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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending March 8, 2013

Despite record stock market gains and a slightly improved jobs picture this week, Americans still express a lot of uncertainty about the economy and the future in general.

Like long-term economic confidence a month ago, short-term confidence in the U.S. economy is now at a new low. Just 25% of Americans think the economy will be stronger a year from today.

At week’s end, just 14% of consumers rated the U.S. economy as good or excellent, while 46% deemed it poor. Among investors, 18% scored the economy as good or excellent. Forty percent (40%) rated it poor. 

Americans don’t have much hope for the stock and housing markets either. Only 20% think the stock market will be higher a year from now. Most (54%) still believe it will take more than three years for the housing industry to fully recover from the downturn that began in 2008. 

Just 28% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down six points from the previous week and the lowest level measured since August of last year.

More Americans than ever (39%) believe it is no longer possible for anyone in the United States to work their way out of poverty. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say it's no longer possible for someone to work hard in this country and get rich.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence slipped almost two points in February but remains above monthly levels measured for much of 2012. Still, February was the third straight month that reported hirings outnumbered reported layoffs after five months in which the opposite was true.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters predict the U.S. health care system is likely to get worse over the next couple of years, the highest level of pessimism to date. The key requirements of President Obama’s health care law will take effect by 2014

But Scott Rasmussen notes in his latest weekly newspaper column that the president’s health care law will soon be challenged by “the creativity of Americans determined to gain more control over their own health care decisions." Like the benefits consultant who creatively interpreted a 1978 tax law to create 401(k) plans, Scott expects that “entrepreneurs will find provisions in the health care law to meet this consumer demand. The end result will be a system much different than the president hopes for -- and his opponents fear.”

In recent months, Obama has enjoyed some of the best job approval ratings of his presidency, but his job approval index rating fell into negative double digits this week for the first time since Election Day. 

Fifty-one percent (51%) think the president is doing a good or excellent job handling national security issues. Forty-four percent (44%) feel that way about the job he’s doing with the economy.

Fewer voters than ever (35%) think the U.S. economy is fair to the middle class, down eight points from 43% in January. Also at its lowest level is the 43% who think the U.S. economy overall is fair.

This weekend, Megan McArdle joins Scott Rasmussen on What America Thinks to discuss how America’s elites are rewriting the rules of life for their own benefit. McArdle, a correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, recently wrote about “America’s New Mandarins.”

What America Thinks is adding new affiliates. The show is now being carried on WKYT in Lexington, KY, and KBTV in Beaumont, TX. On April 20, it will begin airing on KLAS in Las Vegas. Joining the list in the fall will be WICZ in Binghamton, NY, KVUE in Austin, TX, and KBJR in Duluth, MN. With these additions, What America Thinks has 67 affiliates, and more new signings will be announced soon. Find a station near you

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans believe middle-class Americans pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy do, but just 50% favor a tax system where everyone pays the same percentage of their income in taxes. 

In order to lower income tax rates, 22% of voters believe all tax deductions should be eliminated for all Americans. But 70% think it’s at least somewhat likely that wealthy Americans will give less money to charity if deductions for charitable donations are reduced.

Americans appear to be keeping pace with last year when it comes to paying their income taxes, but they’re more optimistic about getting a refund this year. At the start of the week, 38% had filed their taxes for this year.

Voters continue to believe it's better to cut taxes and spending than to raise them 

As Congress and the president struggle over ways to reduce the federal budget deficit, 62% are worried that they will raise taxes too much. Fifty-eight percent (58%) worry that they won’t cut government spending enough.

Despite the warning cries over the sequester cuts in government spending, 42% of voters feel the sequester didn’t cut federal spending enough. While official Washington warned that the sequester would harm the poor and vulnerable, upper income Americans are most likely to believe that the cuts were too severe. Additionally, those with higher incomes are also the most likely to think that it will have a negative impact on them personally.

Forty-four percent (44%) of all voters think the sequester spending cuts will have a positive impact or no impact on their own lives in the long term. 

The sequester hoopla hasn't changed views of Congress: Its positive ratings remain in single digits for the third straight month. Just eight percent (8%) of voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job.

Only nine percent (9%) believe the average member of Congress listens to the voters he or she represents more than to congressional party leaders. Sixty-three percent (63%) agree that no matter how bad things are, Congress can always make them worse.

Democrats continue to lead Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have every week since last November’s elections.

Only 41% know that the primary focus of the Simpson-Bowles Commission was deficit reduction, while 36% are not sure. Twenty-three percent (23%) thought it had some other focus. “This is just the latest data to highlight the gap between the American people and their political leaders,” according to Scott Rasmussen. “In Washington, D.C., the focus is on the tactical moves by political insiders. Voters tune out because they have seen it all before.” He added that “voters are looking for substantive solutions that can be discussed openly and make sense to people outside the Beltway.”

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In other surveys last week:

-- Most Americans feel connected to a local church or religious organization, and nothing else comes close. Government and politics are near the bottom of the list.

-- Americans remain uneasy about domestic use of government drones. Just 31% think they should be allowed for even routine police surveillance. Even when it comes to using drones for killing terrorists overseas, only 21% think the president should have sole authority to make that decision.  

-- The federal government has introduced new regulations that put caps on serving sizes and set calorie limits for school lunches, but only 23% of Americans believe the feds should set nutritional standards for schools.

-- Just six percent (6%) of voters share a favorable opinion of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, but only 27% expect the United States’ relationship with Venezuela to get better following his death this week. 

-- Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the United States is giving financial aid to the Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the government there, but only 35% of voters favor that policy. Just 18% think the United States should get more directly involved in the Syrian crisis.

-- Only 18% have a favorable opinion of new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, while Kerry draws favorable reviews from 47% of voters. 

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Wall Street Journal profile called Scott Rasmussen "America's Insurgent Pollster." The Washington Post described him as "a driving force in American politics."  If you'd like Scott to speak at your conference or event, contact Premiere Speakers Bureau.

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