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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending July 5, 2014

The separation of powers between Congress, the courts and the president is key to the Founding Fathers’ constitutional blueprint for America, but President Obama is chafing at the restraints this separation is putting on his agenda.

Most voters continue to believe, as they have for years, that gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in this country.   But if Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform plan like the one championed by the president, only 33% think it’s even somewhat likely that the federal government will actually secure the border, with seven percent (7%) who say it’s Very Likely.

This skepticism, compounded by the belief many voters have that the latest crisis on the border involving the dumping of young illegal immigrants has been encouraged by the Obama administration, has killed the chances for immigration reform in Congress this year. After being told that by House Speaker John Boehner, the president announced this past Monday that he was beginning “a new effort to fix as much of our own immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”

At week’s end, following two U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding a religious exemption from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, the president is reportedly considering executive-only action to pay for free contraceptive care for women.

Voters by a 49% to 39% margin agree with the Supreme Court that business owners should be able to opt out of the new health care law’s requirement that they provide health insurance with free contraception if it violates their religious beliefs. Most voters continue to have an unfavorable opinion of the health care law and strongly believe consumers should have a choice on how much health insurance they want to have and want to pay for.

Critics of the president are already complaining about the extent of his executive orders, so with him now talking about going it alone without the will of Congress and about working around the rulings of the Supreme Court, it’s no surprise that a plurality (44%) of voters think Obama has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than most other presidents.  Just 35% believe the president should take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it is more important to preserve our constitutional system of checks and balances than it is for government to operate efficiently.

Views of the Executive Branch aren’t helped either by the increasing questions about the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups opposed to the president. Although the IRS’ activities have been under investigation for over a year now, the agency recently announced that it has destroyed many of the e-mails related to the targeting of these groups as part of its routine procedures. But 71% of voters think it is likely the IRS deliberately destroyed the e-mails to hide evidence of criminal activity, with 53% who consider it Very Likely. Sixty-six percent (66%) now feel the IRS employees involved should be jailed or fired, up from 57% in May of last year when the abuses were first exposed.

Speaking of the Constitution, just eight percent (8%) of Americans believe that the Fourth of July celebrates its ratification. Seventy-eight percent (78%) correctly recognize that Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence instead.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) regard the Fourth of July as one of the nation’s most important holidays, making it second again this year only to Christmas. 

Eighty-six percent (86%) say they are proud to be American. But just 46% now agree with the closing line of the Pledge of Allegiance that the United States is a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”

Only 26% of voters now think the country is headed in the right direction, tying the lowest finding this year.

The president’s monthly job approval rating fell back a point to 48% in June, down from his year-to-date high of 49% reached in May and in February. Obama’s approval rating hit a two-year low of 45% last November during the troubled rollout period for the new national health care law. Since then, his approval ratings have returned to levels seen for much of his time in the White House.

Democrats continue to lead Republicans, however, on the Generic Congressional Ballot. 

The president got an unexpected boost at week’s end with a better-than-anticipated jobs report, but in a survey taken just before that data was released, only 23% of Americans said they expect unemployment to be lower a year from now. That’s the lowest level of optimism since December 2011.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence slipped a point in June, but May’s finding was the highest level of confidence in almost six years.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of consumers believe the U.S. economy is still in a recession, while 32% disagree. Among investors, despite the Dow’s record-breaking week, 47% say the economy is in a recession, but 40% disagree.

In other surveys this week:

— Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters believe the United States needs stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws.

The U.S. Senate race in Colorado between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner remains a near tie.

Colorado’s governor race is now a dead heat between incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican nominee Bob Beauprez.

— Ffity-nine percent (59%) of Americans think it’s important for young people to go to a summer camp.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Seinfeld! 

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