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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 19, 2015

The national Democratic Party is holding its third pre-primary debate this evening, safely tucked away from weeknight prime-time viewers.

But then Democrats are strongly convinced – and have been for months – that Hillary Clinton is their likely nominee, as our monthly Hillary Meter demonstrated again this past week. 

Donald Trump remains the expected choice of most Republicans, according to our weekly Trump Change survey.

Trump still holds the lead in Rasmussen Reports’ latest look at the race for the Republican presidential nomination following Tuesday night’s debate.   His voters also are by far the least likely to say they’re going to change their minds.

Absent from the GOP debate was any mention of President Obama’s new international climate change agreement signed by 195 nations in Paris. Most voters think the climate deal will increase energy costs here at home, and few are willing to pay those additional costs.

Interestingly, a lot of voters claim to be following the debates but don’t feel they have learned much about the candidates so far.  

Congress on Friday approved a year-end budget loaded with goodies for both parties. Taxpayers lose again, but they’re not surprised: Most voters have been telling us for years that they favor spending cuts in every program of the federal government. But only 28% believe it is even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years.

GOP voters are far more eager than Democrats to cut the size of government, but despite the Republican takeover of Congress, nothing seems to have changed. This helps explain the success of anti-GOP establishment presidential candidates like Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Following this week’s debate, is the GOP Trump’s party now?

The president boasted on Friday that he has "never been more optimistic about a year ahead" after Congress approved all the spending he wanted. But just 24% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction, tying the low for the year. Obama’s daily job approval ratings tracked in the high negative teens for most of this past week.

Despite the pressure for more gun control from the president and others, gun sales set a single-day record on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It seems Americans are more interested in exercising their gun rights than giving them up.  

More voters than ever see a worsening relationship between the United States and the Islamic world, but they are less convinced that most individual Muslims around the world view America as an enemy. Most Republicans and a plurality of all voters agree with Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists, suggesting that Americans still do not translate their national security concerns into a general bias against Muslims.

 In other surveys last week:

-- A surprisingly high number of Americans plan to see the latest installment of the Star Wars series in theaters rather than waiting to watch at home. The way Americans watch movies is rapidly changing, but that doesn’t mean they never go to a traditional movie theater.

-- Americans continue to strongly support the celebration of Christmas in public schools.

-- More Americans are finding the Christmas season joyful rather than stressful this year.

-- Americans continue to shop at a record pace this holiday season. Most are again using the Internet to finish their shopping.

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