By CALVIN WOODWARD and ANN SANNER, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — He’s 30, between jobs, with $50,000 in student debt and no clear sense what the future holds. But Erik Santamaria, Ohio-born son of Salvadorans, has a pretty awesome attitude about his country, his life and the world of possibilities.

“Maybe things won’t work out the way I want,” he says. “But, boy, I sure can’t complain about how things have worked out so far.”

This is the sweet spot of American optimism, a trait that looms large in the nation’s history and imagination. To find it these days, talk to an immigrant, the child of one or, failing that, a young person of any background. That’s where the torch seems most likely to burn brightly.

With anyone else, it’s hit or miss.

For many, these times are a slog.

That “shining city on a hill” from political mythology looks more like a huffing climb up a field filled with ticks. Public opinion researchers find handwringing at almost every turn, over a glum and nervous decade defined by terrorism, then war, then recession, then paltry economic recovery.

Still, you aren’t seeing pessimism in the season of the political conventions.

 

The Democrats, convening Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., want to corner the franchise on happier tomorrows, just as the Republicans wanted at their convention this past week. The notion that America’s best days are ahead comes packaged and polished from the stage, cheered by delegates in goofy hats.

But such platitudes probably won’t go far with Marie Holly, 54.

 

On her lunch break in a mall just north of Columbus, Holly recounts a struggle to get by as a temporary floor designer at a department store, making one-third of the salary she once earned at a graphics-design firm that cut hours and wages before she quit in January to freelance. She firmly believes in the American Dream, but in the sense of dreaming it, not grasping it.

“I’m not seeing anything to strive for, I guess,” she said. “I’m settling.”

 

Polls sing the blues:

 

— Nearly two-thirds lack confidence that life for today’s children will be better than it has been for today’s adults, according to an NBC-Wall Street Journal survey in May.

 

— Half of registered voters do not see the U.S. as the shining city on a hill, meaning the example for other countries, though 45 percent do, according to a Fox News poll in June.

 

— In April 2011, a USA Today-Gallup poll found that optimism that the next generation’s lives will be better than parents’ dropped to its lowest level since the question was asked in 1983. Only 42 percent thought so. Before then, majorities always believed their children would have a better life.

 

— In a dramatic drop from the late 1990s and early 2000s, just over one-third were satisfied with the U.S. position in the world in a February Gallup poll, down from at least two-thirds in the months before and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Younger people, though, typically see a rosier future than older generations. As long as that holds, optimism stays woven in the nation’s fabric.

 

In an August Associated Press-Gfk poll, only about half said it’s likely that today’s youth will have a better standard of living than their parents. But optimism was the greatest among those who have the farthest to climb — those of modest to low income, and the young themselves.

 

In the poll, 55 percent of those earning under $50,000 said it’s likely the next generation will do better; 58 percent of those under 35 expect to have a better life than their parents.

 

So it seems to be with Santamaria. He possesses both the idealism of his recently completed college years and the belief, perhaps stirred by his immigrant parents, that this is a land of options.

 

“Their dream for me would be picking the tallest building out here and making the most money,” he said, sitting on a picnic table outside a downtown Columbus market with friends, and gesturing to the cityscape.

 

Before getting his English literature degree in June, he worked at the Limited Brands in Columbus, where he was responsible for communicating with managers and customs officers to make sure paperwork for overseas Bath & Body Works stores was properly handled.

 

“I know people are really struggling out there,” he says. “But I looked for a few months and I ended up at the world headquarters of the Limited Brands, and I didn’t even have my degree yet. I mean, months. And yeah, they were stressful but when I look back, I mean, a few months and I ended up there and I didn’t even want to be there. I mean that’s unreal. That’s unreal opportunity.”

 

Santamaria left that job and won’t be seeking work at the city’s tallest building, 41 stories housing state employees. He set his sights since growing up in Toledo on “being able to do something you really loved to do,” more than raking in riches.

 

So he is moving to Pittsburgh to set up a nondenominational Christian church on the University of Pittsburgh campus. He won’t be getting paid but hopes to get a foot in the door at a counselor’s office and someday become an academic adviser and preacher.

 

Kayla Ruffin, 17, from Sylvania, Ohio, gives voice, too, to the idea that it’s the young and restless who are sunny side up.

“It’s really hard to get me in a bad mood,” she said during orientation for new students at Ohio State University, where she is a freshman. “I’m usually pretty excited to learn new things and meet new people.”

 

She’s free of the burdens of college debt and likely to stay that way, not typical for many students. “My dad, he has it all figured out,” she said. “He’s been planning my tuition since I was like born. So he’s made it easy for me.”

 

Ruffin will be studying aeronautical engineering and wants to design spaceships. “I just love everything that NASA does.” And if that doesn’t work, she said she’ll tap into the same design skills to make golf clubs.

 

The February Gallup poll found that pessimism about life for the next generation deepened with age. Also, that the poor were more optimistic about tomorrow than the rich.

