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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending April 16, 2016

The race for the Republican presidential nomination appears headed toward another roller coaster bump.

Rasmussen Reports’ latest weekly Trump Change survey finds perceptions of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination holding steady after falling for several weeks.  Will next Tuesday’s New York primary revive his fortunes?

Trump remains well ahead of his two remaining GOP rivals – Ted Cruz and John Kasich - in the expectations game.

Despite the billionaire businessman’s lead, most Republicans think Cruz and Kasich have what it takes to be president, but they’re evenly divided over whether the same is true of Trump.

Still, one-third of Republican voters tell us that they will vote for someone else or not vote at all if Trump is not the nominee.

For some Republicans and some in the media, House Speaker Paul Ryan is the ghost candidate who can save the GOP from itself, rescuing the party from Trump or Cruz. But Ryan made it clear at a press conference this week that he has no intention of running for president. Right now, our numbers suggest that’s a good idea. 

It’s hard to imagine at this point, though, who will emerge from the mess the Republican party is making of itself to be the GOP standard-bearer in the fall. 

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders challenged each other’s qualifications to be president in the latest Democratic debate Thursday night. Democrats see Clinton as the more qualified of the two, but voters in general are more critical of both candidates’ credentials. 

Sanders has been on a hot streak lately in the Democratic primary race, but Democrats put more trust in Clinton when it comes to key issues.

Rasmussen Reports will release its latest monthly Hillary Meter Monday morning, testing how voters view Clinton’s chances for this year’s Democratic presidential nomination.

President Obama said in a TV interview last Sunday that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while secretary of State did not endanger national security. Most voters still think it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving classified information through the server, but just 25% believe she is likely to be indicted.

However, only 40% of Democrats think a political candidate who is charged with a felony while running for office should immediately stop campaigning. Fifty-three percent (53%) say that candidate should keep running until a court determines his or her guilt or innocence.

When Americans vote in elections, we’re more likely to ask who they’re voting for rather than what they’re voting for. So we decided to see what America thinks about some of the hot button issues currently on the campaign trail.

With this year's Tax Day coming on Monday, Americans remain more convinced than ever that the middle class is shouldering more of the tax burden than the wealthy.

Americans in general continue to believe they are overtaxed but have little confidence that Congress and the president will do anything about it. Most voters also want Congress to stop spending so much money, but they don’t believe that’s going to happen either.

Case in point: Unable to bring conservatives into line, House Republican leaders are likely to resort to a legislative maneuver to pass a spending bill that raises next year’s federal budget $30 billion over spending caps set in 2011. But 76% of GOP voters want Congress to cut federal spending

This helps explain why 86% of Republicans are angry at the GOP-led Congress, with 51% who are Very Angry.

Clinton spoke to Al Sharpton’s organization this week in an effort to defuse criticism for a racially-tinged joke New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told last weekend in a skit in which she appeared. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters say racial issues are important to their vote, with 27% who say they’re Very Important. 

Mississippi and North Carolina are the latest states to adopt laws that allow a private business not to serve someone if it violates the business owner's religious beliefs, but critics contend that gay, lesbian and transgender customers would suffer. Most voters nationwide agree and still don’t want their state to adopt a religious freedom law

Interestingly, though, voters are more supportive of the rights such laws attempt to protect. Most, for example, agree that a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage has the right to turn down working a job at such a wedding.

The president’s job approval ratings remain higher than they have been in past years. It’s worth mentioning some recent developments and trends that may be impacting voter approval of Obama’s performance

In other surveys last week:

-- Only 27% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

-- After family, what do Americans believe in most strongly? 

-- Law-abiding Americans are buying guns at a record pace, and most tell us it’s for self-defense. Democrats, however, are far more likely than others to believe it is too easy to buy a gun these days.

-- More hybrid vehicles - part traditional gasoline-powered engine, part electric engine - seem to be on the roads these days, but Americans aren't expressing any increased willingness to buy one.

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Remember, if it's in the news, it's in our polls.

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