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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 4, 2014

Americans traditionally are more upbeat as the new year begins, but that optimism only goes so far.

Perhaps the biggest news of the week is that consumers and investors are more optimistic. The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence in both groups hit six-month highs in recent days.

Thirty percent (30%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, the highest level of confidence since early September. A year ago, however, 33% said the country was heading in the right direction.

Forty-one percent (41%) of American Adults expect 2014 to be a good or excellent year. That compares, though, to 46% who felt that way about 2013 a year ago. Only 19% believe their health will be better in a year’s time, while 30% felt that way a year ago at this time.

But then 56% of voters view the new national health care law unfavorably, and 51% predict that the law will hurt the quality of care in America.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor this past week delayed implementation of the law’s requirement that every employer offer its women employees a health care plan that includes free birth control. Religious groups and some employers are challenging the law in court as a violation of their religious beliefs. Voters by a 51% to 38% margin oppose the health care law’s contraceptive mandate. 

President Obama’s daily job approval rating took a hard hit in November and early December from the problems surrounding the rollout of the new health care law. But that rating has improved somewhat in recent weeks.

The president’s total job approval rose two points to 47% in December. That’s up from 45% in November, Obama’s lowest monthly approval in two years, and a return to levels seen for most of the three years prior to his reelection. But it’s down nine points from December 2012’s high of 56%.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters still have a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama, and 61% see the first lady as a good role model for younger Americans.

Republicans and Democrats are now running even – with 40% support each - on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters think that, in reacting to the nation’s current economic problems, the federal government should increase spending. That’s the highest level of support for spending increases in regular surveying since April 2012.  Still, most voters (60%) think the government should cut spending to help the economy.

Twenty-five percent (25%) of Americans used the U.S. Postal Service less this holiday season compared to previous years. Thirty-five percent (35%) think the federal government should consider selling the financially-strapped Postal Service to a private company.

The president made gun control one of his top action items in 2013 but was unable to get major anti-gun legislation through Congress. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters think there should be a ban on the purchase of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons, and 18% want a complete ban on handguns in the United States, too. But 68% would feel safer instead living in a neighborhood in which you could have a gun for your own protection than in one where guns aren’t allowed.

Obama has continuing problems on the foreign policy front as well. Just seven percent (7%) of voters now think the changes in the government of Egypt over the past several years have been good for the United States. This finding has been steadily declining from a high of 29% in February 2011 just after the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, a move that had the support of the Obama administration.

Two major newspapers this past week called for a pardon of Edward Snowden, the former intelligence analyst who publicly disclosed the National Security Agency’s secret spying on the phone calls and e-mails of millions of innocent Americans. Snowden took asylum in Russia to avoid prosecution in this country. Just 21% of voters, however, think the federal government should grant Snowden full amnesty from prosecution in exchange for his return of all classified information that he still possesses.

Colorado on Thursday began the public sale of marijuana for recreational use, but 50% of voters still aren’t ready to go that far in their state. However, 64% approve of the sale of pot for medicinal purposes where they live.

In other surveys last week:

-- Seventy-three percent (73%) of Americans believe that it is important for people to be married before having children.

-- Only 23% were planning to go out on New Year's Eve.

-- Just six percent (6%) rate New Year’s Day one of the nation’s most important holidays.

-- The ball has dropped in Times Square; the Christmas decorations are coming down, and it's time for New Year's resolutions. So what does America think about New Year's resolutions

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