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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending February 9, 2013

What voters want isn’t often what they get.

Case in point: President Obama has indicated that gun control and immigration reform are his top priorities for the year and will be central to his State of the Union address this coming Tuesday night. But voters rate government spending and job creation as far more important issues than either gun control or immigration.

The issues the president cares about are important to Democrats, and that may be the key, Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest weekly newspaper column. “By focusing on the ability of Congress to block progress on these initiatives,” he writes, ”the president may give his base strong motivation to show up for the midterm elections.”

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of all voters believe our political leaders send U.S. soldiers into harm’s way too often. Just 11% think the United States should be the world’s policeman, taking on the responsibility of ensuring peace and democracy in the world.

New recruiting commercials present the U.S. Navy as "a global force for good," but only 20% of voters approve of that mission. Seventy percent (70%) believe the Navy’s primary mission is to protect and defend the United States.

Eighty-three percent (83%) want a foreign policy that protects the United States first. Just 50% think the president shares that view, and only 37% feel that way about congressional Republicans.

The president and many members of Congress expected strong voter opposition to automatic across-the-board government spending cuts scheduled for March 1, but it hasn’t materialized. Just 36% of voters now think the president and Congress should stop the automatic spending cuts from going into effect next month. Maybe in part that’s because 58% correctly recognize that these aren’t really cuts in spending anyway, they merely reduce the growth of future spending.

Scott Rasmussen and his guest Sean Trende from Real Clear Politics discuss the president’s State of the Union speech and his plans for his second term on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks. Michael Tanner from the Cato Institute and Henry Aaron from the Brookings Institution join Scott for a discussion of the president’s health care law.

What America Thinks airs on 61 TV stations nationwide. Find a station in your area.

Scott’s latest book, "The People's Money", is now available in paperback. The New York Times bestseller shows specific proposals supported by a majority of voters that would cut spending, balance the budget and completely eliminate the federal debt.

While Obama continues to earn high job approval ratings in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll, a plurality (45%) of voters thinks he’s doing a poor job when it comes to government spending. He earns only slightly better marks when it comes to the issue of taxes.

With April 15 on the horizon, half of Americans think they pay more than they should in taxes and question the fairness of the current tax system. Fifty percent (50%) believe that someone who earns twice as much as they do pays less than twice as much in taxes. The skepticism is the same when looking down the income ladder. Fifty percent (50%) think a person who earns half as much as they do pays less than half as much in taxes.

Half (49%) still believe wealthy Americans pay less than their fair share in taxes but 45% believe they pay at least their fair share. Americans tend to consider a sales tax the fairest kind of tax and are least happy with income and property taxes.

Voters are almost evenly divided when it comes to the fairness of the U.S. economy.

American are also closely divided in their opinions of the current job market. Just 28% say it’s better than it was one year ago, while just as many (29%) say it’s worse. Looking ahead, 34% expect lower unemployment rates in a year, while 30% expect them to be higher.

Fifty percent (50%) think it’s possible for anyone who really wants to work to find a job these days, but just 29% believe it’s still possible for anyone in the United States to work hard and get rich.

Americans continue to favor limited government involvement in the job market, with just 30% who now think it would be good for the economy if the government hires more people. But then 67% continue to believe those in the private sector work harder than government employees and make less money.

While consumer and investor confidence are slightly higher than they were three months ago, most Americans (53%) still expect housing prices to take more than three years to fully recover from the 2008 downturn. That's consistent with findings since last June.

Confidence that the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror has slipped to the lowest level since the killing of Osama bin Laden nearly two years ago. But 57% of voters see economic concerns as a much bigger threat to America than terrorist attacks or military attack by another nation. 

How did you do in the new Rasmussen Challenge? Check the leaderboard to find out. 

In other surveys last week:

-- Democrats continue to lead Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

-- For the second week in a row, 39% of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Voters continue to give high marks to the health care they receive but worry that the U.S. health care system is going to get worse in the near future.

-- The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it is ending Saturday mail delivery come August, but as far as most Americans are concerned, it’s a move that’s long overdue.

-- Most voters continue to believe Americans should be able to choose their own Social Security and Medicare retirement age.

-- Despite his weak performance at his Senate confirmation hearings, opinions of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel are little changed, and most voters think he is likely to be confirmed.

-- A recent United Nations report acknowledges that solar activity may have a bigger impact on climate change than previously thought. Most voters agree that activity on the Sun is likely to have an impact on the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, but even more think human activity is a likely factor.

-- Oops! The San Francisco 49ers were picked to win it all at the beginning of the season, and just before the kick off to Super Bowl XLVII, fans' views hadn’t changed.

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Wall Street Journal profile called Scott Rasmussen "America's Insurgent Pollster." The Washington Post described him as "a driving force in American politics."  If you'd like Scott to speak at your conference or event, contact Premiere Speakers Bureau.

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