From Rasmussen Reports…
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Saturday, November 27, 2010
The holiday season is upon us, and Americans are off to races when it comes to shopping. But even as many will be watching their own spending, another opportunity to say something about how the government spends our money is on the horizon.
A sizable number of Americans had begun their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, but only a comparative handful were completely done already. We’ll be checking to see how those numbers moved after Black Friday’s spending spree.
Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans plan to spend less than they did a year ago. While bleak, that’s an improvement from 71% a year ago. More also are choosing to avoid the crowds by shopping for gifts online.
Speaking of crowds, as many prepared to descend on stores nationwide for Black Friday, one-third of Adults said holiday shopping is an unpleasant chore. But nearly half disagreed and said gift shopping for friends and loved ones is a fun activity.
Much less fun as far as most Americans are concerned is paying taxes, and taxes and spending will be front and center when President Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission reports back in early December.
The commission’s recommendations on ways to reduce the country’s historic-level budget deficits are expected to dominate political debate in the coming months, especially if the economy continues to muddle along. Daily confidence as measured by the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes has begun climbing back only to levels seen at the beginning of the year.
Forty-one percent (41%) of voters now recognize that the majority of federal spending goes to just national defense, Social Security and Medicare, although 39% disagree and 20% are not sure. But this is increased awareness from February, which means despite all the noise and fury of the election season there has been a net increase in public understanding of the budget.
“Anybody who wants to talk about cutting federal spending and changing the federal budget must first gain an understanding of where the money is being spent,” notes Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “Over the past several decades, politicians from both political parties have worked overtime to hide the truth from voters, and that has led to the voter frustration roiling the land in 2010.”
Voters are clearly dubious about the size and scope of today’s federal government. Just 39% believe the federal government currently operates within the limits established by the Constitution of the United States.
Voters have consistently questioned the workload of federal employees and how much they earn, and 66% nationwide favor a proposal to cut the federal payroll by 10% over the coming decade.
Most voters also continue to favor repeal of the new health care law, which expands government’s role in the private health care sector. They remain almost evenly divided over whether the law will force them to change their own health insurance coverage.
Still, to give the federal government its due, most Americans, for the first time, don’t think last year’s bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were a bad move. Just 46% of Adults say it was bad idea for the federal government to provide bailout funding for GM and Chrysler, while 38% say they were a good idea. Sixteen percent (16%) remain undecided.
GM’s big recent public stock offering earned the government $11.8 billion and reduced its ownership stake in the company from 61% to 36%. But the price of GM stock will have to rise significantly for taxpayers to recoup the entire $50 billion in direct bailout funds given to GM.
Half of American adults believe it's at least somewhat likely that GM and Chrysler will repay their bailouts in full, but only one-in-five say full repayment will make them look more favorably on government bailouts in the future.
Skepticism about the bailouts was one of several factors that prompted unhappiness with the current Congress and led to the Republicans winning control of the House of Representatives earlier this month. After all, voters are overwhelmingly clear: They want to believe that elections make a difference. Eighty-one percent (81%) think it matters who represents them in Congress. Seventy-three percent (73%) also believe it matters which political party controls Congress.
House Republican leader John Boehner has been regularly in the news since Election Day as the likely next speaker of the House, and that coverage has helped push his favorables to a new high. But all the major congressional leaders seem to be benefiting from a little good will since the elections.
For the second week in a row, Republicans hold a five-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot. This is the smallest gap between the two parties since the beginning of October. The GOP has led regularly on the ballot since June of last year.
Just before Thanksgiving, the president’s job approval rating as measured by the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll continued to hover in the range it’s been at for weeks. Overall, 48% of voters said they at least somewhat approved of the president's performance, while 51% disapproved.