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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending March 1, 2014

It’s tax time, and Americans aren’t in much of a spending mood.

Support for raising the federal minimum wage has fallen following a new Congressional Budget Office report that says the tax hike could cost 500,000 people their jobs. Fifty percent (50%) of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but that’s down from 55% in late January and 61% in July. When presented with the CBO findings, support for raising the minimum wage drops 11 points to 39%.

What else does America think about raising the minimum wage?  

Nearly half (48%) of voters favor the new $302 billion roads and bridges plan President Obama proposed this week, but 56% think cutting government spending would do more to help the economy than increased spending on infrastructure.

Knowing the government ultimately lost money on the auto bailouts, 34% still consider them a success, but 50% say the bailouts were a failure.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes. Fifty-nine percent (59%) continue to view the federal government unfavorably.

In the face of a public outcry, the Federal Communications Commission has backed off a plan to determine if the news media is meeting the public’s “critical information needs.” Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters say it is not the government’s role to monitor the content of news organizations in this country. Seventy-six percent (76%) are worried that the FCC’s analysis of news content will lead to government efforts to control the news media or promote a political agenda.

Voters remain almost evenly divided over the new government requirement that every American must have health insurance.

The president’s daily job approval ratings are little changed, holding at levels seen for much of his presidency.

Democrats hold a four-point lead over Republicans for the second week in a row on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Republicans need to pick up six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate, and they hold solid leads in two states where Democrats are retiring. Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito posts a 14-point lead over Democrat Natalie Tennant in West Virginia, while former Governor Mike Rounds has a commanding lead over Democrat Rick Weiland in South Dakota 

A third of Americans have already filed their income taxes this year, but slightly fewer (45%) expect to get a refund.

Seventy-one percent (71%) believe most Americans try to be honest when filing their taxes.

But many also still think they pay more than their fair share. Fifty percent (50%) believe someone who makes twice as much money as they do pays less than twice as much in taxes. Similarly, a plurality (45%) thinks someone who makes half as much money as they do pays less than half as much in taxes.

Just six percent (6%) believe the United States has the best tax system in the world. 

At week’s end, consumers and investors remained slightly more pessimistic than optimistic about the U.S. economy. 

Most Americans (66%) don’t want a religious freedom law in their state like the one vetoed this week by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, but 73% support a private photographer’s right to not photograph a same-sex wedding for religious reasons.

Supporters of the law in Arizona cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued for turning down a same-sex wedding for religious reasons as an example of why there is a need for a religious freedom law. Opponents argue that the law opens the door to widespread anti-gay discrimination.

In other surveys this week:

-- Thirty-two percent (32%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s the highest level of optimism since the first week of June 2013.

-- Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Americans believe it is harder for a teacher to maintain discipline in the classroom today than it was when they were in school.

-- Despite the Mexican government’s capture last weekend of perhaps the world’s most powerful drug lord, 65% of U.S. voters don’t believe the Mexican government has been aggressive enough in its efforts to stop illegal drug traffickers in Mexico.

-- Just 17% think the United States should get more directly involved in Ukraine if the political violence continues there.

-- Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard holds a 63% to 23% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Lowe in South Dakota’s 2014 gubernatorial race.

-- Twenty percent (20%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to use a digital currency like Bitcoin in the next five years, but that includes only four percent (4%) who say they are Very Likely to do so.

-- There’s a nationwide clown shortage, but that’s okay with the 43% who don’t like clowns.

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