What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week's Key Polls
As the United States prepares to celebrate its 235th birthday, Americans still overwhelmingly agree with the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Ninety percent (90%) agree that "we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Americans also strongly support the beliefs that we are all created equal and the governments derive their only just authority from the consent of the governed. Men tend to be stronger supporters of these views than women, but majorities of just about all demographic groups agree.
The U.S. Constitution still enjoys solid ratings from around the nation, but 39% of voters believe it does not place enough restrictions on government. Only 17% believe the document designed to provide a healthy system of checks and balances places too many restrictions on government. Few, however, want to change it.
Sharing the views held by the Founders of our nation, 66% see more danger in a government that is too powerful rather than one that is not powerful enough.
While continuing to strongly believe in the principals of self-governance that has made America unique, Americans do have concerns about how those ideals are holding up. Only 39% believe the federal government currently operates within the limits established by the Constitution of the United States. Forty-four percent (44%) believe it does not.
The Declaration stated that governments were formed to protect the inalienable rights of individuals. Today, 53% believe the federal government is more of a threat to individual rights rather than a protector.
Perhaps reflecting concerns about the role of government and the government's growing debts, 46% now believe that America's best days have come and gone. Only 37% believe they are still to come.
And, despite the concerns about government, 66% continue to believe that American society is generally fair and decent. Only 26% disagree and believe our society is generally unfair and discriminatory. This underlying view supports the basic concepts of self-governance. Those who view society as generally fair and decent are likely to see a more limited role for government in smoothing off the rough edges. Those who view society as unfair and discriminatory tend to see the government as an instrument to force dramatic societal changes.
Looking at today's fiscal problems, voters clearly distrust the nation's politicians and would feel more comfortable with decisions being made closer to home. Sixty-four percent (64%) believe that any proposed changes in either Social Security or Medicare should be submitted to the American people for a vote before they can become law.
Going even further, voters tend to think that individuals should make their own decisions on the trade-offs between higher taxes to cover promised benefits or higher retirement ages to reduce costs. In fact, 65% believe Americans should have the right to pick their own Social Security retirement age. Those who want to retire earlier could pay more in Social Security taxes now. Those who would prefer lower taxes today could pay less in taxes and retire later.
Voters recognize that these trade-offs are important. Only 19% believe that current taxes provide enough funding to pay promised Medicare and Social Security benefits. Those under 40 are especially skeptical about receiving their promised Social Security benefits and a plurality of these younger voters have an unfavorable view of the retirement programs. They believe, however, that answers can be found: 63% think that Medicare costs can be reduced without hurting the quality of care for seniors.
As for Election 2012, a Generic Republican Candidate continues to hold a slight edge, 46% to 42%, over President Obama. Congressional Republicans hold a slightly larger advantage on the Generic Congressional Ballot.
These numbers come as just 24% believe the nation is generally heading in the right direction. When President Bush left office, the percentage who thought we were heading in the right direction fell to the teens. It grew to 40% in the early months of the Obama Administration but has been declining steadily ever since with only occasional bounces. Concerns about the economy are a big part of the problem. Just 8% of Americans rate the economy as good or excellent while 61% say it's in poor shape.
Other data released last week showed that:
· 73% Say Woman President Likely in Next 10 Years
· 57% View Hillary Clinton Favorably
· 51% Say Gov't Should Force Oil Companies To Use Profits To Develop Alternative Energy
· 10% Would Base Their Vote On A Candidate's Religion
· 75% Say U.S. Not Doing Enough To Develop Its Gas And Oil Resources
· 63% Favor Death Penalty, 47% Say It Deters Crime
· 55% Favor Health Care Repeal, Just 17% Say It Will Improve Quality of Care
· 48% Say Al Qaeda Weaker Now Than Before 9/11
· 46% Say Obama Doing Poor Job on the Economy
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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week's Key Polls
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