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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending February 20, 2016

Will this president or the next one fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia? And who will that next president be?

Despite a near-tie in Iowa and a big loss in the New Hampshire primary to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is still seen by most Democrats as likely to win their party’s presidential nomination.

Donald Trump’s criticism of the last Republican president has done little to blunt expectations among GOP voters that he will be nominated.

Today’s South Carolina Republican primary and next Saturday’s Democratic primary in the Palmetto State will go a long way toward determining whether Trump and Clinton are the eventual nominees.

When it comes to which candidate voters trust more on key issues, Trump leads when it comes to the economy, job creation and immigration. Clinton has held her lead on social issues but has widened her advantage on the environment. The two are virtually tied now when voters are asked whom they trust more to handle national security.

Interestingly, voters tend to see both Clinton and Trump as political moderates.

Jeb Bush is counting on an appearance by his brother, former President George W. Bush, to boost his chances in the South Carolina primary. In response, Trump has stepped up his criticism of former President Bush and the Iraq war in particular. Just 34% of Republicans now consider it a positive description if a candidate is described as being like George W. Bush, down from 48% in April of last year.

Will special interest money buy Jeb Bush the nomination that Republican voters appear unwilling to give him?

Voters in both major parties feel strongly that wealthy donors and special interests and the media are too strong a presence in politics.

Pope Francis said this week that a candidate like Trump who supports building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is “not a Christian.” Trump reacted angrily to what he viewed as a questioning of his religious faith. Sixty percent (60%) of Americans had a favorable opinion of the new pope when he visited this country last September.

Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans – and 51% of all U.S. voters – favor building a wall along the Mexican border to help stop illegal immigration.

Many Republican senators are proposing to delay action on President Obama's yet-to-be announced nominee to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, but most voters think the Senate has a responsibility to vote on all of the president's nominees.

Only 27%, however. think it’s even somewhat likely that the Republican–controlled Senate will approve any candidate Obama nominates to replace Scalia.

Voters are feeling better about the U.S. Supreme Court than they have in several years.

Last June after the Supreme Court’s controversial rulings upholding Obamacare and gay marriage, positive ratings for the court jumped, but negative ratings also climbed to their highest level in regular surveying since November 2006.

Twenty-one percent (21%) think the next president should name Obama to the Supreme Court, an idea that Hillary Clinton seemed receptive to late last month. Obama’s daily job approval ratings remain in the negative teens.

In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty percent (30%) of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

-- Voters still see the radical Islamic State group (ISIS) as a serious threat to the homeland and criticize the Obama administration’s efforts against it. But most aren't ready to send a lot of U.S. troops to Syria to fight ISIS.

-- Voters disagree with Apple’s decision to challenge a federal court order to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino, California terrorist massacre.

-- It’s up to South Dakota’s governor now whether the state becomes the first to prohibit transgender students from using restrooms of the gender they identify with. Only 22% of voters nationwide think transgender people should have unrestricted use of public bathrooms.

-- Americans don’t rate Presidents’ Day too highly on their list of federal holidays, but most think the number of holidays celebrated by the federal government is about right.

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