By JENNIFER AGIESTA and ROBERT BURNS

Was the U.S. right to kill Osama bin Laden? Absolutely, and about time, Americans say.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows the nation supporting the raid with rare unanimity, and the glow from the operation is also boosting approval for President Barack Obama’s handling of terrorism and the war in Afghanistan.

Few events have sparked such soaring approval from the nation, and almost nothing has since George W. Bush’s handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Enthusiasm for the risky raid after its success has given Obama some of his highest marks since early in his presidency, and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected.

At the same time, many say bin Laden’s death has increased the threat of terrorism against America.

The death, after nearly a decade-long hunt, of the man blamed for killing thousands of Americans also appeared to help boost Americans’ optimism in areas that would seem to have little connection to bin Laden, terrorism or national security.

More Americans — 45 percent, up from 35 percent in March — say the country is headed in the right direction. Still, about half — 52 percent — say things are heading the wrong way, reflecting the effect of more polarizing domestic issues such as the economy, federal budget deficit and health care overhaul.

Despite a sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, 52 percent of Americans now approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy, giving him his best rating on that issue since the early days of his presidency.

Overall, Obama’s approval rating is up to 60 percent from 53 percent in March and the 47 percent low point following last fall’s congressional elections. It was 64 percent in May 2009, just months after he was sworn into office. Independents, who are likely to be a key voting bloc in the 2012 presidential election, caused the new uptick in support by sliding back to Obama.

The AP-GfK results were striking in that they found Obama with a higher approval rating than other recent polls that generally said he was in the low 50s. Polls often produce varying results because of differences in question wording and polling methodology. Also, during periods when public opinion about an issue is particularly volatile, and at times when the public is being presented with rapidly changing information, it is not uncommon to see wider variations across polls, even those conducted around the same time.

Some conservatives criticized the AP-GfK poll as heavy with responses from Democrats that skewed the results. AP-GfK polls use a consistent methodology that draws a random sample of the population independent of party identification. Such identification is not static and tends to fluctuate over time along with other political opinions. However, the change in party identification in the current AP-GfK current poll is not a statistically significant shift from the previous poll in March and could not by itself explain the poll findings

The poll reflected somewhat mixed feelings by Americans about the ramifications of the bin Laden raid and the general trend of terrorist threats.

Although nearly nine in 10 of those polled approved of killing the al-Qaida leader, 50 percent said it increased the threat of terrorist acts against the United States. Seventeen percent said it decreased the threat, while 31 percent said they believed it had no effect on terrorism.

On the other hand, the poll showed Americans are a little less worried about becoming victims of terrorism themselves. Thirty-three percent said they often or sometimes worry, down slightly from 37 percent last November and 40 percent in January 2010. Thirty-three percent said they are very or somewhat worried that they or a member of their family might become victims of a terrorist attack, about on par with 35 percent who said so two years ago.

Three-quarters said it took too long to find the al-Qaida leader, who fled from Afghanistan’s eastern mountains into Pakistan in late 2001 under pursuit by U.S. forces and apparently had holed up in a compound in a city not far from Islamabad for the past several years.

According to the U.S. government, bin Laden was shot to death by a team of Navy SEAL commandos that swept into his compound aboard helicopters May 2. Bin Laden did not have a weapon in his hands at the time he was shot but appeared to be reaching for one, U.S. officials say.

In the poll, conducted May 5-9, some 86 percent said they approved of the way the U.S. military and the CIA handled the raid, in which the Pakistan government was not informed until the SEALs had left Pakistani airspace. Just 6 percent disapproved. And 87 percent considered killing bin Laden during the raid to be justified, while nine percent said U.S. forces were not justified in killing the al-Qaida leader.

Asked whether the Obama administration should release a photo of bin Laden’s corpse, 64 percent said no; 34 percent felt a photo or video should be released. The day before the poll began, the Obama administration announced it would not release photos of bin Laden’s dead body. Nearly two-thirds in the poll said the government has released enough information about the raid.

In the aftermath of the bin Laden killing, some have argued that information obtained through harsh interrogations during the Bush administration was important in putting the U.S. on his trail. Six in ten in the poll said the use of torture against suspected terrorists in pursuit of information about terrorism is sometimes or often justified, up from about half in an AP-GfK poll two years ago.

