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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending July 25, 2015

Is America declaring war on its past?

Despite major problems here and abroad, it seems the Confederate battle flag, a relic of a war that ended 150 years ago, is to some the most pressing issue that faces us.

Similarly, some have suggested changing the U.S. flag and getting rid of monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial and the carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia because they honor a country and individuals who practiced or defended slavery. Just this week, following complaints from the local NAACP, the Connecticut Democratic Party dropped Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from the name of its annual dinner.

After the recent mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, most voters agree with that state’s decision to stop flying the Confederate battle flag over its statehouse, but they’re closely divided over the meaning of the flag. When asked what the Confederate flag symbolizes, 43% say Southern heritage, while 39% believe it symbolizes hatred.

But voters overwhelmingly reject efforts to get rid of the U.S. flag and other symbols of the nation’s past that offend some Americans.

Part of the problem may be that many Americans just don’t know much about their own country. Most adults in this country think their fellow Americans should be proud of our nation’s history, but 60% doubt that they actually know much about it.

It doesn’t help that only 21% of voters think most school textbooks are concerned about accurately providing information to students. Most (62%) think the books are more concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner.

Also, Americans increasingly see things through a racial prism.

Just 19% of blacks, for example, think the U.S. justice system is fair to blacks and Hispanics, compared to 50% of whites and 44% of other minority voters.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true. Other minority voters are evenly divided.

Even on an issue like the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, blacks differ noticeably in their opinions from whites and other minority adults.

Some have charged that criticism of President Obama’s policies is driven by racism. Seventy percent (70%) of black voters agree. Seventy-one percent (71%) of white voters and other minority voters by a 50% to 42% margin think that the critics genuinely believe Obama’s policies are bad.

The president’s daily job approval ratings, meanwhile, remain in the negative mid-teens where they have been for much of his presidency.

More than six years into Obama's presidency, though, voters still tend to blame George W. Bush more than the current occupant of the White House for the state the U.S. economy is in.

The president told comedian Jon Stewart this week that the Internal Revenue Service’s documented targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups never really happened, and if anything did happen, it’s Congress’ fault anyway for underfunding the tax agency. But voters still think something criminal was going on and are even more suspicious of what the president knew about it.

The United Nations Security Council earlier this week endorsed the agreement the Obama administration has negotiated with Iran to slow the Iranian nuclear development program. But most U.S. voters aren’t impressed by the U.N. action.

Sixty-five percent (65%) believe any agreement with Iran needs to be approved by Congress before it takes effect, despite the president’s threat to veto any congressional attempt to block the deal.

Voters disagree with the president on a lot of things, but they care even less for Congress. So who should have the final say when major issues face the nation?

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation stripping some funding from sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters think that’s a good idea. The action follows the murder of a young woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who went there because the city doesn’t enforce immigration laws.

Billionaire developer Donald Trump who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination helped put the national focus on the serious crimes done by illegal immigrants with highly-publicized comments he made earlier this month. More recently, he responded to criticism from Senator John McCain by criticizing McCain’s credentials as a Vietnam war hero, prompting cries of outrage from many senior Republicans.

So, of course, we had to ask: What do Republican voters think of Trump these days compared to McCain?

Who? That seems to be Ohio Governor John Kasich’s biggest problem as perhaps the last major entrant in the race for next year’s Republican presidential nomination.

Speaking of campaigns, do voters really consider big campaign contributions the deciding factor?

The House is also debating whether to cut funding for Planned Parenthood after a recently released video showed an official from that organization discussing the harvesting and sale of body organs from aborted babies to medical laboratories. Most voters still approve of the pro-choice group but don’t care much for its sales of fetal body organs.

In other surveys last week:

-- For the third week in a row, just over 30% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Praise and criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court are inching down after last month's major rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage, and voters are more likely now to think the court’s ideology skews liberal.

-- The Pentagon recently announced that transgender individuals will be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, but for voters it's a close call.

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