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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- Week Ending September 19, 2014

Do most Americans really know or care about the rest of the world?

Consider Scotland. The news media has been hyperventilating for several weeks now over whether the nation on the north end of the British Isles was going to vote for independence from the mother country. Scottish voters opted against independence from Great Britain in a vote this week, but, believe it or not, only 33% of Americans think most of their fellow countrymen can even find Scotland on a map.  

Then there’s the growing Ebola epidemic in Africa that has killed more than 2,000 people in several countries. But Americans are less concerned now about the deadly disease coming to these shores than they were six weeks ago.

President Obama this week announced plans to send at least 3,000 troops to Africa and has committed several hundred million dollars to fighting the Ebola epidemic.

The president also recently announced his plans for fighting the radical group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Voters are all for expanded airstrikes against ISIS, but they are a lot less enthusiastic about putting boots back on the ground in Iraq.

Most voters believe the U.S. military already has too many missions these days, but they also think it’s likely that fighting in Iraq will soon be added to the list. A lot of voters would prefer to see the military on border patrol instead. Forty-two percent (42%) say fighting ISIS is a better use of the military than patrolling the southern border to stop illegal immigration or helping to fight the Ebola epidemic in Africa. Thirty-one percent (31%) see patrolling the border as a better use of the military, while just 17% say that of fighting Ebola.

Another war that gets a lot of headlines these days is the so-called “war on women.” That’s the phrase Democrats use to criticize certain Republican policies that they contend limit women’s rights in areas such as birth control, abortion and workplace discrimination. Most voters don’t consider the “war on women” a war at all but see it as just a political tactic. 

Speaking of politics, Republican chances for taking over the Senate look a little longer this week with our latest numbers from Kansas. The Senate race in Iowa remains neck-and-neck.

See our new numbers for the Senate contests in Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Is it possible that Obamacare could take control of the Senate away from Democrats and give it to the GOP? 

It’s been nearly a year since the national health care law officially took effect, and voter attitudes about its impact on the cost and quality of health care remain basically unchanged - and negative.

As for the president himself, his daily job approval rating has been hovering around the -20 mark all week. 

Voters continue to put more trust in Republicans than Democrats to handle important policy issues like the economy, national security and job creation, but health care isn’t one of them.

Democrats have retaken the lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

As for governor’s races, Georgia and Wisconsin are still close. New Hampshire is not.

See our latest election update video.

A possible election wild card? Consumer confidence has been trending down in recent days and hit its lowest level since late January on Friday. 

At the same time, 63% of homeowners think their home is worth more than when they bought it, the highest level of confidence in three years.

Most voters continue to believe as they have for years that the federal government should cut spending to boost the economy. But only 21% think it’s even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years.

In other surveys last week:

-- Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

-- Short- and long-term confidence in housing values are stable at levels seen since early last year but remain well ahead of whether they were for the four years prior to that.

-- Americans continue to say buying a home is a family’s best investment, but they are closely divided over whether now is the opportune time for someone in their area to sell their house.

-- The Senate held a hearing this week on whether Washington, D.C. should become our 51st state, but most voters still oppose D.C. statehood.

-- Americans think highly of the hospitals in this country and say they are better than those in most other countries.

-- Most Americans enjoy a homemade burger with cheese on top.

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