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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Saturday, January 07, 2012 

Like a weathered old gunslinger who has to face down every newcomer who thinks he’s faster on the draw, Mitt Romney has yet another challenger stepping out of the pack. First it was Michele Bachmann followed by Rick Perry; then it was Herman Cain. Next came Newt Gingrich, and now it’s Rick Santorum. 

After his photo finish with Romney in last Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, Santorum is now in second place among Republican voters in the race for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.  Romney’s back in first place with support from 29%, followed by Santorum with 21%. Gingrich, who led in late November with 38% of the vote, now runs third with 16%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the third place finisher in Iowa, picks up 12% of the vote, up from eight percent (8%) in the previous survey. 

In the short term, Romney doesn’t appear to have any worries. Next up is the first-in the-nation New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and the former Massachusetts governor is pulling far ahead.  His nearest rival now trails him by more than 20 points. 

The night before the primary, Scott Rasmussen will host a political talk show, “What New Hampshire Thinks with Scott Rasmussen,” in partnership with WBIN-TV, based in Derry, N.H.  The 9 pm Eastern program on Monday will include new Rasmussen Reports numbers on the New Hampshire primary race. Segments from the program will be released Tuesday on the Rasmussen Reports website. 

But Santorum has focused little on New Hampshire and instead is counting on the January 21 South Carolina primary to give his candidacy momentum for the long haul. Just two months ago, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania had only one percent (1%) support among likely South Carolina Republican Primary voters. Now he’s running a close second there with 24% of the vote.  Romney’s still in the lead with 27% support. Gingrich is in third with 18%, followed by Paul at 11%. 

Romney remains the most competitive Republican presidential contender as far as President Obama is concerned, with the two men running even again this week.  A generic Republican candidate now holds a narrow lead over Obama as has been the case in all but three weekly surveys since late May.  But aside from Romney, Obama leads all the named GOP candidates. 

Gingrich still trails the president by 10 points – 49% to 39% - in a hypothetical 2012 general election matchup surveyed the night before the Iowa caucuses.  Obama receives his highest level of support yet against former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman – 46% to 33% - in their latest matchup. 

Likely Republican primary voters nationwide see Romney as the strongest challenger to Obama, but regardless of who wins their party’s nomination, most of these voters are confident their candidate will win the White House in November. 

Voters, regardless of party affiliation, identify all of the leading Republican presidential contenders as ideological conservatives but see Romney and Paul as the least conservative of the group. 

Obama ended 2011 with a slight improvement in his job approval rating, but it was still lower than at the beginning of the year. 

The president got some good news at week’s end, however, with the report that the national unemployment rate fell a bit further last month to 8.5%. That development was correctly anticipated by the Rasmussen Employment Index for December which rose to its highest level since November 2010.  The index which measures workers’ perceptions of the labor market is now two points higher than it was at the start of 2011. 

Both the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes, which measure daily confidence among those groups, were up slightly at the end of the week but still down several points from where they were a year ago.  Nearly 60% of consumers and investors continue to think the country is in a recession. 

On the final day of 2011, 36% of American adults rated their own finances as good or excellent.  That was the most optimistic assessment of the month and highlighted a trend of modestly improving confidence during the final two months of the year. 

At the same time, the number of Americans who expect to be earning more money in a year’s time has fallen to a record low (30%), while those who expect to be making even less than they are now is at its highest level in two-and-a-half years at 17%.  A plurality (47%) of working Americans feels their best opportunity for career advancement is to stay put, and fewer (29%) believe their next job will be better than their current one.  The latter marks the lowest level of confidence measured since November 2010. 

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of Americans know someone who joined the military because of the bad job market, and most adults (57%) feel that veterans like those now returning from Iraq should be given special consideration when applying for a private sector job. 

Speaking of those who need jobs, enough is enough as far as most voters are concerned when it comes to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  In fact, 51% of Likely U.S. Voters now view the protesters as a public nuisance.  Thirty-three percent (33%) think the Occupy Wall Street movement will hurt the Democratic Party in the 2012 elections. 

Republicans continue to hold a modest lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have every week but one since June 2009, meaning slightly more voters are likely to vote for the GOP candidate in the next congressional elections. 

Voters sure don’t care for the Congress they currently have. Forty-eight percent (48%) now believe that most members of Congress are corrupt, the most pessimistic assessment to date. 

The number of Republicans in the country increased by a percentage point in December, while the number of Democrats fell back two points to the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports.  During December, 35.4% of Americans considered themselves Republicans, while just 32.7% said they were Democrats. The number of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties rose to 32.0%.



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