WASHINGTON (AP) — The more Democrats learn about Bernie Sanders, the more they appear to like him.

A greater percentage of Democratic registered voters view the Vermont senator as likable, honest, competent and compassionate than they did just two months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Seventy-two percent now believe he could win the general election, a 21 percentage point increase from the last time the survey was conducted in December.

The findings underscore the challenge facing Hillary Clinton as she enters the Democratic contest’s pivotal spring stretch, when primaries across the country mean that many of the party’s voters will finally get their say on her candidacy.

 Clinton’s campaign has argued that as voters learned more about his record, Sanders will begin to lose support. Instead, it seems that as Sanders has gotten more scrutiny, support for him has only grown. While Clinton continues to be the Democratic candidate who’s most well-liked within her own party, Sanders is gaining on her.

Woodrow Benford, 58, who lives outside Minneapolis, says he didn’t know much about Sanders before he announced his presidential bid, but now Benford plans to caucus for him on March 1.

“Some changes need to be made, some major changes — he’s addressing them,” he said. “I like Hillary Clinton; don’t get me wrong. But she’d never say she’s going to break up the big banks.”

Though Sanders is gaining ground with Democrat voters, Clinton maintains a commanding lock on the party’s leadership. An Associated Press survey of superdelegates, who are influential in picking the nominee, found that 449 of the party insiders back Clinton, while only 19 support Sanders.

If they continue to back Clinton overwhelmingly — they can change their minds— Sanders would have to win the remaining primary contests by a landslide to catch up.

Seventy-four percent of Democratic registered voters say they have a favorable view of Clinton, compared with 64 percent who say the same of Sanders. That’s a 10-point increase for Sanders from December, when 54 percent of Democratic registered voters held a favorable opinion of him.

But 16 percent of Democratic registered voters still say they don’t yet know enough about Sanders to form an opinion. “I know a lot of my Democratic friends are telling me, ‘Feel the Bern,’ but I can’t say that I like him or dislike him,” said Mona Lamberson, 59, of North Philadelphia. “He’s kind of new to the game.”

Since December, Sanders has gained on other measures, too. Six in 10 say he’s at least somewhat decisive, after half said so in the earlier poll. And 64 percent call him competent, after 55 percent said so in December.

Sanders is also more likely to be viewed as very or somewhat honest than he was in December, 64 percent to 56 percent. On that issue, he has a nine percentage point edge over Clinton, who’s viewed as honest by 55 percent of Democrats.

Sanders is the only candidate in either party who’s viewed as somewhat or very compassionate, honest and likable by at least half of all registered voters, and has a significant advantage over Clinton among all voters on each of those measures. Just 30 percent of all voters consider Clinton honest.

“I was going to bite my tongue and vote for Hillary, but I never really trusted her,” said Robert Stone, a 59-year-old from Hilton Head, South Carolina, who already cast an absentee ballot for Sanders. “Every time she opens her mouth, I can’t help but think she’s lying about something.”

But the poll also finds that Clinton maintains a variety of advantages over Sanders. Nine in 10 Democratic registered voters say they think she could win a general election, a 16-point margin over Sanders. She has a 13-point advantage on being viewed as at least somewhat decisive, and a 15-point advantage on being viewed as competent.

Democratic voters are slightly more likely to say that Clinton represents their positions on the issues very or somewhat well than say the same about Sanders, 73 percent to 63 percent. Minority and women voters appeared more likely to describe her as likable and inspiring.

“He’s a very nice boy, but I think it’s all pie in the sky, what he has to offer,” said Renee Gold, 83, of Sarasota, Florida. “Clinton is strong, I admire her and I think if she were to be elected, it would be a good presidency.”

Clinton and Sanders are each viewed positively by about 4 in 10 registered voters overall. But while all registered voters are about evenly divided in their opinions of Sanders, more than half have an unfavorable view of Clinton.

Still, 52 percent of registered voters say they would at least consider voting for each Democrat in a general election, putting them at least slightly higher than every Republican candidate but Marco Rubio on that measure.

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,033 adults, including 389 Democratic or Democratic-leaning registered voters, was conducted online Feb. 11-15, 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 3.4 percentage points, and is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for Democratic voters.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

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Online:

http://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.

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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 2.7 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.

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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.”

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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