By CONNIE CASS, Associated Press

Just last fall, Americans were feeling better about their personal finances. Now they’re starting to worry more about how they’ll pay off debts as they feel the nation’s economic recovery wobbling.

With Congress deadlocked over how to deal with the national debt, household debt is causing stress for nearly half the country, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. One in five adults worries about debt most or all of the time. If they bought something on a credit card in the past month, more than a third say they won’t pay it off when the bill comes.

The increased stress represents a reversal from last fall’s AP-GfK poll, which found increasing confidence about personal finances. Debt-related stress is up 17 percent from that November survey, bumping such worries back up to levels seen in 2009 and in the spring of last year.

“It’s not that our debt is huge. It’s just hard to make it, month to month,” said Theresa Telford, 45, a teacher’s aide raising four kids with her husband, a sheriff’s deputy. “It seems like everything is going up, but wages aren’t going up.”

Telford is also nervous because she’s watched so many people lose their jobs in her small town of Davenport, Wash., and some of her friends still can’t find work. Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, Americans display little faith in a recovery hobbled by grinding unemployment, slow economic growth, volatile gasoline and food prices and political feuding over how to stem the skyrocketing national debt. Consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in June in the Conference Board’s survey.

“We’re starting to be fearful again that things may fall apart,” said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the survey. Lavrakas and other researchers have found that debt can be bad for the health as well as the wallet. Those suffering the most anxiety over their debt are at risk for stress-related illnesses, such as ulcers, depression or heart attacks.

The poll found that households earning more than $75,000 had the biggest increase in debt-related stress since November. But stress levels continue to be highest within the most vulnerable groups: households that have lost jobs, people with family incomes below $20,000, single parents, and adults without high school diplomas. Married moms and adults under 30 years old showed significantly more anxiety than in the fall.

In all, more than 40 million Americans are feeling serious stress over the money they owe, whether it’s for credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other debts, the poll indicates.

It’s a tough period for high school dance instructor James J. Moran of Shelton, Conn. He doesn’t get paid during summer break, except for the occasional dancing or acting jobs he lands.

“For three months I scrape by and I can only afford to make the minimum payments on my credit cards,” said Moran, who owes more than $5,000 on his cards and about $14,000 in student loans. “I put more toward the debts when I can, but when I can’t that’s when I really worry.”

The news isn’t all bleak. Although it ticked upward, the Debt Stress Index based on the AP-GfK poll came in at 29.2, still within the range considered moderately low. Most people say they are handling their credit cards well in lean times.

Nine out of 10 people with credit cards say they trust themselves to handle debt. Most say they use credit cards because they’re more convenient than cash. About half say they charge only what they can afford to pay for at the end of the month.

“Am I going off and buying things right now? No,” said Donald Doane, 53, of Duluth, Minn. Doane said he carries “a little debt but nothing I can’t handle” on a low-interest credit card that he reserves for emergencies and big purchases.

A salesman for Savories Catering in Duluth, Minn., Doane tracks the economy by how much his customers spend on wedding receptions and office parties. “People are spending,” he said, “it’s just that they’re being more frugal.”

Americans have been borrowing less and saving more in response to the Great Recession and its aftermath. Credit card borrowing increased in May, only the second monthly gain since August 2008, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest figures. The total is still down 18.5 percent from its peak in August 2008.

The AP-GfK poll put median credit card debt in June at $800, the same as in November. Average debt was down slightly from November at $3,200. About four in 10 people surveyed owe more than $1,000 in credit card debt. One in every 10 owes $10,000 or more.

Lavrakas said the poll provides a snapshot of the typical American who’s seriously stressed by debt: a working parent, in his or her 30s or early 40s, who doesn’t have a high school diploma and is raising a family on household income of less than $20,000.

Those reporting the highest stress levels were more likely than others to say they had debt due to medical bills, that their financial situation was “very poor,” that they charge things they know they cannot pay off when the bill comes and that they don’t trust themselves to manage their credit cards. They are pessimistic about the future, both because of their personal finances and the nation’s.

“The most stressed people are at the lower financial tiers, and that’s just the reality of their life,” Lavrakas said. “The optimism that some of them may have had last fall didn’t pan out. They’ve sunk into being pessimistic and they have good reason to be.”

Troy Clawson, a disabled former construction worker in Felsenthal, Ark., said he has been worrying more about his debts — his mortgage and car payments, medical bills for himself and his wife, and store credit cards at Wal-Mart and an auto repair shop.

So Clawson, 60, is trying to be more cautious and avoid pulling out his credit cards. “I don’t really like to,” he said, “but sometimes it’s necessary when you’re in a bind.”

