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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending March 14, 2015

What if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run? That thought crossed more than a few minds this week as Clinton’s e-mail and donations problems escalated, and suddenly former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, among others, started having his media calls returned.

Voters have national security concerns about Clinton’s use of a private e-mail provider while serving as secretary of State but aren’t as sure she was trying to hide anything. More troubling are the large donations made to the private Clinton Foundation by foreign governments while Clinton was the nation’s chief overseas diplomat.

The e-mails in question include the period in which the Benghazi incident occurred. More voters than even think the circumstances surrounding the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other embassy personnel in Benghazi on Clinton’s watch will hurt her if she runs for president.

Clinton held a brief press conference at mid-week to answer questions about both controversies, but media coverage suggested she raised more questions than she answered. We’ll check next week to see if voter concerns have lessened any.

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Likely Democratic Voters still believe Clinton is likely to be their party’s nominee. But with the media drumbeat over the e-mail and donations stories quickening, reporters are starting to talk to O’Malley, former Virginia Senator James Webb, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others who have signaled an interest in challenging Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. If Clinton shows signs of fading, other contenders are likely.

For now, Democratic voters say Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden are next in line for their party’s presidential nomination if Clinton chooses not to run next year. The others earn support in the single digits – for now.

Republican voters agree with Mitt Romney that their party should look for a new face to run in 2016. Democrats may soon feel that way, too.

Some commentators have suggested making voting mandatory in the United States to raise turnout and create “a more moderate and more representative electorate.” Wonder what likely voters think about that?

With the election still far in the future, the race right now is mostly about name recognition. Keep in mind that Clinton dominated the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination three years before the election, but when Illinois Senator Barack Obama formally entered the race in January 2007, it suddenly was a tie contest.

Speaking of Obama, the New York Times suggests the distant relationship he has with many world leaders was highlighted most recently when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored the president’s objections and spoke to a joint session of Congress to protest the nuclear deal the United States is negotiating with Iran. Most U.S. voters agree with Netanyahu that the president’s deal is unlikely to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Voters think America’s prestige abroad has suffered since Obama became president. But voters remain closely divided over the president’s overall job performance.

On the domestic front, most voters continue to believe federal government policies encourage illegal immigration.

The fallout continues in Ferguson, Missouri, following a Justice Department report accusing the city's police department of a widespread pattern of racial discrimination. But in most inner city communities, is police racism the real problem? Not according to 70% voters who think the level of crime in low-income inner city communities is a bigger problem in America today than police discrimination against minorities.

More than half of voters now oppose stricter gun control laws, and belief that the country needs stricter enforcement of existing anti-gun laws is also down.

Just 29% think the country is heading in the right direction. This is the first week that finding has fallen below 30% since mid-December.

Republicans still hold a small lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. Starting yesterday, we’ve shifted the weekly Generic Congressional Ballot from its longtime 3 p.m. Eastern slot on Mondays to noon on Fridays.

In other surveys last week:

-- Spring is on its way, and that’s welcome news for most Americans.

-- It’s a close call when you ask Americans whether they’d rather go the dentist or file their taxes.

-- A sizable number of voters still say the federal government owns too much of America and that it should sell some of that land to reduce the federal debt.

-- Americans view the Boy Scouts of America more positively than they have in nearly two years but still like the Girl Scouts better.

-- What’s likely to be the best-selling Girl Scout cookie this year?

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