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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls: Week of August 16

Get out of my face: That’s the message most voters still have for the federal government six years into the presidency of the man who hoped to make us all believers in big government.

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans believe instead that the federal government plays too big a role in the lives of average Americans.  

Of course, it doesn't help that voters by a two-to-one margin consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector. Only 19% trust the feds to do the right thing most or nearly all the time.

Case in point: We’ve spent countless millions on the war on drugs over the past several decades, and an overwhelming majority of Americans still believe we’re losing.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with higher taxes. Support for smaller government has run in the low to mid-60s in most regular surveys since 2006. 

Attitudes toward the president’s chief legislative achievement, the law that makes the government the major player in health care, remain mostly negative.

Not that the government doesn’t keep trying. Officials who want to change habits they consider bad for the public often try to use the tax code as a way to discourage consumption, and now a proposal has been made to tax sugar to make us use less of it. Like most so-called "sin taxes," this one doesn't go down well with Americans.

On the other hand, what voters want is often ignored. For example, a sizable number of Americans know a second language and think it’s an important skill to have in today’s world, but they still don’t think it’s as important as encouraging immigrants in this country to speak English. Thirty-one states have made English their official language, and five more are hoping to join the club this year. But the federal government resists taking that step, even though Americans strongly believe English should be the nation's officially recognized language.

Most Americans also have said for years that government workers don’t work as hard as those in the private sector but make more money

Americans also think they work harder than the president and the average member of Congress. 

No wonder the president’s job approval rating is stuck in the high negative teens, while voters remain strongly convinced that Congress is doing a lousy job.

Will the president and congressional Democrats pay a price at the polls this November for their efforts to transform America with their plans for bigger government? 

Or will an upswing in consumer and investor confidence be a more decisive factor? 

For the second week in a row, Republicans lead Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot after trailing for most of this year.

Make sure you check our new video election update every Friday to catch up on the week’s political polling.

To recap:

Will she or won’t she? The race to replace Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin couldn’t be any closer. Republicans need this one to take control of the Senate.

Kansas may have a Senate race after all. Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts has just a four-point lead over Democratic challenger Chad Taylor.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Gordon Ball in his bid for reelection in Tennessee.

Wisconsin’s may be the nation’s closest-watched governor’s race, and it remains dead even.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback is in a 10-point hole in his race for a second term in Kansas.

Incumbent Republican Bill Haslam is well ahead of his Democratic challenger Charles Brown in Tennessee's gubernatorial contest.

In other surveys last week:

-- Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Are women smarter than men?

-- Most voters approve of U.S. military airstrikes but still think Iraq may already be lost to radical Islamic insurgents.

-- Most also believe their fellow Americans stand behind Israel more than the Palestinians when it comes to the fighting in Gaza, but they aren’t as sure about the Obama administration or the media here and abroad.

-- Twenty years after going into effect, most Americans are not sure if Megan’s Law has actually done anything to reduce the number of children attacked by sex offenders, although they remain strongly supportive of a public registry for these criminals.

-- Do Americans think they work harder than those in other countries? Do we take more vacation than they do?

-- Americans are steadily dropping their newspaper subscriptions. Why, and where are they turning for news?

-- No wonder Hollywood was planning a sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” An overwhelming number of Americans say they have seen a film starring the late Robin Williams, and that film is their favorite. 

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