Obama has called the elimination of bin Laden a major step forward in defeating al-Qaida, while cautioning that U.S. forces will continue pursuing other terrorist leaders and will keep a military presence in neighboring Afghanistan through 2014 to prevent that country from again becoming a haven for the organization. The president is approaching a decision on how many troops to withdraw in July as part of a planned four-year transition to Afghan government control of security across the country.

On the war itself, 59 percent said they oppose it and 37 percent support it — little changed from other recent polling.

But the new poll found a marked increase in public approval of Obama’s handling of the war. Sixty-five percent said they approve, compared with 55 percent in an AP-GfK survey in late March and 48 percent last November.

Eight in 10 said they like Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July and to end the U.S. combat role there by the end of 2014. Fifteen percent disapprove. Nearly six in 10 called that timetable about right, while 26 percent said it was too slow.

On the broader question of Obama’s handling of terrorism, 72 percent approved, compared to 61 percent in March. His gains were even more dramatic among those who said they strongly approve: 40 percent, compared to 25 percent in March.

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

___

Robert Burns can be reached at http://twitter.com/robertburnsAP

___

Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

 

How the poll was conducted

 

By The Associated Press

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on Osama bin Laden and terrorism was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from May 5-9. It is based on landline and cell phone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted with 700 respondents on landline telephones and 301 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 4.2 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.

The questions and results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com .

 

 


AP-GfK poll: Voters more confident in Trump’s health
WASHINGTON (AP) — The “stamina,” the “look”: A new poll suggests voters are buying in to Donald Trump’s insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s health. They’re ignoring the medical reports.

Voters — especially men — have more confidence that Trump is healthy enough for the presidency than Clinton, according to the Associated Press-GfK poll.

It’s a disconnect considering Clinton has released more medical information than Trump, and that outside doctors who’ve looked at the available data say both candidates seem fine. But it shows the political points Trump scored after the Democratic nominee’s much-publicized mild case of pneumonia.

 Another gender divide: Nearly half of women but just 4 in 10 men think Clinton’s health is getting too much attention, found the poll, which was taken before the presidential candidates’ debate on Monday.

“Everybody gets sick,” said Sherri Smart, 56, of New York. She said she hasn’t decided who to vote for but wishes the candidates would discuss issues instead of sniping about who’s most vigorous.

“What’s important is, what are you going to do for me?” Smart said.

The AP-GfK poll found 51 percent of voters are very or extremely confident that Trump is healthy enough to be president. In contrast, just over a third of voters — 36 percent — had the same confidence in Clinton’s health.

Men are more likely to question Clinton’s physical fitness for the job, with 45 percent saying they’re only slightly or not at all confident compared to 34 percent of women. Men and women are about equally likely to express confidence in Trump’s health. More Democrats are confident of Trump’s health than Republicans are of Clinton’s.

Health is a legitimate issue as the nation is poised to elect one of its oldest presidents. Trump, 70, for months held off disclosing much about his own fitness while stoking questions about a woman in the White House with his assertion, repeated on national TV Monday, that Clinton lacks the look and stamina for the job. (As for his apparent sniffles during Monday’s debate, he blamed a bad microphone.)

“Stamina is a code word for maybe not physically up to the job,” said New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who has called for an independent panel to certify the health of presidential candidates. “There’s something of a bias about men versus women that subtly Trump has played to, that men are more fit, tough enough to do the job.”

Clinton, 68, last year released more detail about her own health history only to buy trouble earlier this month by refusing to take a sick day until a public stumble forced her to reveal the pneumonia diagnosis. But Monday she rebutted Trump’s talk of stamina by wondering if he could match her grueling schedule as a secretary of state — traveling to 112 countries, negotiating peace deals, spending 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee.

What exactly do we know about their health? Neither has released their actual medical records, just a summary from their personal physicians with no way to know if anything important was left out.

Yet another disconnect: The AP-GfK poll found nearly 4 in 10 voters don’t consider such a release important, and another 2 in 10 say it’s only moderately important.

Trump’s gastroenterologist in December released a four-paragraph letter saying the GOP nominee would be “the healthiest individual ever elected.” Earlier this month, Trump took to “The Dr. Oz Show” to say he felt great, while releasing a bit more detail, such as his cholesterol levels and cancer screenings.

Bottom line: Trump takes a cholesterol-lowering statin medication and a baby aspirin, has some mild plaque in his arteries and is overweight — but was declared generally in good health.

