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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending September 7, 2013

Congress is back in session this coming week with three critical issues demanding its attention – Syria, the October 1 deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling and immigration reform. Voters have pretty strong opinions on all three.

Despite President Obama’s insistence that the United States has proof of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its opponents, just 37% of Likely U.S. Voters think the United States should provide increased military assistance to protect the citizens of Syria. In part that’s because only 35% consider Syria a vital national security interest of the United States these days. 

Seventy-three percent (73%) think it’s at least somewhat likely that the debt ceiling will be raised before the federal government begins defaulting on its debts. But just 25% think the debt ceiling should be raised without any significant spending cuts.

Congressional Republicans are insisting on long-term entitlement cuts before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling, and a sizable number of GOP congressmen are willing to shut down the government through the debt ceiling process to prevent funding of the president’s national health care law.

Just 41% of voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 52% view it unfavorably. This includes 18% with a Very Favorable opinion of it and 39% with a Very Unfavorable one.

While the Senate has passed an immigration reform plan with bipartisan support, fewer voters than ever (28%) think the reform measure will make it through the House of Representatives and become law this year. A continuing problem for the reformers is that most voters still think tougher border control is the most important element of any immigration reform plan, but just 32% believe it is even somewhat likely that the federal government would actually secure the border to prevent future illegal immigration if the plan passed.

The economy, health care and job creation remain at the top of the list of 15 important voting issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.

Consumer and investor confidence are down from recent highs but are still generally running at higher levels than have been measured since 2008.

The federal government announced on Friday that employers added 169,000 jobs in August, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.3 percent. This marginal gain was predicted in the Rasmussen Employment Index for August released on Tuesday. The index which measures worker confidence rebounded last month, rising more than three points over July and up nearly 15 points from a year ago. 

Still, Americans are more pessimistic about the U.S. job market than they have been all year. Only 25% now believe the job market is better than it was a year ago. Thirty-one percent (31%) think the job market is worse today than it was a year ago, the highest finding since December.

Just 19% think the government should help out the long-term unemployed in a big way, with nine percent (9%) who say their unemployment benefits should be extended indefinitely and 10% who say the government should just hire them. Forty percent (40%) think the federal government should do nothing at all for the long-term unemployed, the highest finding in three years of regular surveying.

Americans continue to believe that government workers have it better than those employed in the private sector when it comes to pay and job security. They also don’t think government employees work as hard.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Democrats have a favorable view of unions. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans - and 52% of adults not affiliated with either of the two major parties - view them unfavorably.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of all Americans express a Very Favorable opinion of people who start their own businesses, and nearly as many (52%) say the same of small business owners. Just two percent (2%) feel that way about Congress.

Only seven percent (7%) of Likely Voters now think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Just 23% think their representative in Congress is the best possible person for the job.

Democrats lead Republicans by two points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

 The president’s total job approval remained unchanged at 47% in August, still at its lowest level since December 2011. Following Obama’s reelection, his full-month approval rating jumped to 56% in December but has steadily decreased since then.

As they have since mid-April, the president’s daily approval ratings now match those found for much of his first term in office.

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In other surveys last week:

-- Thirty percent (30%) of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened up a seven-point lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – 45% to 38% - as the Virginia gubernatorial race enters the post-Labor Day stretch.

-- Seventy percent (70%) of Americans rate their own overall health as good or excellent, but 36% think they are overweight.

-- The Massachusetts Supreme Court heard arguments this past week challenging the legality of saying the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Sixty-eight percent (68%) believe students should be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, and 83% think the Pledge should include the words “under God.”

-- With school back in session, first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign is back in the spotlight, but only 18% of Americans think the federal government should have a say in nutritional standards at schools.

-- Eighty-seven percent (87%) of adults with children at home attending elementary or secondary school say their children have received all the vaccinations they are supposed to have. Seventy-six percent (76%) believe children who do not receive all their vaccinations will cause health problems for other children.

-- Just 14% of Americans rarely or never watch movies at home.

-- Thirty-five percent (35%) say that when they celebrate Labor Day, they honor the contribution of workers in society which was the original intent of the holiday. As has been the case for years, however, many more (50%) view Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer instead.

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