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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending October 10, 2015

Next week, it’s the Democrats’ turn: The first of six scheduled debates between Hillary Clinton and the four other announced candidates for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016. Joe Biden is still a no-show.

But a look at the numbers makes it clear that the debate is already a win for Clinton. Barring a major gaffe, she’s still going to be comfortably ahead of her challengers among Democratic voters nationally, none of whom is likely to land a punch on her.

Following the recent school shooting in Oregon, look for Clinton to come out swinging for gun control, a popular position among Democrats but far less so among voters at large.

The former first lady and secretary of State is also likely to rally to Planned Parenthood’s defense. Voter attitudes about Planned Parenthood haven’t changed in the nearly three months since the release of the first secretly-taken video showing representatives of the group discussing the sales value of body parts of aborted babies. But for a sizable majority, Planned Parenthood is an issue they’ll remember come election time, particularly pro-life voters. 

Voters still insist they value substance over more superficial factors when deciding whom to vote for, but they are a bit more likely to admit their emotions play a role.

How aggressively to fight to defund Planned Parenthood is one of the issues that is roiling House Republicans as they struggle to find a successor to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House. The key question for House Republicans now is whether they want a speaker who will fight more or one who like Boehner hopes periodic strategic wins will put the party in a better place come the next election.

As for the Republican presidential contest, Donald Trump remains an odds-on favorite for the party’s nomination, according to the latest Trump Change survey.

The current president continues to earn mediocre marks with daily job approval ratings in the negative mid-teens.

Syria clearly has the Obama administration in a tizzy. On Friday, it announced the end of a program to create a rebel force in that Middle Eastern country, “an acknowledgement,” according to the New York Times, “that the beleaguered program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on the Islamic State in Syria.”

Complicating the situation is Russia’s stepped-up military role to help its ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and to fight the growing presence of the radical Islamic group ISIS. Some lawmakers are proposing that the U.S. military establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians in that civil war-torn country, and voters here tend to think that’s a good idea. But they also worry that it may lead to a U.S.-Russian military conflict. 

With Russia and Iran joining in the fight against ISIS, do U.S. voters consider the enemies of our enemy now our friends?

Many of the refugees flooding into Europe claim they are fleeing the Syrian civil war. To help Europe deal with this problem, the Obama administration plans to increase the total number of refugees allowed to resettle here to 185,000 over the next two years. Voters don’t approve and think the thousands of Syrian refugees included in that number are a threat to America’s national security.

Voters already question whether the government is focusing enough on the threat of radical Islamic terrorism here at home, and 68% think any decision by the federal government to allow large numbers of refugees to enter the United States should require the approval of Congress before it can be enacted. 

Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters believe Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions, and 75% say Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith. This helps explain why 51% agree with Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson and say they wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for president

Sharyl Attkisson explored the Syrian refugee question in the first edition of her new program “Full Measure” which debuted last Sunday on Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations throughout the country. Tune in to this weekend to the next edition of “Full Measure” with Sharyl Attkisson, featuring “Full Measure-Rasmussen Reports” polling.

Supporters of bringing more refugees here and of granting amnesty to those in this country illegally often note that the United States is a nation of immigrants. But only 16% of voters believe America’s origins require it to take in more refugees than any other nation

In other surveys last week:

-- Just 26% of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

-- Following a disappointing government jobs report for September, most voters continue to express frustration over the economy. 

-- In Rasmussen Reports' most recent Consumer Spending Report, the spending index jumped seven points, and that increase appears to be the result of more anticipated spending on clothing, footwear and accessories.

-- Americans continue to be diligent about their medical checkups, and slightly fewer report that they’ve been scolded by their doctor for unhealthy habits.

-- Something about the past year must have been good for Americans because more are reporting better health than they have in quite some time.

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