 

However down Americans get about the country’s direction and what the future might hold, they tend to be more satisfied with their own lives.

 

Carl Adler, 69, is one of those. A retired Lutheran minister, he said his family learned to live on modest means and, with Social Security benefits and his wife’s pension from years of teaching, “I’m wealthier now than I’ve ever been in my life.”

Still, he said, “I think people my age are finding it difficult to be optimistic.”

 

Does he believe the American dream is alive? “Oh boy, I don’t know. I think it will be possible for fewer people.”

“I’m not sure what the American dream is, to be honest, anymore. … It seems like the middle class is disappearing.”

 

This is more than an abstract thought for him. He’s giving part of his retirement income to his son, who is married with two young kids and hasn’t seen a raise in three years at the public college where he works in information technology. His daughter-in-law is in nursing school.

 

Ohio is a battleground state, so the political opinions of people who are out and about in Columbus no doubt matter more to the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns than voters’ attitudes in the most dependable Democratic and Republican states.

 

But do people here think actions in Washington affect their lives? The capital seems awfully far away. Optimism, or pessimism, may have roots closer to home.

 

Adler’s sense of wealth comes not just from retirement money but from family gatherings that carry on a life-long musical tradition: “If all the family is together, we have 28 people playing horns,” he says.

 

For Santamaria, too, joy isn’t derived from what happens inside the Washington Beltway. He says, “I don’t depend on any president for my happiness.”

 

___

 

Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

 

 

How the AP-GfK poll was conducted

 

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on prospects for the next generation was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Aug. 16-20. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,006 adults. Interviews were conducted with 604 respondents on landline telephones and 402 on cellular phones.

 

Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

 

Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

 

As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

 

No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.9 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all adults in the U.S. were polled.

 

There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

 

AP-GfK Poll: Most believe allegations about Trump and women
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s behavior has long grated on Carolyn Miller, but the allegations he sexually assaulted women was one factor that helped her decide in the last week to cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t think she’s a bad person. Trump, I think, is a bad person,” the 70-year-old Fort Myers, Florida, resident said. As for Trump’s accusers, Miller added, “I believe them.” And she said her vote for Clinton is “a default.”

Miller is among the more than 7 in 10 Americans who say in a new Associated Press-GfK poll that they believe the women who say the Republican presidential candidate kissed or groped them without their consent, a verdict that may have turned off enough voters, including some Republicans, to add to his challenges in the presidential race.

 Forty-two percent of Republican voters and 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters think the accusations are probably true. Men and women are about equally likely to think so.

While the poll suggests the wave of allegations about Trump’s treatment of women may blunt the impact of voters’ concerns about Clinton, it was taken before Friday’s news that the FBI will investigate whether there is classified information in newly uncovered emails related to its probe of her private server. Those emails were not from her server, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Before the development, the poll found that about half of voters say her use of the private server while she was secretary of state makes them less likely to vote for her. But they were more likely to say that Trump’s comments about women bother them a lot than to say the same about Clinton’s email server, 51 percent to 43 percent.

Since September, Clinton seems to have consolidated her support within her own party and drawn undecided voters such as Miller to her campaign, or at least pushed them away from Trump. The billionaire’s recent trouble with women seems to be one factor preventing him from doing the same.

He feuded with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado after Clinton noted he’d called her “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight while she wore the crown. Days later, a 2005 recording surfaced in which Trump can be heard describing himself sexually assaulting women in a conversation with Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood.”

Several women have since publicly accused Trump of groping and kissing them without permission, including a People magazine reporter who said Trump attacked her when his wife, Melania, was out of the room.

Trump called his remarks on the video “locker room talk,” dismissed the accusations as “fiction” and said of several accusers that they aren’t attractive enough to merit his attention.

Asked Thursday on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” whether he thinks he would be ahead were it not for the “Access Hollywood” video, Trump replied, “I just don’t know. I think it was very negative.”

A majority of voters, 52 percent, say allegations about the way Trump treats women make them less likely to vote for him, including a fifth of Republican likely voters. And within that group, only about a third say they will vote for him, with about a third supporting Clinton and the remainder supporting third party candidates.

That may help explain why just 79 percent of Republican in the poll said they’re supporting Trump compared with 90 percent of Democrats supporting Clinton. Trump needs to close that gap to have any shot at victory.

Trump has tried to equate the accusations against him with charges of infidelity and sexual assault leveled for years against his rival’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. Trump has paraded the former president’s accusers before the cameras and accused Hillary Clinton of undermining her husband’s accusers.

The poll shows a majority of voters don’t buy Trump’s attempt at equivalence. Six in 10 say the allegations against the Clintons have no impact on their vote. That’s despite the fact that 63 percent think Hillary Clinton has probably threatened or undermined women who have accused her husband of sexual misconduct.

“The vote will be about Hillary Clinton, not her husband,” said Ryan Otteson, 33, of Salt Lake City, who’s voting for a third-party candidate, conservative independent Evan McMullin.

