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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 19, 2013

So what’s the state of the union as President Obama prepares for the beginning of his second term on Monday?

Nearly six-out-of-10 voters plan to watch at least some of Obama's second inauguration live on Monday, but that’s a smaller crowd than planned to tune in four years ago. Most Democrats and unaffiliated voters intend to watch at least some of the ceremony; 61% of Republicans don’t plan to watch any at all.

Still, over 50% of all likely voters approve of the job Obama is doing as he continues to earn some of the highest job approval ratings of his presidency. 

Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down seven points from 43% the week prior to Obama’s reelection in November. However, belief that we are heading in the right direction is up from a year ago and up from the time President Obama first took office.

Consumer and investor confidence is also way up from four years ago. However, it might be more accurate to say pessimism is down. Thirty-one percent (31%) of consumers believe the economy is getting better, while 43% say it is getting worse. Among investors, 36% think the economy is getting better these days, and 41% say it is getting worse. Most consumers and investors continue to believe the country is in a recession.

Democrats have a six point advantage over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot. That’s virtually identical to the numbers from four years ago.

Most GOP voters continue to believe that congressional Republicans are out of touch with the party base, while Democrats are happier than ever with how their team is performing in Washington, DC. 

But then most voters believe the Democratic Party has a plan for where it wants to take the nation. Just 23% say the same of the Republican Party. More significantly, however, 53% think neither party represents the interests of the American people.

Only 31% of Americans believe race relations in this country are getting better, but just as many (32%) think they are getting worse. Blacks tend to think race relations are getting worse, while whites and other minority adults are more narrowly divided.

Yet while voters have mixed views on the overall fairness of the U.S. economy, 61% believe it is fair to blacks and Hispanic Americans. 

One-in-four Americans (26%) owe more money than they did a year ago, and few predict interest rates will go down in the near future. 

Despite the rhetoric in the current gun control debate, 65% of Americans consider the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny. Many gun control advocates talk of the right to gun ownership as relating to hunting and recreational uses only.

As Americans search for answers to last month’s horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, attitudes on gun ownership are “not likely to change in a nation where six out of 10 adults would rather live in a neighborhood where they can own a gun and most would feel safer if their children attended a school with an armed security guard,” Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest weekly newspaper column. If Congress is “not willing to go as far as the president wants on gun control, perhaps they… might take stronger action on mental health issues or increase the penalties for crimes committed with a gun,” he says.

This weekend, What America Thinks  will look at the latest numbers on gun control and the debt ceiling. Then Olivier Knox from Yahoo! News and Jon Cohen, pollster for The Washington Post, join Scott Rasmussen for a look at the political environment surrounding the inauguration. What America Thinks airs on 61 television stations nationwide. Find a station near you, and check local listings for times.

As Americans continue to process the Newtown shooting, they strongly support more action to identify the mentally ill, and most think those individuals can be kept under stricter observation without their personal freedoms being violated. 

Americans are now evenly divided when asked if the United States needs to place limits on violent movies and video games. Younger adults continue to be much less supportive of limits on violent games and movies than their elders.

One battle the president won’t have to fight right away is over the raising of the federal government’s debt ceiling on March 1. Congressional Republicans are backing off their demand for a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar the debt ceiling is raised.

The GOP is also proposing a three-month delay on the across-the board spending cuts slated to kick in March 1 in hopes of driving a harder budget deal with the president down the road. Voters by a 55% to 27% margin wanted Congress and the president to stop those cuts. 

Even with the ink barely dry on the “fiscal cliff” deal that increased taxes for most Americans, the president on Monday talked of the need for more tax hikes. Just 30% of voters agree with the president that more tax increases are needed. 

Climate change is another of the top elements on Obama’s agenda this year. But while most voters still consider global warming a serious problem, just 44% are willing to pay any more in taxes or higher utility bills to do something about it. That includes 25% who are only willing to pay $100 more a year.

In fact, 68% of voters believe the best thing the government can do to help the economy is cut spending instead.

With government spending cuts on the negotiating table, more voters than ever (40%) believe the United States spends too much on defense. Among those who recognize that the U.S. spends more than any other nation on defense, most say we spend too much. Forty-nine percent (49%) think the United States should withdraw its troops from Europe. Only 31% disagree.


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In other surveys last week:


-- The National Football League playoffs are down to four teams, and the New England Patriots are the team football fans see as most likely to be the last team standing. However, they are also the team football fans would least like to see win the Super Bowl.


-- Voters continue to have mixed feelings about the president’s national health care law but still strongly feel that individuals should have a variety of choices when it comes to health insurance. 


-- Only 24% of Americans say they or someone in their family has had the flu this winter season, but over half of all adults have taken preventative steps to fight against it.


-- Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans feel it is too hard to adopt a child in the United States.


-- The Academy Awards show is still more than a month away, but most movie goes already have the winners picked. Still, only 44% say their favorite film of 2012 is an Oscar nominee for best picture.


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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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