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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending August 16, 2013

President Obama may be on vacation this week, but he and his administration still made plenty of news.

Just before the president left for vacation, he announced in a press conference tighter restrictions on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.  But most voters still don’t trust the government to protect their constitutional rights, and very few expect the program to cut back on monitoring the phone calls of innocent Americans. 

While voters’ views of the president’s leadership have returned from post-election highs to levels seen for much of his first term in office, positive ratings for his handling of national security are at their lowest level in over three years of weekly tracking. 

More voters than ever believe that the United States is not spending enough on the military and national security, but they are also less aware of how much the country actually spends in this area. 

On Tuesday, Obama addressed the public about the crisis in Egypt.  A month ago, 73% said the United States should leave the situation alone. Rasmussen Reports will release new data on the public’s reaction to the situation early next week.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a plan to scale back the number of strict minimum prison sentences for non-violent low-level drug offenders, and just over half of Americans are on board with this proposal. One reason for this support is the fact that 55% believe there are too many Americans in prison today.

Americans are still divided on whether or not to legalize marijuana, but most think it should be up to the states to decide, not the federal government.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced plans to make the nation’s neighborhoods more diverse, but Americans strongly oppose this idea.  A plurality (49%) believes it is important for most neighborhoods in America to be racially or ethnically diverse, but just 15% think most neighborhoods in this country that are not racially or ethnically diverse are that way primarily because of racism.

Some members of Congress spend their time home during the August recess reconnecting with their constituents, but more voters than ever now believe a group of people randomly selected from the phone book could do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. 

But Republicans are more dissatisfied with their party leaders in Congress than Democrats are.  Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Republican voters think the average Republican in Congress shares their views, while 45% of Democrats believe the average congressional Democrat is about the same as they are.

Republicans and Democrats run even on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending August 11.  Belief that U.S. elections are fair continues to fall and has now reached its lowest level in nine years of surveys.

Meanwhile, consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years. 

But just 29% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction

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In other news last week:

-- Voters are closely divided over the Justice Department’s decision to contest the merger of US Airways and American Airlines, but nearly half predict airline fares will go up if the merger goes through.

-- Forty-one percent (41%) of voters share an at least somewhat favorable view of the health care law, while 53% view it unfavorably.  But 53% also say the law has had no impact on their lives. 

-- Voters remain concerned about global warming, but they still express more urgency about the economy and don’t feel selfish for doing so.

-- Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters believe that policies that encourage economic growth are Very Important, compared to 49% who feel that way about policies that encourage economic fairness.  

-- Americans are becoming even less enthused about the Internet’s influence on American culture, politics and journalism.

-- Some professional athletes just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, and most Americans are noticing.

-- Most Americans (81%) believe that their fellow Americans pay too much attention to celebrity news, and 86% say the media covers those celebrities too much.

-- Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans believe that Amber Alerts are at least somewhat effective in abduction cases

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