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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending May 16, 2015

Proposals on how to deal with the nation’s illegal immigration problem come in a variety of forms.

Americans have told us that the most effective ways to stop the problem are penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants and against so-called “sanctuary” cities that refuse to arrest those here illegally.

Supporters of President Obama like his plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation, although that one’s not popular with most voters. Hillary Clinton vows to speed the amnesty process if she’s elected president.

Congress is now debating a lesser-known one, whether to encourage illegal immigrants to join the military as a path to citizenship. Most voters think that's a good idea.

But voters believe even more strongly that gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States, even if it’s necessary to use the military on the border. 

The U.S. military is planning eight weeks of exercises this summer in several southwestern states - dubbed Jade Helm 15 – but it has some voters wondering if the federal government has martial law in mind.

Despite this lack of trust in the federal government and a federal appeals court ruling that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone calls and e-mail is illegal, voters are actually more supportive these days of the NSA’s actions. It seems security trumps privacy in the minds of most Americans.

But opposition to Obamacare’s requirement that every American have health insurance is over 50% for the first time in months.

Senate Democrats were in the odd position this week of stopping an effort to give Obama more power, in this case to negotiate international trade deals. Americans are conflicted on free trade. Most think the government doesn’t do enough to protect U.S. businesses, but at the same time they think those businesses will do better against foreign competitors with a wide-open market.

Americans are also more likely now to see free trade as a job killer.

The president’s daily job approval ratings remain in the negative teens. 

Most voters believe the next president is likely to be a Republican

At the same time, 57% also think Hillary Clinton is likely to be elected to the White House next year.  But what if Michelle Obama challenges Clinton for the Democratic nomination? 

The first lady’s been talking about the sorry state of race relations in this country in recent days, and Americans share that concern. More disturbing is that a plurality (44%) believes race relations are getting worse.

Many sociologists argue that the breakdown of the family in the black community has led to problems in the inner city. Americans believe even more strongly these days in the importance of a child growing up in a two-parent home and that children who grow up in a home with both parents have an advantage over other kids. 

Many parents these days can’t or won’t help their children pay for college, though, the way parents did in the past. Several prominent Democrats are championing the idea of debt-free college, and a lot of Americans agree the government should pay for those who can’t afford to go to college.

More adults think it's a good idea for everyone to get additional schooling after high school, even though they're less convinced that they were several years ago that a college degree is worth what you pay for it.

After all, just 28% believe most college graduates have the skills needed to enter the workforce.

Republicans and Democrats remain tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The parties have now been tied three times in the past 10 weeks, with the GOP slightly ahead the other seven weeks. But the gap between the two generally has been two points or less most weeks for well over a year now.

In other surveys last week:

-- Only 28% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, but that’s the way they’ve felt for the last three years.

-- Five years ago, the nation was focused on the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now the federal government has given the okay for deepwater drilling to resume nearby. Voters are closely divided on the wisdom of this decision, but most still favor deepwater drilling in general.

-- A sizable number of Americans feel the New England Patriots should be stripped of their most recent Super Bowl win because of the “Deflategate” findings.

-- Secretary of State John Kerry visited Russia this week for the first time since the Ukraine crisis began last year  to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials. Negative opinions of Putin remain high among U.S. voters

-- Cellphones are everywhere, and scarcely a day goes by when we’re not subjected to sharing someone else’s calls whether we want to or not.  What does America think about this – nuisance or fact of life?

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