social issues but don’t expect their leaders to listen. Most favor across-the-board cuts in federal spending but have very little confidence that Congress and the president will make those cuts anytime soon.

The majority of voters in surveys for years have called for a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes. But the president called for more government programs and higher taxes in his latest State of the Union address, although Congress is unlikely to agree to either.

Speaking of taxes, you’d be surprised how many Americans have already paid their income taxes and are expecting a refund. Americans hate filling out tax paperwork, but at least they're not too worried about being audited after the fact.

But Americans also send mixed messages about spending at times. Consider, for example, that they tend to see inadequate funding as the biggest problem in the public schools. But ask them how much extra they personally are willing to pay in higher taxes and fees to generate more money for the schools, and 50% say nothing. Another 22% are willing to spend just $100 more a year for this purpose. So what’s the government to do?

Government is mandating a lot more standardized testing in the public schools these days. Parents of school-age children object even more strongly to the increasing emphasis on these tests, but they’re not so sure students should be able to opt out of the tests.

In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes continue to hold steady at or near the highs they hit at the beginning of the year.

-- It’s no secret this winter’s been a brutal one, pummeling the northeast with record snowfall and bringing snow, ice and extremely low temperatures across much of the country. But do Americans think it’s just a typical February chill, or is climate change to blame?

-- Support for gay marriage has fallen to its lowest level in over a year.

-- Americans continue to say they are paying higher interest rates than they were a year ago and expect to pay even more a year from now.

-- Most Americans didn’t plan to tune into last Sunday night’s Academy Awards program. Most also say they don’t follow awards shows closely and aren't influenced by them when it comes to their viewing, listening and buying habits.

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