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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending September 14, 2013

As President Obama moved his plans for a military strike on Syria back from a full boil to a simmer this past week, a nervous nation observed the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Most Americans (69%) continue to believe a similar terrorist attack is at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years, with 30% who say it’s Very Likely.

Just 31% now think al Qaeda is weaker than it was before 9/11. That’s down from 50% shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Most (53%) continue to believe a domestic attack is a bigger threat to America than an attack from terrorists outside the country.

Only 27% of Likely U.S. Voters favor U.S. military action against Syria in retaliation for that government's use of chemical weapons against its own people. Support for military action rises to 47%, however, if other UN member countries are involved. But just 12% think further U.S. military involvement in Syria will make Americans safer.

The president Tuesday night put his plans for a Syria attack on hold, opting to try Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan for putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. Fifty-three percent (53%) of U.S. voters think United Nations control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is likely to prevent future U.S. military action against Syria, although that includes only 19% who say it’s Very Likely.

Just 22% now consider the UN a U.S. ally, down from 30% in the spring and the lowest finding ever. Only 23% think the United States should continue to give more money to the UN than any other country in the world.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters now trust Republicans more when it comes to dealing with national security and the War on Terror. Thirty-two percent (32%) trust Democrats more, the lowest level of confidence in the president’s party since October 2009.

The president’s job approval ratings, however, haven’t changed despite his increasingly bellicose position on Syria and his speech to the nation Tuesday night pulling back from military action at least temporarily.

Seventy percent (70%) now consider Obama at least somewhat liberal in political terms, the highest since the beginning of the year. This includes 44% who believe he is Very Liberal.

Under the president’s national health care law, government health care exchanges nationwide are scheduled to begin accepting applicants for health insurance on October 1. But most voters still don't know if their state has created a health care exchange or not.

Roughly half of voters still think the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi matter and the Justice Department’s secret probe of reporters’ records are serious scandals. The National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program is viewed less seriously but seen as the most likely to be a lingering story.

Democrats and Republicans are tied at 39% apiece on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. For much of the summer, neither has hit the 40% mark, suggesting a high level of voter unhappiness with both parties.

The odds are still high for New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie to keep his job. Among the Garden State’s likely voters, Christie posts a 58% to 32% lead over Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono.

Nationally, consumer and investor confidence continue to run at higher levels than have been measured in several years.

But 38% of Americans say crime has increased in their community over the past year. Seventy-six percent (76%) think it’s likely that current economic conditions will lead to even more crime, with 45% who say it’s Very Likely.

Forty-eight percent (48%) don’t believe there are enough police officers in the United States, but 46% think America would be less safe if only government officials such as the police and military personnel were allowed to have guns.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) say hunger is at least a somewhat serious problem in the United States today, including 30% who see it as a Very Serious one. Forty-seven percent (47%) believe the problem is getting worse.

Yet while most Americans are concerned about the level of hunger, they also agree it might be better if a few more of their fellow citizens super-sized a little less often. Sixty-five percent (65%) think a bigger problem in the country today is that Americans eat too much rather than they don’t eat enough.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) believe there are too many in this country who are dependent on the government for financial aid.

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In other surveys last week:

-- For the second week in a row, 30% of likely voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Sixty-five percent (65%) think the United States does not do enough to develop its own gas and oil resources.

-- Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans say teaching is one of the most important jobs in the United States today, but just 24% think most Americans consider teaching a desirable profession to go into.

-- Football fans predict the San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVIII.

-- Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is at the center of an ongoing federal probe of gifts and financial help his family received from a wealthy Richmond area businessman, and now just 49% of Likely Virginia Voters approve of the job McDonnell is doing as governor. That’s his lowest level of approval to date.

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