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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls: Week Ending June 7

Voters have made it clear for years that the economy is their number one concern, and if President Obama’s approval ratings are any indication, money appears to be talking louder that the numerous controversies the administration finds itself in.

Investor confidence at week’s end remains higher than it has been since 2007. Consumer confidence is near highs for the year.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped five points in May to its highest level in over six years of monthly tracking.

Thirty percent (30%) of Employed Adults are looking for a job outside of their current company, up four points from April and the highest finding since March 2011. Forty-two percent (42%) believe their next job will be better than their current one, the highest level of confidence in two years.

Just as many Americans will be taking a summer vacation this year, but fewer will be cutting back on how much they spend.

The president’s monthly job approval rating climbed to 49% in May, up two points from April and matching his previous high for the year reached in February. Obama’s approval rating hit a two-year low of 45% in November during the troubled rollout period for the new health care law, but it has generally remained at 47% or 48% for much of his presidency.

The headlines tell a different story. The president, for example, recently announced plans to withdraw all but 9,800 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and fully withdraw troops by the end of 2016. Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters believe some U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan through 2016, but nearly as many (44%) think the United States should withdraw all troops by the end of this year.

Voters are also almost evenly divided over the prisoner swap proudly announced by the president that freed the only known U.S. military POW in Afghanistan in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at the Guantanamo prison camp for terrorists. Most voters don’t approve of negotiating with terrorists. 

The exchange is seen as part of the president’s effort to close the prison at Guantanamo, but most voters think that’s a bad idea.

Opposition to Obamacare’s requirement that every American have health insurance has risen to 51%, its highest level this year.

The president has authorized new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that critics claim will drive up energy costs. Fewer voters than ever (21%) believe the actions of the EPA help the economy. Twice as many (41%) believe the agency’s actions hurt the economy instead.

Obama also continues to call for new government spending as an economic stimulus, but most voters (56%) continue to think thoughtful spending cuts should be considered instead in every program of the federal government.

Other recent surveys have found that 62% think it’s likely the president or his top aides were aware of the serious problems with veterans’ care before they came to light in recent weeks. Most voters also think the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and his administration’s handling of the Benghazi matter deserve further investigation.

Yet Obama’s daily job approval rating appears even better so far this month, despite new and continuing controversies of his own making.

By contrast, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, is now the overall most unpopular leader in Congress, surpassing even House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who has long held that title.

Democrats lead Republicans again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot when voters are asked which party’s congressional candidate they would vote for if the election were held right now.

Still, many pundits think the GOP has a good chance of taking six seats away from Democrats this November to win majority control of the U.S. Senate. One possible Republican pickup is in Iowa where longtime Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is retiring. The Senate race there between Joni Ernst, the winner of Tuesday’s crowded GOP primary, and Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley is a dead heat.

To gain control of the Senate, Republicans need to hold onto the seats they currently have, and they appear very unlikely to lose the one in Idaho now held by Jim Risch. The GOP incumbent has a nearly two-to-one lead over Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell.

Republican incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter holds a 14-point lead over his Democratic opponent in Idaho's 2014 gubernatorial race.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad leads his Democratic opponent Jack Hatch by nine points in his bid for reelection in Iowa.

Republican Governor Tom Corbett trails his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 20 points in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.

Check out all the Senate and gubernatorial races nationwide on our new Election 2014 pages here.

In other surveys this week:

— Thirty percent (30%) of voters say the United States is heading in the right direction. Sixty-three percent (63%) think the country is headed down the wrong track.

— Edward Snowden made public the federal government’s spying on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails, and he says he’s a patriot. Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters think it’s good for the country that he revealed the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, but 42% still believe Snowden should be treated as a spy.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans believe a free society like ours can never be made completely safe from a mass murder like the recent one in southern California.

— Forty-five percent (45%) think the media coverage of mass murders inspires other people to commit violent acts

— School districts around the country have been pushing to opt out of the school food guidelines championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Just 25% of Americans think the federal government should set nutritional standards for schools.

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