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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending January 23, 2016

It isn’t just Donald Trump. A whole lot of voters are angry at the current policies of the federal government. Can you blame them?

After all, most still agree with former President Ronald Reagan that “government is not to solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But Republicans and unaffiliated voters are much more critical of government than Democrats are.

Voters have been calling for across-the-board government spending cuts for years, but few expect that to happen.

No wonder voters want to cut the size of government - and their taxes - when 69% 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.

Americans have long felt, too, that government workers work less hard but earn more pay and have more job security than those in the private sector.

Many like President Obama and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders continue to complain about the growing difference in income between rich and poor in America and want the government to do something about it. But most voters think less government involvement in the economy rather than more is a better way to close the income gap.

Is Sanders’ candidacy for real as some recent polls suggest? Our latest monthly Hillary Meter finds that most Democrats still think Hillary Clinton will be their nominee this year, but the number who say she is Very Likely to win the nomination has fallen below 50% for the first time ever.

Following Sarah Palin’s endorsement and with just over a week to go until the Iowa caucus, Republican voters are more strongly convinced than ever that Trump will be their party’s presidential nominee, according to our newest weekly Trump Change survey.

Despite the budding bromance between Trump and Vladimir Putin, Rasmussen Reports polling suggests that more bad news about the Russian leader isn’t likely to translate into more bad news for the GOP front-runner.

Voters in general don’t think much of Palin and see her endorsement of Trump as more harmful than helpful to his candidacy. But for Republicans and conservative voters in particular, the intended audience as the Iowa caucus nears, a Palin endorsement is a plus.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Democrats say Obama’s endorsement of one of the presidential candidates would be important to their vote, although that includes just 26% who say it would be Very Important. 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will review the legality of the president’s decision to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Twenty-six states have sued to stop that plan, and most voters continue to oppose Obama’s amnesty effort

Views of the president’s job performance are up slightly in recent days to the low negative teens. We’ve seen a similar pattern at the beginning of the past several years.

Looks like there’s an uptick in voter optimism, too, as we’ve found in the previous three Januarys. Thirty percent (30%) now say the country is heading in the right direction. Not that that’s much to write home about.

Blacks remain much more likely than whites and other minorities to believe the United States is headed the right way.  Yet even after seven years of having the first black president in office, Americans are more dubious than ever that Martin Luther King’s dream of equal opportunity has been achieved. Blacks are the most skeptical.

Confidence in race relations in America continues to fall, with hopes for the future at their lowest level yet. Unlike most questions related to race, there isn’t a wide difference of opinion between blacks and whites. Other minority Americans are the least pessimistic.

As election season moves into full swing, voters are closely divided over whether one- or two-party rule is better for Washington, D.C.

Everyone is talking about the candidates, but they don’t often look as closely at the actual electoral process. Do voters think elections in this country are the best they can be? 

In other surveys last week:

-- The residents of Flint, Michigan are dealing with the repercussions of lead-contaminated drinking water, but the vast majority of Americans consider their home water supply quite dependable.

-- Still, one-out-out-of-three adults (34%) say they keep some water stored away in the event their water supply is cut off for some reason.

-- This year's Academy Award nominations are being criticized by a number of prominent blacks for the lack of diversity among the nominees. But for most Americans, the Oscars just aren’t that big a deal

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