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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news, for better or worse.

The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to hear another legal challenge of the health care law, while the Obama administration hopes the glitches in the federal exchange website have been fixed in time for this weekend’s open health insurance enrollment. Meanwhile, several videos have surfaced showing one of the law’s chief architects saying it was deliberately written in a confusing manner so “stupid” voters wouldn’t realize how much the law could end up costing them.

A lot of Americans may soon find out, though. The New York Times reports that the cost of health insurance could go up as much as 20 percent next year for many policyholders, thanks to the health care law.

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters are confident that the problems experienced by the exchange website since its debut in October 2013 will be fixed when open enrollment begins again this weekend. But just as many (47%) also think the health care law should be put on hold until all the legal challenges against it have been resolved.  

Voters by a 50% to 44% margin still have a more unfavorable than favorable view of Obamacare. But that’s the lowest level of dislike in over a year. While voters are clearly getting used to the law, the favorables and unfavorables have moved very little since its passage in 2010. It will be interesting to see if the expected jump in policy costs impacts these numbers.

The case for the law isn’t being helped by newly discovered videos of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber bragging that it was written in a way to fool voters. But just one-out-of-three voters agree that Americans are too stupid to comprehend the health care law.

Obamacare was front and center in most major political races this year, and half of voters say last week’s Republican takeover of Congress was a repudiation of President Obama’s party rather than an endorsement of the GOP. Democrats don’t disagree.

Voters question whether the president set the right tone in his first press conference after Election Day, and most aren’t optimistic about his working relationship with the new Republican congressional majority.

The current Congress is expected to return this week for a final lame duck session, but most voters consider such sessions a waste of time. They’re almost evenly divided over whether any of the president’s nominations should be handled by this Congress or put off until the next one.

In a survey taken the week they won full control of the U.S. Congress, Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Whether it’s sympathy or Democrats rallying to his side, the president’s daily job approval rating has improved slightly in the last few days.

Most voters still want across-the-board federal spending cuts but think they are unlikely anytime soon. Support for spending cuts drops dramatically, however, if the defense budget or entitlements are taken off the table. But Americans also show more willingness to spend when given specifics.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters, for example, say the United States doesn’t spend enough on defense, and a sympathetic Republican Congress is likely to agree.

Just over half (52%) of Americans think the federal government should support more mass transit projects - unless the projects lose money. The irony is that most rarely use mass transit at all.

The president began the week with a strong endorsement of so-called “net neutrality” rules which would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate the Internet like it does radio and TV. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans oppose government regulation of the Internet.

Americans are confident in the privacy of their own Internet communications, but 44% think it’s likely the government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of someone in their family.

Obama began the year with a State of the Union address that focused on income inequality, but as the year draws to a close, voters still give the president mediocre marks for the job he's doing in the area of economic fairness.

Going into the holiday shopping season, consumer confidence at week’s end was at its highest level since September

Still, only 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, basically unchanged for months.

In other surveys last week:

-- Americans don’t think it’s great for the country that the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has identified himself to the public, but they also don’t believe the government should be able to shut him up.

-- Voters give a lukewarm endorsement to the president’s proposal that Iran join in the fight against the radical Islamic group ISIS, but they don't expect it to improve relations between the two countries anytime soon.

-- Most voters continue to believe that development of shale oil reserves will likely end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but they are not as convinced that the United States has enough reserves to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

-- When it’s time for Happy Hour, most Americans order a beer or wine.

-- Americans don’t particularly like the increased use of cosmetic surgery and procedures, although one-in-five would at least consider going under the knife.

-- Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans planned to do something special this past Tuesday to honor Veterans Day.

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