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Poll Watchers: Iowa GOP caucus, debt limit update, Supreme Court wrap-up, confidence in newspapers

• Iowa GOP caucus – Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann rise above the rest of the field of announced Republican candidates winning 23 and 22 percent support respectively in the first poll from the Des Moines Register among 2012 likely Republican caucus-goers. Herman Cain notches the third slot with 10 percent followed by others in single digits. Nearly seven in 10 potential caucus goers are still open to persuasion, with just 14 percent saying their minds are made up. In terms of positioning on the issues, two items rise to the level of “deal killers:” 58 percent say a candidate who supports civil unions would knock them out of consideration, and 51 percent say so of a candidate who would raise taxes as a means to reduce the deficit. Nearly half would rule out a candidate who favors raising the debt ceiling and 44 percent would reject someone who “has supported an individual mandate for health insurance.”

• Debt limit update – Just about as many oppose raising the debt limit as support it – 41 to 38 percent – in the latest AP poll. There is similar balance in which party people trust to do a better job of managing the federal budget deficit; 43 percent say the Republicans and 40 percent the Democrats. Also in the poll, Republicans, not surprisingly, win by about 2 to 1 on a question that gave respondents two chances to side with the GOP (e.g. no debt limit increase and no raising the limit without big cuts) and just one for a Democratic line of negotiating deficit reduction only after avoiding default.

• Supreme Court wrap-up – The Supreme Court rounds out its term Monday with middling approval ratings; 47 percent approve of the job they are doing and 34 percent disapprove in a new Time Magazine poll. The public splits on the direction of the court, with 30 percent saying its decisions have been “too liberal” over the past few years, 24 percent “too conservative” and 36 percent “about right.” Even though a majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court have been appointed by Republican presidents, nearly half — 48 percent — of Republicans think the decisions have been too liberal. On balance, a 54 percent majority think the Court should interpret the Constitution based on evolving societal norms rather than strictly following the original intent of the founding fathers.

• Confidence in newspapers and television news – After years of declining confidence, ratings are up for newspapers and television news, says the Gallup poll. The uptick is slight for newspapers — from 25 percent in 2010 to 28 percent confidence today — and for TV, which is up 5 to 27 percent. Still, this is the first time in years that each medium has ticked upward. The changes among different groups are notable. Confidence in newspapers is down 10 percentage points among those age 18 to 29, but up among all those over age 30. At the same time trust in TV is up 10 points among those under age 30. Confidence in each medium is up more sharply among those with less education than those with more education.

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