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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls: Week of March 29

Many Americans may not be able to pinpoint Ukraine on a map, but that Eastern European nation is driving U.S. foreign policy these days and keeping President Obama on the go.

Most voters oppose Russia's annexation of the Crimea section of Ukraine, but just 11% think U.S. and European Union economic sanctions on Russian officials will cause Russia to give up Crimea. Only 22% think the United States should take more aggressive action against Russia if the sanctions fail.

The president visited Europe this week to drum up support for tougher action against Russia. Voters strongly believe that the United States’ relationship with Europe is an important one, but a plurality (48%) thinks the Europeans benefit from it more than we do. Just over half (53%) have a favorable opinion of our NATO military alliance with the Europeans.

But 83% have an unfavorable opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man behind the annexation of Crimea.  

Forty-four percent (44%) of voters now rate Obama as a good or excellent leader. Forty percent (40%) think he’s doing a poor job.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains in the negative mid-teens where it has been for much of his presidency. 

Also on the diplomatic front, views of Secretary of State John Kerry have changed little since the president nominated him to the Cabinet post 15 months ago. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters view Kerry favorably, while 46% share an unfavorable view of the former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate.

On the home front, the president’s policies faced legal challenges in two areas in recent days.

Despite opposition from the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge two weeks ago upheld the right of states to require proof of citizenship before allowing someone to register to vote. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of voters believe everyone should be required to prove his or her citizenship before being allowed to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court this past week heard a challenge of the new national health care law in which two businesses argued that for religious reasons they should not be required to provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their women employees. Voters by a 49% to 40% margin agree that a business should be allowed to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives if it violates the religious beliefs of the business owner.

Voters still don’t like the health care law but are more supportive of government-mandated health insurance standards as long as consumers still can choose the kind of plan they want based on costs and coverage.

Democrats have led Republicans most weeks this year on the Generic Congressional Ballot and are now ahead by four.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs this November. Twenty-one are held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. The GOP needs to pick up six new seats to take control of the chamber. Rasmussen Reports began polling key Senate races in mid-January and will be returning to these races in the months ahead because a lot can change. But this is what America thinks in the Senate races so far

In this past week’s surveys, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley holds a slight lead over his three top Republican challengers in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Iowa.

Incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is in a neck-and-neck battle with his two top Republican challengers. Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan, in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the U.S. Senate race in Alaska.

Short-term optimism about the nation's economic recovery has reached an all-time low. Just 24% of Americans think the U.S. economy will be stronger a year from now, the lowest finding in over six years of regular surveying. Nearly twice as many (46%) expect a weaker economy in a year’s time.

Thirty-two percent (32%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house, down from September’s high of 39%. Still, only 18% say their home is worth less today than when they bought it, the lowest level of pessimism in three years of regular tracking.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence in both groups are down slightly from the beginning of the year but remain ahead of where they have been for much of the time since the fall 2008 Wall Street meltdown. 

Nineteen percent (19%) of Americans think they will be traveling more this year compared to 2013, while just as many (20%) expect to be traveling less.

But Americans overwhelmingly agree that whatever happened to the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner, it won't affect their travel plans. Frequent flyers are even more emphatic about that.

Only 38%, however, believe it’s even somewhat likely that we will ever find out exactly what happened to the missing plane.

In other surveys this week:

-- Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Forty-three percent (43%) now believe the U.S. justice system is not fair to most Americans.

-- Just 18% think U.S. public schools provide a world-class education.

-- Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to buy or lease a new car in the next year, including 13% who are Very Likely to do so.

-- Ford, the one Big Three automaker who didn't take a federal bailout, is still better liked than General Motors and Chrysler, and a sizable number of Americans will buy Ford and not GM because of those bailouts.

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