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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending September 26, 2015

Pope Francis’ visit this week to the United States is likely to have put religion on the minds of many more Americans.

Most Americans have a favorable opinion of the new pope and think he’s good for the Catholic Church. It’s clear, too, that most see an essential place for religion in this country, but there’s been a sizable jump in the number who don’t think the government agrees.

Still, while voters have mixed feelings about the impact religious leaders have on government policy, they are quite clear that they don't want someone in the pulpit telling them how to vote.

Speaking of voting, religion will be front and center this weekend as the Republican presidential candidates make their cases before the conservative Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

Voters in the past have been narrowly divided on the importance of a political candidate’s religious faith, but over half of voters – and 73% of Republicans - agree with GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson who says he could not vote for a Muslim to be president.

So if most voters agree, why did the media make such a big deal about Carson’s remarks? Perhaps because, as 71% believe, when covering a political campaign, most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win.

Following the second Republican presidential candidate debate earlier this month, 59% said Carson is likely to be the GOP candidate next year. Forty-one percent (41%) said the same of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and 40% felt that way about Jeb Bush.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker this week suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Walker started his campaign with high expectations but was quickly buried like many of the other GOP candidates in the Donald Trump phenomenon.

“The Donald” continues his downward slide, though, with this week’s Trump Change survey at its lowest level (52%) since we started the regular feature in mid-August.

It’s been a rough few months for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but her chances for the Democratic nomination hold steady in Rasmussen Reports’ latest Hillary Meter.

Right now 59% of all voters – and 37% of Democrats – think it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving e-mails containing classified information through a private e-mail server while serving as secretary of State. 

Clinton in a rare interview this past week announced that she is opposed to building the Keystone XL pipeline. Most voters have favored building the oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas in surveys for the past four years. 

The former first lady also said again that the president’s immigration agenda including protecting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation doesn’t go far enough. Although Clinton’s views on illegal immigration are outside the mainstream as far as most voters are concerned, the media predictably didn’t make much of them

Few voters agree either with the Obama administration’s plan to increase the total number of worldwide refugees accepted into the United States to 100,000 by 2017 in response to the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe.

But the governments in Europe and the United States apparently don’t care what voters think when it comes to taking in thousands of Islamic refugees from the Middle East.

Increased media attention on the Syrian migrant crisis has raised new concerns about the global impact of that country’s ongoing civil war, but does that mean the United States should take a more active role in stemming the violence in Syria?

After hosting the pope, Obama welcomed the president of China to the White House. Should America finally get tough with China?

The two presidents reportedly will discuss some of the big differences between the United States and China. But most U.S. voters think America overlooks many abuses by the Chinese government because of that country’s economic power.

The president’s daily job approval rating continues to hover in the negative mid-teens.

In other surveys last week:

-- Just 25% now think the United States is headed in the right direction. That’s the lowest level of confidence since mid-December.

-- Most voters still don't think the federal government should have the final say on gun ownership and don't like a country in which only the government has access to guns. 

-- While states continue to crack down on tobacco, several are going in the opposite direction when it comes to marijuana, legalizing its sale and possession. What’s the difference between pot and tobacco? 

-- Volkswagen has confessed to equipping millions of diesel cars with software intended to fool emissions tests, but so far the German auto company is still more popular than General Motors and Chrysler who took taxpayer-funded bailouts to stay in business. 

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