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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending October 11, 2013

Consumer confidence fell to a new low for the year at week’s end as Washington, D.C. continues to talk and talk and talk. 

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans now think another financial industry meltdown similar to the 2008 crisis is likely. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe the U.S. government is likely to default on its debt in the next five years. That’s up 18 points from 44% six months ago. 

Congress and the president are now talking about a short-term deal to raise the federal government’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, and 53% think the best approach for dealing with the debt ceiling is to raise it as part of a deal that includes significant spending cuts. However, Democrats are unlikely to agree to the major cuts Republicans want, even though 62% of all voters agree it will be bad for the economy if the government defaults on its debt.

A similar partisan divide stands in the way of ending the federal government shutdown now in its second week. Fifty-one percent (51%) of all voters would rather have Congress end the shutdown by authorizing spending for the new national health care law at existing levels. Forty-one percent (41%) would rather continue the shutdown until spending for the law is cut. But a closer look finds that 82% of Democrats want to end the shutdown by continuing spending for the health care law at current levels, while 71% of Republicans would rather keep the shutdown going until the law is defunded.

So the talk continues.

Even as the shutdown and debt ceiling arguments go on, voters are giving President Obama better marks for his handling of deficit reduction issues, although a plurality (46%) still rates his performance in this area as poor.

With Democrats rallying to the president, Obama’s job approval ratings are now running at their highest levels since April.

But Democrats have lost their lead of the last two weeks and are tied with Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

Just 17% of all likely voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest finding since early December 2011. 

Despite this pessimism, only nine percent (9%) of Americans say they have ever thought about giving up their U.S. citizenship

Just because four-out-of-five Americans think being a U.S. citizen is Very Important doesn’t mean they haven’t considered their options, though. 

Unfavorable reviews of the new health care law have fallen below 50% for the first time in several months. 

Perhaps in part that’s because 50% of Americans say they are paying more for health care now than they were a year ago. Still, 48% think the private sector, not the federal government, has the best chance of keeping health care costs down and the quality of care up. Thirty-five percent (35%) have more confidence in the federal government to keep costs down and quality up.

Thirty-six percent (36%) report postponing a medical checkup or procedure to save money in the past six months, although that’s down from 43% two years ago. 

Twenty-eight percent (28%) think doctors make too much money

Several employees of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff went on trial last week, but just 14% believe the federal government has been aggressive enough in pursuing criminal behavior on Wall Street

On a lighter note, 34% of Americans, when asked which they would rather win in their dream world, say a Nobel Prize. Eighteen percent (18%) would rather win a Pulitzer Prize, while 14% would opt for an Academy Award “Oscar.”

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In other surveys last week:

-- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues to lead Democratic challenger Barbara Buono by over 20 points in his bid for reelection. 

-- With New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate election coming next week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker leads Republican Steve Lonegan 53% to 41%. 

-- Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters believe the regulations and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency help the economy, but 37% think the federal agency’s actions hurt the economy instead. 

-- Nearly two-out-of-three voters (62%) continue to view global warming as a somewhat serious problem, with 30% who consider it a Very Serious one. 

-- California has become the latest – and biggest – state to authorize driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. But 68% of voters think illegal immigrants should not be eligible for driver’s licenses in their state

-- Forty-five percent (45%) say if a family is not in the country legally, their children should still be allowed to attend public school. That's a 13-point increase from the 32% who felt that way in August 2011.

-- Voters for the first time are evenly divided over whether there should be a waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, but the importance of abortion as a voting issue has fallen to its lowest level in a year-and-a-half

-- Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans say they will get a flu shot this year

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