Last summer, Clinton’s internist released a two-page letter detailing her family history, prior exams including lab test results, and some prior ailments that have healed — including a 2012 concussion and blood clot Clinton suffered after becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus and fainting. This month, a second letter outlined the mild pneumonia and revealed some updated check-up results.

Bottom line: Clinton takes a blood thinner as a precaution given a history of blood clots, as well as a thyroid medication and allergy relievers — but also was declared generally in good health.

Some doctors say just watching how the candidates handle a physically demanding campaign trail and the cognitive finesse needed to debate can give voters a good idea of health.

But while the public may not pay attention to cholesterol tests and EKGs, it was hard to miss that image of Clinton stumbling.

“The public is feeding off the impressions they’ve received, but that’s not borne out by the letters of health,” said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at Quinnipiac University.

___

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, 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 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.7 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 shows voter distaste for Putin-style leadership
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a leader — unlike what we have in this country.”

But most Americans don’t agree with Trump’s assessment of Putin’s leadership skills, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Only 24 percent of registered voters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to share, while 71 percent say he does not. In fact, a majority, 56 percent, said they have an unfavorable view of Putin, while only 10 percent said they view the Russian leader favorably.

 Voters were split on whether Trump would be too close to Putin, with 42 percent saying they think Trump would be too close, and 41 percent saying his approach would be about right. Fourteen percent think he would not be close enough.
By comparison, most voters (53 percent) think Democrat Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Putin would be about right, while 11 percent think she would be too close and 32 percent think she would not be close enough.

The relationship between the Republican nominee and the Russian strongman began taking on new life when Putin praised Trump last December as “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

The billionaire businessman hailed Putin’s regard for him as a “great honor,” brushing off widespread allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing of political dissidents and journalists.

“Our country does plenty of killing also,” Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in December.

Four in 10 Trump supporters and only 1 in 10 Hillary Clinton supporters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to have. Still, even among Trump’s supporters, just 16 percent have a favorable opinion of Putin. Only 5 percent of Clinton’s supporters do.

Marissa Garth, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Smithfield, Utah, said she plans to vote for Trump this November because he exhibits the qualities of a strong leader — not to be compared with Putin.

“I think (Putin) is a strong leader for his country,” she said. “But at the same time I don’t think he necessarily has the qualities that I would want as a president.”

In fact, the poll finds that men are more likely than women to say that Putin has leadership qualities that would be good in an American president, 28 percent to 19 percent.

Among Clinton’s supporters, 69 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin. Forty-nine percent of those supporting another candidate share that view, but only 8 percent of Trump supporters say their candidate would be too close to Putin. Eighty percent of Trump supporters say his approach would be about right. Among conservatives, 20 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin.

There is nothing 54-year old Gary Sellers, of Homewood, Illinois, likes about Putin — or Trump. He called Putin a “dictator,” adding, “there are no qualities of his that I wish that an American president would have.”

A lukewarm Clinton supporter, he’s concerned that Trump shares Putin’s extreme views of governing. “I feel he has a dictatorial approach toward being president of the United States,” Sellers said of Trump.

Forty-seven percent of voters say they approve and 52 percent disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia.

Voters are divided over whether the next president should take a tougher approach to Putin (42 percent) or whether the current approach is about right (39 percent). Just 16 percent think the next president should take a friendlier approach.

Just under half of voters (48 percent) say the U.S. relationship with Russia is a very or extremely important issue, ranking it low on Americans’ list of priorities, far below issues like the economy (92 percent), the threat posed by the Islamic State group (70 percent), the U.S. role in world affairs more generally (68 percent) and immigration (60 percent).

There’s a generational divide over Russia. Two-thirds of voters age 65 and over and more than half of those between 50 and 64 call the U.S. relationship with Russia very or extremely important, while only 4 in 10 30-49 year olds and only a third of those under 30 say the same.

Generally speaking, voters are more likely to say they trust Clinton than Trump on negotiating with Russia, 40 percent to 33 percent. Nineteen percent say they trust neither and 7 percent trust both equally.

John Eppenger, 68, a retiree in Fairfield, Ala., said that when it comes to dealing with Russia, Clinton would “do a much better job than Trump. She’s not perfect, she’s not ideal, but she’s better.”

___

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, 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 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.5 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