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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending October 4, 2013

The longer the federal government remains partially shut down, the more the partisan blame game escalates. But voters remain conflicted, just as they are about the health care law at the heart of the dispute.

Most voters still don't like the health care law, and 54% expect it to increase, not reduce, health care costs.

One-out-of-two voters continue to oppose the law’s requirement that every American have health insurance. Most also were still unaware at the beginning of the week if their state has a health care exchange even as those exchanges were scheduled to start signing up insurance applicants.

In mid-September, 51% of voters liked the idea of a government shutdown until spending for the health care law was cut, while 40% favored no shutdown and keeping spending on the law at existing levels. By the beginning of this past week, though, support for a shutdown until cuts were made to slow or stop Obamacare was down five points to 46%. Just as many (45%) wanted to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending for the law at existing levels.

Sixty percent (60%) said a partial shutdown of the federal government would be bad for the economy even though payments for things like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would continue.

Negative reviews for Congress are now at their highest level in nearly two years. Nine percent (9%) of voters rate the way Congress is doing its job as good or excellent, but 70% say it’s doing a poor job. Tellingly, however, while Democrats are more critical of Congress than they were two weeks ago, Republicans are giving the legislators more positive ratings now.

Voters in general are slightly more likely to identify with President Obama and congressional Democrats these days, but a surprising problem for congressional Republicans is that 21% think they are too liberal. A closer look suggests that Republicans don’t think their representatives in Congress are conservative enough.

This helps explain why while freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz may not be popular with the Republican establishment, 57% of GOP voters view him favorably, including 30% with a Very Favorable opinion. In March, 52% of Republicans had a favorable view of Senator John McCain, one of Cruz’s harshest critics, but that included only 16% with a Very Favorable one.

Among all voters, 50% view the agenda of Republicans in Congress as extreme, while 46% say the same of the Democratic congressional agenda.

In a survey completed just before the shutdown, Democrats extended their lead over Republicans to four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

After three days of slightly improved job approval ratings as the government shutdown took effect, numbers for Obama appear to have returned to levels seen for much of his presidency.

The president’s total job approval inched up a point to 48% in September, his highest rating since May. Still, that’s down eight points from December’s high of 56%.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans think the Founding Fathers would view the United States today as a failure. 

Still, 93% consider it at least somewhat important to be an American citizen, with 79% who think it is Very Important. However, 26% believe it is too easy to become a citizen of the United States.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans regard themselves as informed citizens, but only 12% think most of their fellow countrymen are informed voters.

Americans still get most of their news from television, and a plurality (41%) says U.S. politics is the type of news they are most likely to look at first. Thirty percent (30%) are most likely to look at local news first, while 12% look first at business news.

The Internet. E-mail. Social media. With easy access to information at any hour of the day, Americans claim to be pretty well informed about the world around them.  But are they?

Eighty-six percent (86%) of voters think it is important for the economic system to provide everyone with an opportunity to succeed, but just 41% think the U.S. economy now is even somewhat fair.

The Rasmussen Employment Index, which measures worker confidence, fell four points in September to its lowest level this year.

Consumer and investor confidence have also fallen back from the highs they hit earlier this year but still remain well above levels seen from 2009 through 2012.

Forty-two percent (42%) of Working Americans believe their earnings will be higher a year from today, the highest level of optimism since the beginning of the year. Most (66%) also continue to consider themselves to be middle class.

One-in-four (24%) is looking for work outside his or her current company.

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In other surveys last week:

-- For the second week in a row, 28% of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

-- The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that it is challenging North Carolina's new voter ID law on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory. But 70% of voters believe all voters should be required to prove their identity before being allowed to vote. Fifty-nine percent (59%) do not believe such laws discriminate.

-- Voters are evenly divided over the need for stricter gun control, but 73% think the United States needs stricter enforcement of gun control laws already on the books.

-- Fewer voters than ever give the president positive ratings on gun control-related issues. Just 34% now rate his handling of issues related to gun control as good or excellent.

-- Fifty-seven percent (57%) still favor building the Keystone XL pipeline.

-- Sixty percent (60%) think most Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

-- Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans say they have returned a lost wallet that they have found, but just 31% have had a lost wallet returned to them.

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