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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump enter their first debate Monday night with new terrorist attacks fresh in voters’ minds and another U.S. city burning.

Voters - particularly those in the two major parties - place more importance on the debates this election cycle than they have in past years.

These debates are potentially a breakaway moment for either Clinton or Trump who have been running neck-and-neck for weeks in Rasmussen Reports' White House Watch survey.  Trump is ahead by five points in this week's survey, but it's too early to say if he is gaining any traction over his Democratic rival.

A Muslim American originally from Afghanistan is the suspect in the latest domestic terrorist bombing incident in New York and New Jersey. A Somali American was killed last weekend after stabbing several people in a Minnesota mall. Even before these incidents, Americans were skeptical of the government’s ability to prevent future domestic terror attacks.

Voters think Trump would do a better job than Clinton protecting the country from terrorists. 

Voters strongly oppose President Obama’s plan to bring 110,000 Middle Eastern and African refugees here next year, up from 85,000 this year, and view that decision as an increased danger to U.S. national security.

Voters were similarly opposed and concerned about the national security threat of bringing Syrian refugees here this year, but Obama did it anyway, citing humanitarian concerns and the pressures these immigrants were putting on our European allies.

What part of “no” does the president not understand?

In his final major address to the United Nations this week, Obama in a thinly veiled swipe at Trump warned against the rise of nationalism in this country and championed globalism. Most voters here agree with Trump that U.S. foreign policy should focus on what's best for America but believe the president is more interested in what's best for the world.

Mob violence broke out in Charlotte, N.C. this week following the latest police shooting of a black suspect. Sixty percent (60%) of voters think race relations are worse since Obama’s election in 2008. 

Just 31% say the country is headed in the right direction. Obama’s daily job approval ratings took a turn for the worse this week but are still running slightly better than average. 

Clinton and Trump both have proposed taxpayer-paid maternity leave for women whose employers don’t pay them for their time off, and most voters like the idea. But do they prefer Clinton’s 12-week plan or Trump’s six-week proposal?

John F. Kennedy had to convince Americans in 1960 that he wouldn’t answer to the pope to become the first Catholic elected president of the United States. In more recent years, most Republican candidates have felt compelled to meet a religious conservative litmus test to win their party’s nomination. But what does America think about the role of religion in presidential politics these days?

Republicans couldn’t care less about former President George H.W. Bush’s reported decision this week to vote for Clinton. Despite the record turnout for Trump in this year's GOP primaries, 66% of Republicans believe that most of the party's top leaders do not want Trump to be elected president

The presidential race remains tight in Nevada, but Trump has once again edged into the lead. Republican Joe Heck has pulled slightly further ahead of Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in the race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.

California is seeking an Obamacare waiver from the federal government so that illegal immigrants can buy health insurance through the state’s health care exchange. Most voters don’t want illegals where they live buying health insurance through a government-run exchange.

Most also still oppose the national health care law’s requirement that every American buy or obtain health insurance. Citing financial losses, several major health insurers have announced plans to back out of the state exchanges, leaving many Americans with fewer insurance options and higher rates.  Voters don’t think taxpayers should help offset any jump in rates they may experience.

The majority of voters continue to believe lowering health care costs is more important than universal coverage, but most also have said for years that Obamacare will increase, not decrease, health care costs

In other surveys last week:

-- Edward J. Snowden, the man who exposed the federal government’s surveillance of millions of innocent Americans in the name of national security, is the subject of a major new film and a growing effort to have him pardoned for revealing some of the nation’s top secrets. Voters still aren’t convinced Snowden is a traitor, but they’re not ready to pardon him yet either.

-- The Dakota Access Pipeline, set to run oil from the Dakotas to Illinois, has been blocked by the federal government following protests from environmentalists and tribal groups. But voters believe it’s entirely possible to build oil pipelines without doing significant environmental damage.  Voters had similar feelings about the Keystone XL pipeline which Obama halted with a veto last year.

-- Americans oppose the trend at colleges and universities toward separate dormitories for black students and worry that it marks a return to the segregation policies of pre-civil rights America.

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