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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending August 23, 2013

The tragic events in the Middle East and the sentencing of a former soldier who leaked classified documents has put the spotlight on U.S. foreign policy this week.

Following deadly clashes in Egypt between the military and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, 54% of voters said the United States should not continue military and financial aid to the embattled nation.  Eighteen percent (18%) said U.S. aid to Egypt should continue.

Belief among U.S. voters that Egypt will become a peaceful and democratic nation in the near future has diminished since the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

The United States, France and several other countries are pushing for an investigation into allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds of citizens. In June, 55% of voters disagreed with the president’s decision to provide weapons and military assistance to anti-government rebels. It will be interesting to see if opinions have changed when Rasmussen Reports releases new data on the Syrian crisis next week.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing classified government documents to the website WikiLeaks. Forty-two percent (42%) of voters say that punishment is about right, but 33% say it doesn’t go far enough. Fifty-one percent (51%) believe Manning should have to serve the entire sentence without the possibility of parole, while 39% disagree. 

When it comes to policing at home, 52% of voters say on-duty police officers should be required to wear uniform cameras but say the practice wouldn’t have much of an impact on crime. Voters are also more likely to view racial profiling by police as a civil rights violation.

Congress is currently on August recess, a time when many legislators hold town hall meetings to connect with their voters. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of voters believe that it’s more important for members of Congress to hear from their constituents rather than explain legislation to them. But 39% of voters now say the protests at town hall meetings are usually phony efforts drummed up by special interest groups and lobbyists. Thirty-seven percent (37%) believe the protesters are citizens reflecting the concerns of their neighbors. Another 24% are not sure. 

Congress’ top leaders have some work to do in winning back voters when they return from the recess. More than 50% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Republican House Speaker John Boehner and his predecessor Nancy Pelosi. Pluralities of voters also view Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell unfavorably. 

Voters remain evenly divided on their views of Vice President Joe Biden, but most Democrats continue to see him in a favorable light

On the economic front, just 44% of Americans are confident in the stability of the U.S. banking system. 

Just half of homeowners believe their home is worth more than what they still owe on it, but confidence in the short-term housing market remains higher than it has been in several years. Most homeowners are also confident that they know what their home is worth in today’s market, and more now say it’s worth more than when they bought it

Eighty percent (80%) of Americans say they are paying more for groceries now compared to last year, and most expect to be paying higher grocery bills a year from now.

When it comes to grocery shopping, most Americans choose a major chain supermarket. But they still consider it at least somewhat important to find food that is locally grown and organic, even though they overwhelmingly agree it’s more expensive. Most adults say they eat dinner at home on a typical day, and most opt to cook their own meal rather than microwave a ready-made one. 

Consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) say the United States is heading in the right direction for the second straight week

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In other news last week:

-- Americans continue to overwhelmingly believe the so-called war on drugs is failing, but they are more divided on how much the United States should be spending on it. 

-- Adults still believe kids are spending too much time in front of computers and other electronic devices, and nearly half think their quality of life is worse than it was for children a generation ago. Most adults also continue to believe their fellow Americans watch too much TV

--  Seventy-one percent (71%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the federal government helps businesses that are politically connected and hurts those that are not. 

-- Most voters continue to have an unfavorable opinion of the health care law, and believe it will increase the nation’s deficit and drive up health care costs. 

-- The number of voters who consider the bailouts of the auto industry a success is at an all-time low, while the fewest in a year think the bailouts were good for the country

-- Republicans and Democrats run even for the second straight week on the Generic Congressional Ballot

-- Most voters continue to think parents should be able to choose between schools based on such things as uniforms, prayer and how long the school year lasts.

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