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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 3, 2015

Happy New Year?

Signs suggest the U.S. economy is finally gaining some traction after 2008’s Wall Street meltdown and the bursting of the housing bubble. Consumer and investor confidence steadily climbed during the month of December to levels close to their highs for the year.   

Nearly 40% think now is a good time to sell a home in the area where they live. A year ago, just 29% felt that way.

Americans ended 2014 on a much more positive note psychologically than they did the previous year and are more optimistic about the year ahead.

Quite simply, Americans are in a better mood these days. 

Still, just 30% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. But this is the first time this weekly finding has crept out of the 20s in several months.

It’s not uncommon, though, for Americans to be more upbeat coming off the Christmas season and going into a new year, so it will be worth watching to see whether optimism continues to grow in Rasmussen Reports' key economic and social indicators or whether they fall back into the trough they’ve been in for the past couple years.

President Obama also may be benefiting from the public’s improving attitude. His daily job approval ratings have inched up since the blowback his party got on Election Day.

The president ended the year with a monthly job approval in December of 48%. That’s up a point from the previous three months but is one point shy of his high for the year of 49% in February and May. Obama’s monthly approval hit a two-year low of 45% in November 2013 during the troubled rollout of the new national health care law.

But when it comes to his handling of the economy, the president has yet to get any additional credit from voters.

Obama officially ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan last Sunday, but most voters support his decision to keep several thousand troops there until 2016 for training and counterterrorism purposes.

President George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan to end that country’s harboring of al Qaeda terrorists training against the United States, but over 13 years later as America’s longest running war comes to a close, few Americans believe that goal has been reached.

Election 2016 is nearly two years away, but we can expect the presidential race to begin really taking shape as this year progresses. Much has been made of late of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

GOP voters aren’t enthusiastic about another Bush running for president and feel even more strongly that his family’s history in the White House makes him a less attractive candidate to vote for.

Most Republicans think their party should come up with a fresh face for the next presidential election.

In other surveys last week:

-- Voters end the year with little personal experience with the health insurance exchanges established under the new health care law.

-- Republicans and Democrats are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

-- A sizable number of Americans plan on making some life changes this year and are more hopeful than they were a year ago that they’ll stick to these New Year’s resolutions.

-- The U.S. Postal Service was the deliverer of choice for more Americans this holiday season.

-- Americans told us they planned to welcome the new year with a kiss and a drink.

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