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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending February 22, 2014

Let’s party – or maybe not. That’s the big decision facing Republicans this election cycle.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Likely Republican Voters think it’s important for Republicans in Congress to work with the Tea Party, but just 38% of these voters believe the Tea Party will help the GOP in elections this November.

After all, only 31% of all voters nationwide now view the Tea Party movement favorably. Forty-seven percent (47%) do not.

At the same time, voters share many of the sentiments that prompted the creation of the Tea Party. Voters by a two-to-one margin, for example, favor a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger one with more services and higher taxes.

Voters continue to give Congress rock-bottom ratings, and only eight percent (8%) think most members of Congress get reelected because they do a good job representing their constituents.

But right now Democrats lead Republicans by four points on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

President Obama is faring slightly better when it comes to his daily job approval ratings. Yet while his ratings in some key issue areas are also improving, they still have a ways to go.

Consider that the president made income inequality the central issue of last month's State of the Union address, but only 39% of voters think he is doing a good or excellent job handling issues related to economic fairness. That compares to 42% a year ago.

Forty-one percent (41%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of issues related to health care, up from a recent low of 30% in November. But slightly more (46%) still give Obama poor marks in this area.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) think employers and individuals should be allowed to buy insurance plans across state lines, something that is now prohibited by the president’s new national health care law. That’s the highest level of support measured for this type of choice in regular Rasmussen Reports tracking.

Just 31% of voters agree with Secretary of State John Kerry that global warming is now "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction."  Despite Kerry’s dismissal of those who question global warming as belonging to the Flat Earth Society, voters are almost evenly divided when asked if global warming is proven scientific fact.

However, global warming advocates seem to be winning the public relations battle with fewer voters than ever (35%) who now think the problem is due to long-term planetary trends. Voters still aren't overly enthusiastic about paying more to deal with the climate issue, though.

Despite U.S. protests, Afghan authorities last week released 65 prisoners, some involved in attacks on Americans, so it's not surprising that voters remain pessimistic about a war now in its thirteenth year.

Fifty-two percent (52%) favor an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Consumer and investor confidence were up at week’s end. 

Still, just 51% of Americans are now at least somewhat confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry, with only 15% who are Very Confident.

Twenty-two percent (22%) say the interest rates they are paying now are higher than last year at this time, while 13% say they are lower. Fifty percent (50%) lack confidence in the Federal Reserve Board’s ability to keep interest rates and inflation down, including 17% who are Not At All Confident.

Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law made headlines again this month after a jury there found Michael Dunn not guilty of first-degree murder for shooting a teenager after an argument over loud music. Forty-one percent (41%) of Americans now believe “stand your ground” laws improve public safety, up seven points from 34% in July.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) trust a jury more than a judge to determine the guilt or innocence of someone accused of criminal behavior. Just 22% trust a judge more, while nearly as many (20%) are not sure.

When it comes to gun-related issues, not surprisingly, our surveys have found that there's often a world of difference between those with a gun in their household and those who don't have a gun around. So what do these two Americas think about these hot-button issues? 

In other surveys this week:

-- Thirty percent (30%) of voters believe the United States is heading in the right direction.

-- Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans with school-age children think parents should have a choice between sending their children to a school where disciplinary spanking is allowed and a school where spanking is not allowed.

-- Forty-nine percent (49%) think buying a home is the best investment most families can make, consistent with findings for the last couple years. An all-time high of 67% felt that way in May 2009.

-- George Washington and Abraham Lincoln remain Americans’ favorite presidents, although few consider the holiday last Monday that honored them to be one of the nation’s most important.

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

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