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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending October 18, 2013

Americans paint a pretty gloomy picture of the present and the future these days, but the housing market offers a glimmer of hope.

Just 13% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That's down 15 points from two weeks ago and the lowest finding in five years.

Over half (52%) say America’s best days are in the past, the highest level of pessimism since December 2011. 

Consumer confidence remains at its lowest levels of the year. 

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans now say they know someone who joined the military because of the bad job market. That’s up four points from 39% in January 2012.

The body bags continue to come home, but just 19% of voters believe it’s still possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan. That’s down from a high of 51% in December 2009 and the lowest level of confidence ever. Though most troops and equipment are set to be out of Afghanistan by December 2014, 53% now favor the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from that country.

But is the government listening?

Voters remain skeptical of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, but only 32% trust the president, the executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the NSA abides by the Constitution

Consistent with surveys since 2006, a solid majority (64%) of voters favors a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes

Sixty-three percent (63%) believe thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every program of the federal government, but just 30% believe it’s even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years

As the new national health care law stumbles into existence, most voters continue to dislike it as they have since Congress passed it in March 2010. 

Forty-seven percent (47%) now give President Obama poor marks for his handing of the health care issue. That's an eight-point increase from September and a high for the year to date.

Yet Obama’s overall job approval rating appears to have weathered the government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis in Washington, D.C., and remains at levels seen for much of his presidency. 

If the next congressional election were held today, however, 78% would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. That’s a 10-point jump from the previous high of 68% in May of last year.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters believe Republicans in Congress are acting in a partisan, rather than bipartisan, fashion, and 55% say the same of congressional Democrats. Just over half (51%) think the president is acting like a partisan Democrat.

Democrats jumped to a seven-point lead over Republicans – 45% to 38% - on the most recent Generic Congressional Ballot. But 47% think it is fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people

Still, ask voters which party they want in charge of the entire Congress, and - it’s a draw. Forty-six percent (46%) would vote for the Democratic Party to run everything, while just as many (45%) would vote for the Republican Party to be totally in control.

Interestingly, in these seemingly hyperpartisan times, while 56% of Americans believe their fellow citizens are less tolerant of other people’s political opinions than they were in the past, that’s the lowest finding in three years. 

At the same time, 77% think their fellow Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized

Now for some good news: 38% of U.S. Homeowners believe the value of their home will go up over the next year, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking in April 2009. Fifty-six percent (56%) expect the value of their home to go up over the next five years. That’s up 11 points from last month and also the highest to date.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) feel that their home is worth more now than when they bought it. That's a three-point increase from 56% in June and the highest level of confidence since October 2011.

Rasmussen Reports’ final survey of New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate race showed Democrat Cory Booker with a 12-point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan. Booker won this past week by 11 points.

In other surveys last week:

-- Only 12% of Americans consider the federal government's oversight of the banking industry as good or excellent, and 53% continue to feel it is better for the U.S. financial system to have more competition and less regulation

-- Fifty-three percent (53%) say bullying in schools is a bigger problem today

-- Eighty-one percent (81%) of adults trust their doctor. 

-- Fifty-eight percent (58%) think the United States should continue to honor explorer Christopher Columbus with a national holiday

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