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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 20, 2014

Christmas comes but once a year -- but usually not accompanied by so much big news.

Yesterday, just before he left for Christmas vacation, President Obama announced the United States will make a “proportional” response to North Korea’s computer hacking and threat campaign against Sony Pictures that led to the cancelling of the film, “The Interview.” Earlier in the week, Obama announced his intention to end the 54-year-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

Americans will weigh in on both these topics in surveys we release early next week. If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.

The week’s other major event was the massacre by the radical Islamic Taliban of 145 people, most of them children, in a school in Pakistan. U.S. voters are hesitant to join Pakistan in the search for the killers, but the incident has dramatically reduced support for negotiations with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.

Support for the use of unmanned drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists overseas is now the highest it's been in over two years.  Nearly half of voters favor the harsh interrogation tactics used against suspected terrorists by the CIA and think they elicited valuable information that helped the United States.

After all, the number of voters who think the United States is winning the War on Terror continues to fall to new lows, and more than ever they see a terrorist attack as the biggest threat to this country.

Voters feel more strongly these days that the U.S. military should focus on defending America’s interests rather than addressing the problems of other nations.

Just 27% now believe the United States will still be the most powerful nation in the world by the end of the 21st century.

Looking ahead in the short term, voters are closely divided over whether the incoming Congress will make any difference, but they believe overwhelmingly that the president and the new Congress should work together rather than stand on principle.

However, only 24% are even somewhat confident that the president and the new Congress can work together.

The president’s daily job approval ratings have improved slightly since Election Day but still remain in the mid- to high negative teens. 

Voters continue to see Republicans as the party to trust when it comes to national security, economic growth and fiscal restraint. Democrats remain their first choice on issues like health care, education and the environment.

The lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot continues to swing back and forth between the two parties as it has weekly for months. 

Enough of this heavy stuff. It’s Christmastime, and more Americans are feeling the spirit this holiday season.

More adults plan to make a charitable donation this year, but fewer are sending Christmas cards.

With less than 10 days left until Christmas, though, 30% still had not begun their holiday shopping.

The good news for retailers is that consumer confidence has been climbing steadily over the past month to some of its highest levels of the year.

But buyers, beware: Americans are ending the year more in debt than they were at the beginning of 2014. 

The number of homeowners who think they are likely to miss or be late on a mortgage payment in the next few months is at its highest level in over a year.

Yet homeowners remain fairly confident in their home’s short- and long-term value, and most still think their home is worth more than what they owe on their mortgage. Adults nationwide round out 2014 still believing owning a home is a family's best investment but remain divided as to whether now’s a good time to sell in their area.

Voters are more positive about the fairness of the U.S. economy than they’ve been all year.

In other surveys last week:

-- Twenty-five percent (25%) of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

-- Those under 40 have less confidence than their elders in voting as an agent for change and express more confidence in public protests and economic boycotts. 

-- Voters still strongly approve of the health care they are getting, but most also remain convinced that it will get worse under the new national health care law. 

-- Voters continue to believe the government should cut spending to help the economy.

-- Six years after the Wall Street meltdown, one-third of Americans still fear they will lose their money due to bank failure. Americans remain worried about inflation, too, but they are a bit less pessimistic about rising food prices that they have been in months.

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

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