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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending November 23

Believe it or not, it’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas – in the minds of many Americans, at least.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) have started their holiday shopping, and nine percent (9%) are finished already.

A lot more stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day next week in hopes of getting a bigger share of the Black Friday sales crowd, but 44% say they are less likely to shop at a store that opens on the holiday. However, 32% are at least somewhat likely to go shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with 12% who are Very Likely to do so.

Here are some other things America thinks about shopping this holiday season.

Forty-five percent (45%) of Americans have decided to avoid some of the hassle, though, by making arrangements with friends or family not to exchange gifts this year.

Perhaps in part that’s because 36% say they owe less money than they did a year ago, the highest finding since November 2012, and they want to keep it that way.

Consumer confidence is up slightly at week’s end but is still down from the highs it hit in May and June.

Concerns about the potential impact of the new national health care law are on many Americans’ minds this holiday season, too. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters now view the health care law unfavorably, including 45% with a Very Unfavorable opinion of it. Both are highs for the year.

Have the woes of Obamacare trumped the government shutdown? Republicans have rebounded from a seven-point deficit a month ago to take a one-point lead over Democrats – 40% to 39% - on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Forty-three percent (43%) of voters now trust the GOP more to handle health care. Thirty-nine percent (39%) trust Democrats more. This is the lowest level of trust in Democrats on this issue since January 2011 and the biggest Republican lead since October of last year.

Fallout from the problems associated with the health care law have driven President Obama’s job approval ratings to the lowest levels of his presidency, and those ratings show little sign of improving. 

Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters believe those opposed to the president’s policies are motivated by racism. Sixty percent (60%) think the opposition is primarily because the policies are bad.

Speaking of those policies, the number of voters who believe the federal government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were good for the United States has reached an all-time low of 39%, and more than ever (58%) consider those bailouts a failure.

Americans are similarly critical of the government bailouts of the financial sector. Despite those bailouts, just over half (52%) are at least somewhat confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry today, with 11% who are Very Confident.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters still agree with the president that a “world-class education is the single most important factor in determining whether our kids can compete for the best jobs and whether America can out-compete countries around the world.” But only 18% think that public schools in the United States provide a world-class education, down from 26% two years ago.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday ended rules that allowed a minority of senators to prevent a vote on a president’s political nominees, and most voters think the change is a good one. Fifty-five percent (55%) think that, regardless of any ideological or philosophical disagreements, every presidential nominee should be the subject of a simple yes-or-no vote in the Senate.

As the country awaits the likely confirmation of Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Board chairman, just 42% of Americans are at least somewhat confident that the Fed can keep interest rates down and inflation under control.

Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK is still viewed favorably by an overwhelming majority of Americans. The manned space program is considered the most important achievement of Kennedy's presidency.

But Americans are evenly divided over whether the 35th president of the United States was killed by one man or was the victim of a larger conspiracy.

Voters continue to adamantly defend their constitutional freedoms, and most (55%) still consider the federal government a threat to those rights.

In other surveys last week:

-- Just one-in-four Likely U.S. Voters (25%) think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Fifty-seven percent (57%) feel that finding new energy sources is more than important than reducing the amount of energy that Americans now consume.

-- Three-out-of-four voters (78%) think America spies on other countries as much or more than they spy on us.

-- Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans believe it is bad for the economy that more grown children are living with their parents.

-- Only 15% believe that children today get enough exercise, and 89% think it’s up to their parents to do something about it.

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