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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 7, 2013

President Obama got some good late-week news with the drop of the unemployment rate to a five-year low and better-than-projected economic growth in the third quarter. It remains to be seen whether these trends continue and offset the damage done by Obamacare’s disastrous debut.

The president’s total job approval dipped four points to 45% in November. That’s down 11 points from last December’s recent high of 56% and is his lowest monthly approval in two years. In recent weeks, Obama’s daily job approval ratings have been at the lowest levels of his presidency

Positive views of the president’s economic leadership have fallen to their lowest level in 18 months. Just 32% of Likely U.S. Voters now give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues.

Twenty-five percent (25%) think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 41% felt that way.

Despite assurances from the Obama administration that problems with the federal health insurance exchange website have been fixed, 59% of voters think it’s unlikely the current problems with the new national health care law will be fixed within the next year.

Since October 1, the law has begun forcing millions of Americans to change their health insurance coverage because it does not meet the standards set by the law and to buy more expensive policies in their place. The resulting political uproar has forced the president to delay implementation of that portion of the law. Voters who have health insurance overwhelmingly rate the coverage they have as good or excellent. Fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters now expect the health care system to get worse under the new law.

No wonder then that voters overwhelmingly want to change or repeal the health care law. Fifty percent (50%) want to scrap it completely and start over again.

By a 51% to 38% margin, voters oppose the law’s requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees. But they remain closely divided when asked if a business should be allowed to opt out of such a mandate for religious reasons – the subject of the latest legal challenge of Obamacare now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Voters are almost evenly divided over how much influence the law will have over their upcoming vote. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports the health care law. Forty percent (40%) are less likely to vote for a supporter of the law. But perhaps surprisingly, 35% are not sure if their representative in Congress voted for it or not.

As the political fallout from the health care law continues, Republicans have jumped to a five-point lead over Democrats – 43% to 38% - on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held since June 2012 and the highest level of support it has earned since just before Election Day in early November of last year. 

But the economy may be offering a little more hope these days. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped five points in November after falling to a low for the year in October. An increase in the Employment Index generally suggests the upcoming government report on job creation will be stronger than the prior month’s report, and indeed it was.

The president on Wednesday declared that growing income inequality in the United States is "the defining challenge of our time." The number of workers who consider themselves poor (18%) is at its highest point this year, but help may be on the way: The number who expect to be earning more a year from now (43%) matches its highest level in four-and-a-half years

Fewer workers than ever are willing to commit to their current job. Twenty-five percent (25%) of Employed Adults are looking for a job outside of their current company. Sixty-four percent (64%) are not, but that’s the lowest finding in regular surveying since the spring of 2009. However, just 37% think their next job will be better than their current one.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes aren’t overly optimistic, though. At week’s end, 25% of consumers said economic conditions in the United States are getting better, but twice as many (50%) believe they're getting worse. Investors share these views by a similar margin.

Speaking of consumers, 48% of Americans have begun their holiday shopping, and 14% are finished already. 

But 75% agree that most Americans need to cut back on credit card use and other borrowing. Nineteen percent (19%) say the bad economy is causing them to use their credit cards more. 

Only 39% think they personally need to cut back on their credit card use and other borrowing 

Most Americans (70%) are fairly comfortable using their credit cards on the Internet, but 24% say they have had credit card information stolen online 

The Obama administration recently changed long-standing military policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. Thirty-four percent (34%) think this decision is good for the military, but nearly as many (31%) feel it's bad for the military. Another 31% say it will have no impact. 

Forty-seven percent (47%) think the growing role of women in the armed services is also good for the military. Fifty-three percent (53%) believe women should be allowed to fight on the front lines and perform all the combat roles that men do, although that's down six points from 59% in January.

In other surveys last week:

-- Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans held a favorable view of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela when we asked in February 2011. Mandela died on Thursday at age 95.

-- Vice President Joe Biden visited Beijing this week following the latest flare-up of tensions with China. Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters consider China a long-term threat to the United States, but 75% think that threat is economic rather than a military one. 

-- The United States spends more on defense annually than the next 10 countries combined, but more voters than ever (37%) don’t think that’s enough.  

-- Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans say they will decorate their homes this holiday season

-- Sixty-six percent (66%) of Americans prefer signs in stores that say "Merry Christmas" rather than ones with "Happy Holidays."  

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