The AP-GfK poll was conducted June 16-20 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide, including 715 who have credit cards. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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Associated Press writer Stacy Anderson, Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

Online:

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

 

 

 

How the debt-stress poll was conducted

 

By The Associated Press

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on debt-related stress was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from June 16-20. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,001 adults, including 715 credit card holders. 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 4.1 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all adults in the U.S. were polled. The margin of sampling error for credit card holders is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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 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.”

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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.

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Online:

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


AP-GfK Poll: Majority of Americans fear Trump presidency

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and EMILY SWANSON

NEW YORK (AP) — More than half the country fears a Trump presidency. And only about a third of Americans believe he is at least somewhat qualified to serve in the White House.

In the final sprint to Election Day, a new Associated Press-GfK poll underscores those daunting roadblocks for Donald Trump as he tries to overtake Hillary Clinton.

Moreover, most voters oppose the hard-line approach to immigration that is a centerpiece of the billionaire businessman’s campaign. They are more likely to trust Clinton to handle a variety of issues facing the country, and Trump has no advantage on the national security topics also at the forefront of his bid.

Trump undoubtedly has a passionate base of support, seen clearly among the thousands of backers who fill the stands at his signature rallies. But most people don’t share that fervor. Only 29 percent of registered voters would be excited and just 24 percent would be proud should Trump prevail in November.

Only one in four voters find him even somewhat civil or compassionate, and just a third say he’s not at all racist.

“We as Americans should be embarrassed about Donald Trump,” said Michael DeLuise, 66, a retired university vice president and registered Republican who lives in Eugene, Oregon. “We as Americans have always been able to look at the wacky leaders of other countries and say ‘Phew, that’s not us.’ We couldn’t if Trump wins. It’s like putting P.T. Barnum in charge. And it’s getting dangerous.”

To be sure, the nation is sour on Clinton, too. Only 39 percent of voters have a favorable view of the Democratic nominee, compared to the 56 percent who view her unfavorably. Less than a third say they would be excited or proud should she move into the White House.

“I think she’s an extremely dishonest person and have extreme disdain for her and her husband,” said one registered Republican, Denise Pettitte, 36, from Watertown, Wisconsin. “I think it would be wonderful to elect a woman, but a different woman.”

But as poorly as voters may view Clinton, they think even less of Trump.

Forty-four percent say they would be afraid if Clinton, the former secretary of state, is elected, far less than say the same of Trump. He’s viewed more unfavorably than favorably by a 61 percent to 34 percent margin, and more say their unfavorable opinion of the New Yorker is a strong one than say the same of Clinton, 50 percent to 44 percent.

That deep distain for both candidates prompts three-quarters of voters to say that a big reason they’ll be casting their ballot is to stop someone, rather than elect someone.

“It’s not really a vote for her as it’s a vote against Trump,” said Mark Corbin, 59, a business administrator and registered Democrat from Media, Pennsylvania.

Roughly half of voters see Clinton at least somewhat qualified, while just 30 percent say Trump is.

Even when it comes to what may be Clinton’s greatest weakness, the perception that she is dishonest, Trump fails to perform much better: 71 percent say she’s only slightly or not at all honest, while 66 percent say the same of Trump. Forty-nine percent say Clinton is at least somewhat corrupt, but 43 percent say that of Trump.

“Whatever her problems are, they don’t even come close to him,” said JoAnn Dinkelman, 66, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, California, who will cross party lines and vote for Clinton. “Everything that comes out of his mouth that is fact-checked turns out to be a lie.”

Trump finds no respite with voters when it comes to what he vows to do as president, either.

Nearly 6 in 10 oppose his promise to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and only 21 percent of his supporters and 9 percent of registered voters overall are very confident he would succeed at fulfilling his promise that Mexico would pay for the construction.

Six in 10 believe there should be a way for immigrants living in the country illegally to become U.S. citizens — a view that Trump opposes.

“The wall isn’t the answer. It’s not feasible and Mexico won’t pay for it,” said Timothy Seitz, 26, a graduate student at the Ohio State University and a Republican. “We should be leaders. We shouldn’t cower from others and cut ourselves off in the world.”

Beyond immigration, voters say they trust Clinton over Trump by wide margins when it comes to health care, race relations and negotiations with Russia. She also narrowly tops Trump when it comes to filling Supreme Court vacancies, as well as another of the billionaire’s signature issues: handling international trade.

Trump is narrowly favored on creating jobs, 39 percent to 35 percent, while in general, voters are about equally split on which candidate would better handle the economy. Voters are slightly more likely to trust Trump than Clinton on handling gun laws, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Voters are closely split on which candidate would better handle protecting the country and evenly divided on which would better handle the threat posed by the Islamic State group. And Americans are much more likely to say they trust Clinton than Trump to do a better job handling the U.S. image abroad.

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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 plus or minus 2.7 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.

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Online:

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