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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending June 17, 2017

The political anger in America exploded into violence this past week when a virulent anti-Trumper opened fire on a group of Republican congressmen practicing for a charity softball game.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Americans agree politics is to blame for the incident that left one of the GOP’s top House leaders in critical condition and aren’t writing it off as just random violence.  

By comparison, just 28% said the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six others in Arizona in January 2011 was the result of political anger. 

Just before Trump’s inauguration in January, 50% of voters said the United States was a more divided nation after eight years of the Obama presidency, but Republicans and unaffiliated voters felt that way much more strongly than Democrats did. Things may have only gotten worse since then: Just two months ago, 61% of Democrats still believed that Trump did not win the election fairly last November.

There are sharp partisan differences on virtually all political issues now, including most recently the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.  

At week’s end, however, the president’s overall approval rating hit the 50% mark for the first time since late April. His approval rating has ranged from a high of 59% in late January shortly after he took office to a low of 42% in early April.

But the president continues to be plagued by leaks to hostile news organizations, the most recent ones seeming to come from the staff of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the man charged with investigating whether there was any illegal contact between Trump or his associates and representatives of the Russian government. Following Comey’s recent public testimony before a Senate panel, 49% of voters believe the president tried to interfere with the FBI’s Russia probe, but here, too, there is a strong partisan disagreement. 

In his testimony, Comey acknowledged that he leaked memos of his private meetings with the president to the New York Times through a friend. A sizable number of voters, including most Republicans, believe Comey should be prosecuted for leaking to the media at the time he was one of the nation’s top law enforcement officers.

Based on what Comey said, most voters think Congress also needs to investigate whether former Attorney General Loretta Lynch interfered in last year's FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton. Last year, 54% favored naming a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton because of potential conflict of interest concerns about Lynch and the Justice Department. 

Voters weren’t overly impressed with Comey’s performance as head of the FBI, and his testimony before Congress merited a predictable partisan response.

Seventy-five percent (75%) of Democrats rate the media coverage of Comey’s testimony as good or excellent, a view shared by only 31% of Republicans and 47% of unaffiliated voters.

In the America outside Washington, D.C., the economy continues to grow. With the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest level in 10 years, optimism among voters that the U.S. economy is fair has soared to new highs.

The Rasmussen Consumer Confidence Index has jumped to its second highest rating ever.

Most Americans are planning to take a summer vacation.

Nineteen percent (19%) still think it will be Very Difficult for young people to find jobs this summer, but that compares to 41% four years ago.

Only 37% of voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from a high of 47% just after Trump took office in January. Still, that compares to 27% a year ago at this time.

The president commended the opening of a new coal mine in Pennsylvania last week, but nearly half (49%) of voters think the United States should begin to systematically phase out the use of coal-fired power plants over the next 50 years.

Greenhouse gas emissions from those plants are blamed for global warming. But while voters continue to say global warming is a serious problem, they refuse to pay more in higher taxes and utility costs to combat it.

In other surveys last week:

This Father’s Day, 70% of Americans say being a father is the most important role for a man to fill in today’s world.

Massachusetts is the latest state considering whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, and just over half of Americans continue to support a euthanasia law in their state.

An international study released this week claims the United States has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults, but most Americans don’t think that applies to them.

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