Valori Waggoner, a 26-year-old from Belton, Texas, said she believes Hillary Clinton probably did intimidate her husband’s accusers, but she said it makes no difference to how Waggoner is voting.

Waggoner was not going to vote for Clinton anyway, because as a doctor, Waggoner said she sees firsthand the inefficiency of the national health care plan that Clinton supports. But the alleged wrongdoing by Trump made her less likely to vote for the Republican. Instead, she’s backing Libertarian Gary Johnson.

The degree of alleged wrongdoing by the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, Waggoner said, “are not equal.”

Most likely voters in the poll say they think Trump has little to no respect for women, with female voters especially likely to say he has none at all.

Clinton leads female likely voters by a 22 point margin in the poll, and even has a slight 5 point lead among men. In September’s AP-GfK poll, Clinton led women by a 17 point margin and trailed slightly by 6 points among men.

___

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.

___

Online:

Poll results: http://ap-gfkpoll.com


AP-GfK poll: Most Trump supporters doubt election legitimacy

By Jonathan Lemire and Emily Swanson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump’s dubious claims the presidential election is “rigged” have taken root among most of his supporters, who say they will have serious doubts about the legitimacy of the election’s outcome if Hillary Clinton wins, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Just 35 percent of Trump’s supporters say they will most likely accept the results of the election as legitimate if Clinton wins, while 64 percent say they’re more likely to have serious doubts about the accuracy of the vote count if the Republican nominee is not the victor.

“Of course I believe it’s rigged, and of course I won’t accept the results,” said Mike Cannilla, 53, a Trump supporter from the New York borough of Staten Island. “It’s from the top: Obama is trying to take over the country, he’s covering up all of Hillary’s crimes and he’s controlling the media trying to make Trump lose.”

“Our only chance on Nov. 9 is if the military develops a conscience and takes matters into its own hands,” Cannilla said.

By contrast, 69 percent of Clinton’s supporters say they’ll accept the outcome if Trump wins. Only 30 percent of the Democratic nominee’s backers express a reluctance to accept the results if the former secretary of state loses on Election Day.

Overall, 77 percent of likely voters say they’ll accept the legitimacy of the results if Trump wins, while 70 percent say the same of a Clinton win.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump has made doubts about the integrity of the U.S. election system a cornerstone of his closing argument. Asked directly at the final presidential debate if he would accept the election results, Trump refused, saying: “I will keep you in suspense.”

That extraordinary statement, with its potential to challenge the peaceful transition of power that is a hallmark of the American democracy, did little to harm him with his base of supporters. The poll found that 44 percent of all likely voters say Trump’s stance makes them less likely to support him, but the vast majority of his supporters say it doesn’t make a difference.

“He should fight it all the way,” said George Smith, 51, a Trump supporter from Roswell, Georgia. “Spend weeks in court if he has to. He can’t let it be taken from him. That’s his right.”

Trump has also repeated inaccurate claims that vote fraud is a widespread problem, and the poll finds that most of Trump’s supporters share that concern. Fifty-six percent think there’s a great deal of voter fraud, 36 percent believe there is some, and 6 percent say there’s hardly any.

Most Clinton supporters, 64 percent, think there’s hardly any voter fraud. Overall, just 27 percent of likely voters think there’s a great deal of fraud. A third of voters overall believe there is at least some, while 38 percent say there is hardly any.

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem. In one study, a Loyola Law School professor found 31 instances involving allegations of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014.

Beyond allegations of fraud, 40 percent of Trump supporters say they have little to no confidence that votes in the election will be counted accurately. Another 34 percent say they have only a moderate amount of confidence, and just 24 percent say they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the vote count.

Among Clinton supporters, 79 percent say they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the vote count’s accuracy. Many believe Trump should voice support for the electoral system even in defeat.

“Be an adult. Accept the results,” said Shavone Danzy-Kinloch, 37, a Clinton supporter from Farmingville, New York. “If the shoe was on the other foot, he’d expect Hillary to do the same.”

Trump’s supporters are also more likely than others to say they are concerned about hackers interfering with the election. Forty-six percent of them are extremely or very concerned and 37 percent somewhat concerned. Overall, 32 percent of voters say they’re extremely to very concerned and 39 percent somewhat concerned. Among Clinton supporters, 60 percent are at least somewhat concerned.

Although the poll shows many Trump supporters would have doubts about a Clinton win, the poll shows relatively little acute concern that claims of inaccuracy and voter fraud could prevent Americans overall from accepting the results. Just 30 percent of likely voters are extremely or very concerned about that, while another 40 percent are somewhat concerned.

Twenty-nine percent say they’re not very or not at all concerned.

“If she wins, we’re all going to have live with it,” said Daniel Ricco, 76, a Trump supporter from Milford, Connecticut. “It won’t be good for the country, but there’s nothing we can do.”

___

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.

___

Online:

Poll results: http://ap-gfkpoll.com

___

Swanson reported from Washington.

___

Follow Jonathan Lemire and AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/JonLemire and http://twitter.com/El_Swan