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Taking the public's pulse on business, politics, and culture, by KARLYN BOWMAN.
Exporting Democracy 07/17/2014 

In a new CBS News/New York Times poll on the situation in Iraq, 37 percent of adults said the United States has a responsibility to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy, but 57 percent said the country does not. Half of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats said Iraq’s stability was not our responsibility. Although Americans agree that the world would be safer with more democracies, they aren’t sure we know enough to produce stable ones.

Gun Control 07/16/2014 

When the Pew Research Center asked adults what was more important to them, 49 percent said it was to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while a virtually identical 48 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership. A recent Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters also found a pretty even split: 50 percent supported stricter gun control laws, while 47 percent opposed them.

Free Trade 07/10/2014 

A newly released Pew Research Center survey finds that 59 percent of adults think free trade agreements between the United States and other countries have been a good thing for the United States, while 30 percent disagreed. Pew asked the question in 2009 and again in 2011, and the new responses are the most positive. Although Pew did not include the question in its new survey, the last time the polling organization asked about specific free trade agreements like NAFTA, more people said it was a bad thing (44 percent) than a good thing (35 percent) for the United States.

Closing Gitmo 07/08/2014 

In a new Fox News poll, 52 percent of registered voters said they wanted to continue to hold terrorist suspects in the military prison at Guantanamo, while 36 percent said it was time to move them to federal prisons in the United States and close Guantanamo. Early in the Obama administration, in January 2009, in response to a slightly different question, more people (47 percent) said it should be closed than kept open (45 percent). In the abstract, Americans liked the idea of closing the base, but when the possible implications of closing it — putting terrorists suspects in federal prisons — became clear, Americans changed their minds. 

Obama's Foreign Policy 07/03/2014 

When President Barack Obama entered office, his marks on handling foreign policy were high. The public applauded the president’s decisions to draw down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But today Americans are critical of the job he is doing. A new poll of registered voters by Fox News finds that only 32 percent, an all-time low in Fox’s polling, approve of the way the president is handling foreign policy. A new CBS News/New York Times poll of adults revealed that 37 percent supported the way he is handling the situation in Iraq. Two-thirds say the president hasn’t explained his goals there.

Morality Redefined 07/01/2014 

Since 2002, the Gallup Organization has been asking adults every year whether certain behaviors or practices are morally acceptable. In their latest poll, large majorities of adults said birth control (90 percent) and divorce (69 percent) were morally acceptable. At the bottom of Gallup’s list in terms of acceptability were polygamy (14 percent), cloning humans (13 percent), and extramarital affairs (7 percent). In the new poll, 58 percent of adults (up from 45 percent in 2002) said having a baby out of marriage was morally acceptable. Forty percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats agreed.

Health Care Alternatives 06/26/2014 

Republicans in Congress continue to debate whether their party should have a single alternative to the Affordable Care Act. In its May poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation asked adults whether the Republicans members had an agreed-upon health care alternative to the health care law. Thirteen percent said that Republicans did, but 63 percent said they didn’t. The results were virtually identical in Kaiser’s March poll.

Tired of the ACA 06/24/2014 

The Kaiser Family Foundation provides regular updates on public attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act and related issues. In their latest poll, the foundation asked people whether they were tired of hearing about the health care law or whether they thought candidates for Congress should continue to debate it. Fifty-three percent said they wanted the candidates to move on, while 40 percent said they wanted the debate to continue.

A Dream in Danger 06/17/2014 

A key tenet of the American Dream is that children will grow up to be better off than their parents. Deep economic pessimism has done some real damage to the idea, as a new poll of adults from CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation shows. Just a third (34 percent) thought most children would be better off than their parents, while 63 percent thought they would be worse off. Non-whites (45 percent) were more optimistic than whites (30 percent) about their children’s prospects.

Social Security Promises 06/10/2014 

In mid-May, when CBS News asked non-retired adults whether the Social Security system would have the money available to provide the benefits they expected for their retirement, only 32 percent said it would. A large majority, 63 percent, said it would not. In December 2011, non-retirees were more optimistic — 36 percent expected the money to be there. The new responses are in line with those of other pollsters that ask similar questions.