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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- For The Week Ending March 2, 2013

The sequester’s here and happening, but outside of Washington the nation pretty much took it in stride.

At the beginning of the week, only 40% of Likely U.S. Voters thought President Obama and Congress should stop the so-called sequester spending cuts from going into effect on March 1. Despite the apocalyptic warnings coming out of Washington, D.C., that was up only slightly from the start of the month. Still, 46% felt it will be bad for the economy if the automatic spending cuts in government programs go into effect.

But 48% of voters think the president’s health care law is more likely to hurt the economy than cutting government spending. Additionally, most voters (54%) see raising taxes as worse for the nation’s economy than cutting government spending. Payroll taxes have already gone up this year for just about all working Americans.

Moving beyond the short-term sequester issue, 63% want the federal deficit reduced either entirely or mostly with spending cuts. That figure includes 45% who favor spending cuts alone.

Interestingly, the longer politicians talked about the sequester in Washington, the more they misled the voters. By last week, nearly one-in-four (23%) thought the automatic government spending cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday would actually cut the current level of federal spending. That was up from 17% at the beginning of the month. Fifty-four percent (54%) still correctly recognized that the sequester cuts will merely reduce the growth of future spending

Noting how official Washington confuses the issue by making reductions in future spending growth sound like cuts in the here and now, Scott Rasmussen argues in his latest weekly newspaper column that it’s time to “speak plain English about spending cuts.” He contends that “voters shouldn't need a translator to understand what the Political Class is saying.”

Scott will discuss the impact of the sequester spending cuts with Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner and Pedro da Costa from Reuters on this weekend’s edition of What American Thinks. Then A.B. Stoddard of The Hill and Caitlen Huey-Burns from RealClearPolitics will talk with Scott about how the Republican Party has lost its way with voters.

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Senator Rand Paul, Scott’s guest last weekend on What America Thinks, isn’t as worried as many other Republican senators about the impact of the sequester cuts on defense.  "We do need weaponry, we need sophisticated weapons, but the weapons should be decided on whether or not we need them for our defense, not as jobs projects,” he says. “Because you have some Republicans who sound like liberals and sound like Lord Keynes when they say 'this is how we're going to create jobs' through the defense industry. But if that were true, why not the car industry or why not the computer industry?"

Speaking of the car industry, 67% of Americans believe the free market, not government subsidies, will produce the eventual replacement for gas-powered cars

Americans aren’t yet sold on the power, affordability and safety of electric cars compared to their gas-powered counterparts. Just 19% believe electric cars today are practical for most drivers

Politico, an influential inside-the-Beltway publication, reported this week that big business groups did not join in the collective panic coming from official Washington over the automatic sequester spending cuts. It did note an exception, however, among defense firms that are dependent upon government. Voters are clearly unhappy with a system that many see as crony capitalism. As a result, 65% believe that companies that earn most of their revenue from the government should be banned from hiring lobbyists

Voters continue to feel the president is friendlier toward big business than small business

For the month of February, Obama’s Total Job Approval Rating fell one point from 54% in January to 53%. In December, it reached 56%, the highest level since May 2009. In the last days of 2012, the president had his first positive approval index ratings since 2009 in the Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. His job approval index ratings remain among the highest of his presidency.

Yet while a sizable number of voters see job creation and issues affecting small business as very important, they're narrowly divided over how Obama is performing in these areas. 

Forty-three percent (43%) of voters rate the way the president is handling issues related to gun control as good or excellent. Thirty-four percent (34%) think he is doing a poor job in this area. 

Just over half of voters think the country needs stricter gun control laws, but most feel safer living in a neighborhood where someone can own a gun for their own protection. 

Voters rate policies that promote the free market as more important than ones that reduce the income gap between rich and poor, although Republicans and Democrats don’t see eye to eye.

Most Americans (86%) agree that companies that treat their employees fairly attract the best workers. However, while a plurality believe promotions and pay raises in most companies are given to the best workers, that’s not the case in government agencies. In government, a plurality believe that politics determines who gets ahead and seniority is also seen as more important to rewards than performance.

At the same time, 88% think it’s at least somewhat likely that someone who works hard and makes good decisions will enjoy a middle-class lifestyle

But just 41% of voters now think the U.S. economy is fair to people who are willing to work hard

Perhaps fortunately, only six percent (6%) define success as getting rich. However, eight-out-of ten consider providing for their family as Very Important. Americans put being honest and trustworthy and being a good parent at the top of the list. 

At week’s end, consumer confidence was down near lows for the year. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of consumers say the economy is getting better, but 48% think it's getting worse. 

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In other surveys last week:

-- Seventy-five percent (75%) think the health care law is likely to cost more than official estimates.

-- Thirty-four percent (34%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction

-- Fifty-four percent (54%) of homeowners believe their home is worth more than when they bought it. Twenty-two percent (22%) say their home is worth less, while 20% think it’s worth about the same amount.

-- Fifty percent (50%) of voters think it is possible to reduce the cost of Medicare without hurting the quality of health care for senior citizens. 

-- Democrats continue to lead Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot

-- Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters regard the news reported by the media as at least somewhat trustworthy, but that includes just six percent who think it is Very Trustworthy. 

-- Is it the role of journalists to fairly and accurately cover a news story, or is it more important for them to use their reporting to right wrongs that they see in society? Voters overwhelmingly come down on the side of accuracy over justice.

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