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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending February 6, 2015

Things are heating up for America on several fronts overseas, and voters don’t like what they see.

In its latest atrocity, the radical Islamic group ISIS burned a captured Jordanian pilot to death earlier this week. U.S. voters say President Obama has not been vocal enough in criticizing the heinous acts of this group and believe overwhelmingly that those involved should be tried for war crimes.

The president is expected to ask Congress any day now to authorize the use of more military force against ISIS up to and including ground forces. We’ll let you know early next week how voters feel about boots on the ground again in Iraq.

Most voters think it is likely the United States will be forced to send combat troops to fight ISIS but strongly agree that Obama needs Congress’ approval first.

Voters are cool to the president’s plan to send additional military aid including weapons to Ukraine to help it fight pro-Russian separatists. After all, only 38% consider Ukraine a vital national security interest of the United States.

By contrast, most voters consider Israel vital to national security, but 44% believe the U.S. relationship with Israel has gotten worse since Obama took office.

Meanwhile, the number of voters who think the United States needs to spend more on the military and national security has risen to its highest level in several years of regular surveying.

Perhaps in part that’s because belief that America and its allies are winning the War on Terror has fallen to its lowest level ever.

But there’s the rub. Most voters continue to call for across-the-board spending cuts, but that support drops if the military budget or entitlements are taken off the cutting block. Generally speaking, Democrats want to cut defense spending, while Republicans want to cut entitlements. The president has already warned the GOP-led Congress that he will not accept a budget that increases defense spending but cuts his domestic priorities.

Obama began the week by proposing a near $4 trillion budget to Congress that includes spending and tax increases. Republican leaders declared it largely dead on arrival. In theory at least, most voters prefer to cut spending and don’t see a need for higher taxes.

Voters want the president and Congress to work together: The problem is that, depending on their party, voters want them to do completely different things. So where do we go from here?

Maybe the president’s getting some credit after all for the economy’s improving performance. His daily job approval ratings remain several points higher than they were before Election Day, and his monthly job approval hit 49% in January. That’s up a point from December and ties his high for 2014. Forty-nine percent (49%) also disapproved, but that his lowest negative since October 2013.

Democrats have a two-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. They have now led for four of the first five weeks of 2015.

The federal government’s jobs report, released yesterday, showed another month of healthy hiring, although the unemployment rate slipped back slightly. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence also slipped a point in January, but that follows two months in a row of six-year highs.

Americans seem to be relatively content with their current jobs since nearly half believe staying put affords them the best opportunity to get ahead.

But 15% also now say they’re among the working poor, the highest finding since July 2012.

Daily consumer and investor confidence are down slightly from their beginning-of-the-year highs but remain ahead of levels seen for the last several years.

Of course, there’s still a lot of nervous anticipation about the impact of the new national health care law on businesses this year. Just over half of voters again view Obamacare unfavorably, and support for government-mandated levels of health insurance coverage continues to fall.

Americans also remain highly skeptical about the ability of the public schools to produce high school graduates ready for college and the workplace.

Keep in mind, too, that only 34% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. But then again, believe it or not, that’s more optimism than we’ve seen in the last couple years.

In other surveys last week:

-- Following reports of a measles outbreak in 14 states, Americans overwhelmingly support requiring children to be vaccinated before being allowed to attend school.

-- Support for capital punishment in America remains steady, despite lingering concerns about wrongful executions and uncertainty as to whether the death penalty deters crime.

-- Most think the man who killed 12 and wounded 70 in a Colorado theater mass shooting should get the death penalty, but there’s less support for punishing a suspect who’s proven to be mentally ill.

-- An overwhelming majority of Americans say they receive good service at the restaurants they visit, and they tip accordingly.

-- How do Americans rate the way the media covers the weather?

-- Oops! The Seattle Seahawks were the fans’ favorite to win Super Bowl XLIX.

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