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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 31, 2015

A more optimistic America plans to take a Super Bowl break tomorrow, but why isn’t President Obama getting more credit for our improving national disposition?

We’ll tell you tomorrow morning whether Super Bowl fans think the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks will come out on top. One thing’s already certain, though: Americans aren’t buying the Patriots’ story in the “Deflategate” controversy.  

The Super Bowl may be the biggest sporting event of the year, but a sizable number of viewers are more interested in the big budget commercials and the halftime show by pop star Katy Perry.

Going into the Super Bowl weekend, Mitt Romney was the big newsmaker with his announcement that he is not running for president again. In announcing his decision, Romney said he hoped Republicans would pick a fresh face to be their 2016 presidential nominee, and GOP voters strongly agree with him.  

Romney knew, too, that a big potential problem for his candidacy is that Republican voters are a pretty conservative bunch. Democratic voters have their complaints with Washington, D.C., but they remain more content with their party’s political representation than GOP voters are.

The best-known fresh face among Democrats is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but Hillary Clinton trounces her in a head-to-head matchup for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination. The race to be the next Democratic nominee is still Clinton’s to lose.

Consumer and investor confidence remain at or near their highest levels in several years, and now 35% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That may not sound great, but it’s the highest level of optimism in nearly two years.

Homeowners are more confident than they have been since the housing bubble burst that their homes will be worth more in one year and in five years’ time

More than half of voters believe the country can end its toxic dependence on foreign oil as prices at the pump continue to trend down.

The president's daily job approval ratings rose to their highest levels in nearly two years just after his State of the Union address last week but have since settled back. Yes, the president’s daily ratings have improved slightly since Election Day, but unchanged are the mediocre marks he earns for his handling of economic and national security issues.

Democrats have a three-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. It will be interesting to see whether the Generic Ballot and right direction findings signal a trend or just spiked temporarily after the State of the Union speech like Obama’s job approval.

The president’s poor national security marks are perhaps no surprise given that belief the United States is winning the War on Terror has fallen to yet another low.

Voters also think the president is getting more confrontational with his political opponents, despite the belief by 82% that it is more important for Obama and the Republican-led Congress to work together than to stand for what they believe in.

Voters are ever-so-slightly happier with the new Congress, although that’s not saying much.

Speaking of confrontational, most voters don’t want Loretta Lynch to be like the person the president has nominated her to replace, Attorney General Eric Holder.

In other surveys last week:

-- Americans support women in the pulpit and in senior leadership positions within the church. But they are more hesitant when it comes to supporting openly gay and lesbian religious leaders.

-- As Kentucky, Illinois and several other states consider adopting right-to-work laws, voters aren’t as convinced that such laws which ban compulsory union dues have a positive impact on state economies. However, those who currently live in right-to-work states paint a rosier picture.

-- Few voters think Saudi Arabia will become a more liberated society following the passing of King Abdullah and the quick succession of his half-brother, King Salman.

-- Is lifting the trade embargo on Cuba long overdue? What does America think?

-- Americans don’t feel as strongly as they used to that movies send a bad social message, especially when it comes to violence.

-- Americans are eating out more but still enjoying it less than a good meal at home. Half of Americans say they rarely eat fast food, but for those who do, it’s not necessarily because they like it.

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