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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- The Week Ending October 25, 2013

Voters have lurched in recent days from a government shutdown to an Obamacare breakdown and aren’t hugely optimistic about putting either behind them.

Following the short-term deal to end the partial government shutdown, voters are more concerned than ever that the federal government will not do enough responding to the weak economy. Sixty-two percent (62%) think the best thing the government can do is cut spending.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters want a long-term federal budget deal that cuts spending, but only 30% think Congress is even somewhat likely to reach such a deal and avoid another government shutdown in mid-January

Fifty-one percent (51%) say the government shutdown had some impact on their personal lives, but that includes just 11% who say it had a major one. Forty-six percent (46%) say the shutdown did not personally impact them at all.

Voters are narrowly divided over whether the Obama administration can fix within the next six months the problems plaguing the new government exchange websites set up to provide health insurance. Because of these problems, 51% think the administration should delay the new health care law’s requirement that every American have health insurance by January 1.  But that’s down from the 56% who favored delaying the so-called individual mandate in July.

Perhaps in part that’s because voters are almost evenly divided in their views of the health care law for the first time since the beginning of the year: 46% have a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 48% view it unfavorably.

Perceptions of the law have improved in recent weeks as the shutdown debate focused on funding for it and despite the glitches experienced by the health insurance exchanges.

Democrats appear to still be benefiting from the shutdown as well. For the second week in a row, they lead Republicans by seven points on the Generic Congressional Ballot. Two weeks before, the parties were tied.

President Obama’s job approval ratings also appear to be unscathed by the shutdown and the health insurance exchange problems.

Just 17% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, though. Still, that’s up slightly from 13% the week before, the lowest finding in five years. Confidence in the country’s direction fell 15 points during the government shutdown and is still well below its high of 43% the week before Election Day a year ago.

Consumer confidence also seems to have rebounded slightly since the shutdown ended but remains near the lowest levels of the year.

Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house, down from last month’s high of 39%.

The president has turned his attention to the immigration reform plan that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but is stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Obama wants to move ahead with a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrants who are now here, but 62% of voters continue to believe securing the border has to come first. However, fewer voters than ever (25%) believe the federal government is even somewhat likely to secure the border to prevent future illegal immigration if it’s part of legislation that would give legal status to those here illegally. This includes only five percent (5%) who think stricter border control is Very Likely.

Seventy percent (70%) feel that when people move to this country from other parts of the world, they should adopt America’s culture, language and heritage. Only 15% believe new immigrants should maintain the culture, language and heritage of their home country instead.

Not that voters express much confidence in the next generation already here at home. Sixty-six percent (66%) continue to believe most high school graduates in this country lack the necessary skills for college or a job.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans think there’s not enough religion in the public schools. Fifty-seven percent (57%) favor prayer in school.

Only 36% of voters believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That belief is down from 40% in July and is the lowest measured since April 2011, just before U.S. Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Voters generally agree that national security is a federal government priority, but just 35% think laws about marriage should be set by the feds. Forty-five percent (45%) see that as a state or local function. Views on gay marriage differ greatly depending on whether voters see marriage laws as a federal or state/local responsibility.

In other surveys last week:

-- As the country debates whether every American should be required to have health insurance, 11% say they have health insurance for their pets.

-- Democrat Terry McAuliffe has jumped to a 17-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race following the federal government shutdown that hit Northern Virginia hard and Hillary Clinton’s weekend visit to the state.

-- Twenty-six percent (26%) think we will find a cure for cancer within the next 10 years.

-- Fifty-six percent (56%) think the eligibility age for a driver’s license should be higher than 16. Twenty-six percent (26%) support a complete ban on cell phone use while driving, but that's down from 38% four years ago. 

 -- Consider it a classic example of "do as I say, not as I do." Only 16% of Americans believe someone who is sick should go to work anyway, but three times as many (47%) say they generally go to work when they are under the weather.

-- Twenty-nine percent (29%) are more likely to shop at a consignment store these days due to the weak economy.

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