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

It’s game time and blame time this week, with the Super Bowl tomorrow and President Obama vowing last Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to go around Congress if necessary.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Americans plan to watch Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. 

Sixty-six percent (66%) of those who plan to watch believe the Broncos are the team most likely to win. Twenty-three percent (23%) think Seattle will emerge victorious.

But 34% find the commercials during the Super Bowl more interesting than the game itself.  

Down the road from the Northern New Jersey stadium where the Super Bowl will be played, another rivalry continues in Washington, D.C. The president delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, although just 28% of voters think the annual speeches are important for setting the nation’s agenda for the next year. Sixty-two percent (62%) view them instead as mostly just for show, up nine points from 53% a year ago when the president delivered the first State of the Union speech following his reelection.

Obama made it clear in his latest State of the Union remarks that he is prepared to take independent executive action if he can’t get Congress to work with him on some major issues. But 69% think it is better for the president to work with Congress on things he considers important rather than go it alone.

Most voters agree with the president’s call for an increase in the minimum wage but oppose the extension for up to 47 weeks of federal unemployment benefits. Just 27%, however, agree with Obama’s statement that “after five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.”

For the second week in a row, in fact, only 30% think the United States is heading in the right direction.

While the president in his speech proposed several federal initiatives for what he sees as a growing national income inequality problem, 59% of voters think less government involvement in the economy will do more to close the income gap than more government action.

One reason why voters are suspicious of greater government involvement in the economy is that 63% believe most government contracts are awarded to the company with the most political connections rather than one that can provide the best service for the best price.

The economy and job creation are now most important to voters on the list of 15 major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues. Forty-five percent (45%) still rate the president’s economic performance as poor.

The State of the Union speech had no impact on Obama’s daily job approval ratings which remain at levels seen for most of his presidency. 

Nearly one-out-of-three voters (32%) now say their health insurance coverage has changed because of the president’s new health care law, and most continue to view the law unfavorably.

Just 21% believe the federal government currently has the consent of the governed. 

Democrats hold a five-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are at stake this November, and Rasmussen Reports took a first look at two of the most hotly contested races this week. Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu runs slightly behind Republican challenger Bill Cassidy – 44% to 40% - in Louisiana. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan trails her two leading Republican challengers, Thom Tillis and Dr. Greg Brannon, in North Carolina.

At week’s end, consumer and investor confidence were down nationally from a month ago. 

Optimism among homeowners jumped toward the end of 2013 but is also on the decline in the new year. 

In other surveys last week:

-- Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans under 40 use their cell phone at least once an hour, compared to 18% of middle-aged adults and just eight percent (8%) of those 65 and older.

-- Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all Americans think their fellow countrymen need to cut back on how much they use cell phones, but only 12% think that applies to them.

-- Sixty-two percent (62%) think winter has been worse in their area this year than it has been in recent years. One-in-four (25%) are currently planning or have already taken a vacation this winter.

-- Even with the frigid temperatures and big snowstorms in many areas of the United States this year, 46% of Americans believe the media make the weather sound worse than it really is.

-- Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast over eight years ago, but just 29% of Louisiana voters think their state has fully recovered.

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