By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus
In the wake of a positive jobs report in April, which showed a drop in the nation's unemployment rate, Americans' views of the economy have shown the first significant boost in over six years, according to a CBS News poll released Wednesday. Forty-three percent now think the economy is at least fairly good - a six point rise from March and the highest rating of Barack Obama's presidency. Still, 55 percent view the economy as at least somewhat bad, including one in five who say it is very bad.
More Americans now think the economy is improving: 30 percent think the economy is getting better while 26 percent think the economy is getting worse. These numbers were reversed in March. Forty-two percent think the economy is staying the same.
Personal concerns about unemployment remain. Six in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned that they or someone else in their household might be out of work and looking for a job in the next twelve months, including one in three who are very concerned.
Americans differ as to what they consider the best measure of the U.S. economy's health. Thirty-three percent say the unemployment rate and jobs report is the best measure, followed by their own personal finances and those of people they know (27 percent), the price of goods and services they buy (26 percent), or the stock market (7 percent).
Which economic measure people focus on may be related to views of the overall direction of the economy. Those who think the economy is getting better are more likely to think the best economic measure is the unemployment rate and the jobs report, while Americans who think the economy is getting worse or staying the same are more divided in what they use to evaluate the economy.
The President's Job Ratings
But improving views of the national economy have not translated into a rise in the President's job rating. President Obama's overall approval rating is now 43 percent, while 48 percent disapprove - similar to ratings he has received for most of this year. Mr. Obama has had a net disapproval rating since September 2013.
Like his overall job rating, the president's ratings on specific issues are mostly static and more negative than positive. More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of his handling of
health care (53 percent disapprove), the economy (52 percent disapprove), and foreign policy (48 percent disapprove), and Americans are divided (40 percent approval/disapproval) on his handling of the situation in Ukraine.
Thirty percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction while 62 percent think it is off on the wrong track, not much different than in March.
The Death Penalty
In the wake of the problematic execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last month, support for the death penalty is just 59 percent in this poll, the lowest percentage found in CBS News polls since 1988, when the question was first asked. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support the death penalty.
Poll respondents were asked to volunteer the reason, in their own words, why they are in favor or opposed to the death penalty. Thirty-nine percent of those in favor said eye for an eye/deserve it, 19 percent offered it's the right/just punishment, 15 percent cited prison costs and 13 percent said it deters murder.
Twenty-four percent of those opposed said they are against the death penalty because the person could be innocent, 22 percent said they oppose it because murder is wrong, 10 percent cited religious or ethical reasons and 8 percent said the government shouldn't put people to death.
Foreign Policy Issues: Nigeria
Americans are following the news about the two hundred-plus Nigerian school girls kidnapped by the Islamic resistance group Boko Haram. Forty-seven percent have heard or read a lot about the incident, and another 33 percent have heard or read some.
The United States has sent law enforcement and intelligence experts to assist Nigeria in the search for the kidnapped girls. Most Americans - 59 percent - think the U.S. is doing enough to assist Nigeria in the search for the kidnapped girls, though 26 percent think the U.S. should be doing more.
Foreign Policy Issues: Russia and Ukraine
The U.S. and European countries have enacted sanctions against Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine; though few think those sanctions have been effective so far. Just 29 percent think they have been even somewhat effective, while 60 percent think they have not been very or at all effective.
In March most Americans supported sanctions against Russia, but they are divided now as to whether the U.S. should enact more sanctions. Forty-five percent think the U.S. should do so, while 40 percent think the U.S. should not. Americans are even less enthusiastic about providing military aid and equipment to Ukraine: 63 percent oppose this.
Almost six in 10 Americans don't think the situation between Russia and Ukraine is the U.S.'s responsibility - little changed since March.
Nevertheless, eight in 10 Americans say what happens in Ukraine is at least somewhat important to the interests of the United States (though just 27 percent think it is very important) and Americans think an expansion of the conflict is likely. Seventy-one percent think it is at least somewhat likely that the situation between Russia and Ukraine will become a more widespread conflict involving neighboring countries and other parts of Europe, including 26 percent who think that is very likely.
Just 6 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and far more - 48 percent - view him unfavorably. Another 45 percent don't have an opinion.
The Affordable Care Act
While just 6 percent of Americans think the 2010 health care law is working well and should be kept in place as it is, a majority (56 percent) thinks there are some good things in the health care law but changes are needed to make it work better. Thirty-five percent think it needs to be repealed entirely; that percentage has dropped since earlier this year.
As for what should replace the ACA, one in five Americans think the law should be repealed and the health care system should revert to the way it was before the ACA took effect. Eleven percent want it replaced with a new law altogether.
Views on the long-term impact of the ACA have improved slightly since last November, but are still more negative than positive. Thirty-five percent think the law will improve the health care system (up from 30 percent), and 39 percent think it will make health care worse (down from 44 percent).
As has been the case since it was passed in 2010, more Americans disapprove (54 percent) than approve (41 percent) of the Affordable Care Act. Opinion continues to be highly partisan; 82 percent of Republicans disapprove, and 73 percent of Democrats approve.
The Keystone XL Pipeline
Fifty-six percent of Americans support building the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. Support is especially strong among Republicans: 82 percent support it. Those who have heard or read at least some about the proposal are more likely to support it.
Many Americans expect the pipeline is likely to create jobs; far fewer expect the pipeline to cause environmental damage.
There have been recent reports from the United Nations and the federal government about climate change. Just under half of Americans think global warming is having a serious impact now, and another 31 percent expect it will have a serious impact in the future.
Opinion has changed little since early 2013. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to view it as having a serious impact now.
Two thirds of Americans are concerned about global warming, including 32 percent who are very concerned. Thirty-three percent are not too or not at all concerned about it.
Forty-nine percent of Americans think global warming is the result of human activity. Another 33 percent think it is due to natural fluctuations in the earth's temperature.
Public attention has recently been focused on deportations of illegal immigrants, especially if it would split up families. But more Americans see securing the border as a higher priority than addressing the status of illegal immigrants. Fifty-five percent say securing the border should be a higher priority, 37 percent think addressing the status of illegal immigrants should be a higher priority.
Fifty-one percent of Americans think illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship. Just 15 percent think they should be allowed to stay legally but not apply for citizenship, and another 29 percent think they should be required to leave the country. There has been little change in these views since the beginning of the year.
This poll was conducted by telephone May 16-19, 2014 among 1,009 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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