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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending December 17, 2016

The Electoral College is on track to count its votes on Monday, and then it will be official: Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States.

Rasmussen Reports’ first job approval survey on the president-elect finds that it’s a 47-47 nation. Forty-seven percent (47%) approve of the job Trump has done so far; 47% disapprove.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 306 to 232 in electoral votes, but she led 48% to 46% in the final popular vote. So the new numbers suggest that attitudes haven’t changed much since Election Day.

While Trump continues to put his Cabinet together and to lay out his agenda for his first days in office, Democrats appear to be operating in a parallel universe. Still searching for a reason for Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat and hoping to change the Electoral College’s minds, 63% of Democrats – and 39% of all voters – say she lost because of outside factors beyond her control.

Among those who think Clinton’s loss was due to outside factors, 40% name FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the agency was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information while she was secretary of State as the biggest factor, while 21% say Russian interference in the U.S. election was the most likely reason for Clinton’s defeat.

While many Democrats questioned Comey’s timing, 60% of all voters agreed with the FBI’s decision to go public about its reopening of the Clinton investigation a week-and-a-half before the election. Comey then announced right before the election that the FBI was again closing the investigation and was sticking to its original conclusion that no criminal charges against Clinton were warranted.

The Obama administration added its weight to the Russian argument this past week, with the CIA saying Russian interference in the recent election on Trump’s behalf is highly likely. But it has still offered no proof and turned down a request by the House Intelligence Committee for a closed door briefing on its findings. Meanwhile, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies does not support the CIA’s conclusion. 

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Democrats say it’s likely the Russians helped Trump win, but just as many Republicans (71%) think Russian involvement is unlikely.

When Clinton alleged in the second debate with Trump that Russian hackers were trying to tilt the election, most voters didn’t buy it but thought instead that the U.S. media was trying to swing things for her.

But then most voters think Clinton lost fair and square, with 43% who blame the weakness of her candidacy and 13% who think it was due to the strength of her opponent. 

Just after last month’s election, 48% of all voters said the election results were more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Thirty-five percent (35%) said they were more a vote for Trump. Sixteen percent (16%) were undecided.

Despite the struggle by Clinton and her fellow Democrats to explain Trump’s victory, Americans in general seem to be feeling pretty optimistic about the future. The latest Rasmussen Reports Consumer Spending Monitor finds that there has been a boom in economic confidence since Trump’s election.

Thirty-five percent (35%) of voters think the country is headed in the right direction, the highest level of optimism in nearly two years. Still, over half of voters think the country is headed the wrong way. Time will tell if a real change in attitude is here at last or if this is just a temporary period of post-election holiday season cheer. 

But winning the election may not be a good deal for the master of the deal. It looks right now like Trump’s organization is likely to lose business because of his election as president. 

Trump has announced that his two older children will run his businesses while he is in the White House, but voters suspect he will still be involved. They stop short, however, of demanding that he sell all of his businesses to prevent any conflict of interest. 

Voters believe Trump is likely to do things as president to make himself more money, although they don’t view him as any more unethical than other politicians.

Democrats dislike Trump's Cabinet picks to date; Republicans are pretty happy with them.

Some Trump opponents have questioned the president-elect’s decision to include several former top military officers in his Cabinet including one as secretary of Defense, but most voters don’t have a problem with that call.

Trump has repeatedly cast Russia as potential ally in the fight against the radical Islamic State group (ISIS), contrary to the Obama administration's view that the Russians are an obstacle to its hopes of overturning the regime of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. U.S. voters are showing a bit more skepticism these days about which side Russia is really on

Voters still think the United States needs to spend more on defense, but they’re also more inclined to pull U.S. troops out of Europe if the countries there don't meet their fair share of the costs.

Trump has rattled some in the national security hierarchy of both major political parties with his call for returning to an America First foreign policy. Most voters agree the United States has not been putting its own interests ahead of others and should reverse course. 

President Obama continues to earn some of the highest job approval ratings of his entire presidency in his final weeks on the job.

In other surveys last week:

-- Americans still strongly believe Christmas should be honored in public schools and should have a place on public land.

-- While most Americans say they’ve started their holiday gift shopping, they are slower to finish this holiday season compared to previous years.

-- Americans appear to be in more of a decorating mood this holiday season than ever before. 

-- Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, has been found guilty of the shooting deaths of a pastor and eight parishioners in a black Charleston, South Carolina church last year. He will be sentenced in early January. Most Americans believe Roof deserves the death penalty.

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