By DONNA CASSATA

President Barack Obama is under pressure from Congress to spell out an exit strategy for the U.S. military in Libya and provide a clear plan to end Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule as the American public remains fiercely divided over the war.

Obama delivered a full-throated defense of his decision to deploy military forces to prevent a slaughter of Libyan civilians in his speech Monday and in the shadow of the United Nations on Tuesday. The president said the nation’s conscience and its common interests “compel us to act” to protect civilian lives in Libya.

“We’ve learned from bitter experience — from the wars that were not prevented, the innocent lives that were not saved — is that all that’s necessary for evil to triumph is that good people and responsible nations stand by and do nothing,” the president said at the dedication of the Ronald H. Brown mission at the U.N.

In a series of network interviews, Obama insisted that the “noose is tightening” around Gadhafi although forces loyal to the longtime leader pounded the rebels with tanks and rockets Wednesday, forcing them to retreat. The president did not rule out arming the rebels, saying the U.S. and its partners could get weapons into Libya and all options were being considered.

In the course of his statements, however, Obama created more questions among lawmakers when he said ousting Gadhafi militarily would be a mistake and a diplomatic approach would be a better option.

“We hope Gadhafi leaves. I just don’t think that that is a strategy,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday. “When you listen to what’s going on and all the words, it is really nothing more than hope. So if Gadhafi doesn’t leave, how long will NATO be there to enforce the no-fly zone?”

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are certain to face tough questions when they brief members of the House and Senate in closed-door, back-to-back sessions.

Their Capitol Hill appearance comes as a new Associated Press-GfK poll found the country split on U.S. involvement in military actions in Libya, with 48 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving.

About three-quarters say it’s somewhat likely that U.S. forces will be involved in Libya for the long term. Fifty-five percent say they would favor the United States increasing its military action to remove Gadhafi from power, although only 13 percent favor U.S. ground troops, a step Obama has said he would not take.

The poll was conducted in the days leading up to the president’s speech.

Reflecting the nation’s divisions, several lawmakers praised Obama’s actions while others raised a series of looming questions about the U.S. mission.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama’s 2008 rival for the presidency, said he appreciated the president’s explanation of “why this intervention was both right and necessary, especially in light of the unprecedented democratic awakening that is now sweeping the broader Middle East.”

McCain said Obama deserves strong bipartisan support in Congress and in the country on Libya.

But Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama needs to further refine U.S. purposes.

“I still did not hear a clearly defined goal for how long military operations will last in Libya,” McKeon said. “Utilizing U.S. warriors to protect civilians from a brutal dictator is a noble cause, but asking them to maintain a stalemate while we hold out hope that Gadhafi will voluntarily leave his country raises serious questions about the duration of the mission.”

Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio sought congressional support Tuesday for his effort to cut off funds for the operation.

Under questioning by Congress, NATO’s top commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, said officials had seen “flickers” of possible al-Qaida and Hezbollah involvement with the rebel forces. But Stavridis said there was no evidence of significant numbers within the political opposition group’s leadership.

“The intelligence that I’m receiving at this point makes me feel that the leadership that I’m seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Colonel Gadhafi,” Stavridis told a Senate panel. “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah. … At this point, I don’t have detail sufficient to say that there’s a significant al-Qaida presence or any other terrorist presence in and among these folks.”

Obama, in an interview with CBS News, said most of the opposition leaders are professionals such as lawyers and doctors, but “that doesn’t mean that all the people — among all the people who opposed Gadhafi — there might not be elements that are unfriendly to the United States and our interests.”

Clinton met in London with Mahmoud Jibril, a representative of the Libyan political opposition. The Obama administration is not ruling out a political solution in Libya that could include Gadhafi leaving the country, she said, but she acknowledged there is no timeline.

In the military campaign, a U.S. Navy ship fired 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles at weapon storage sites around Tripoli on Tuesday, according to a U.S. defense official. It was the highest number of Tomahawks fired in several days, even as the Navy has reduced the number of missile-firing ships and submarines off the coast.

The Libyan missiles in the storage sites targeted by the U.S. onslaught could have been used by pro-Gadhafi forces defending Tripoli, should heavy combat spread to the capital, which remains under Gadhafi’s control. The rebels are outmatched in training, equipment and other measures of military might by Gadhafi’s remaining forces, and would be hard-pressed to mount a full-scale battle for Tripoli now.

As for the overall international campaign against Gadhafi, Stavridis said he expected a three-star Canadian general to assume full NATO command of the operation by Thursday. Meanwhile, the Pentagon put the price tag for the war thus far at $550 million.

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.

 

How the poll was conducted

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on the situation in Libya was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Mar. 24-28, 2011. It is based on landline and cell phone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted with 701 respondents on landline telephones and 300 on cellular phones.

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

 


 

Deplorable? Trump more so than Clinton, AP-GfK poll finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was supposed to be her “47 percent” moment.

When Hillary Clinton said that half of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” Republicans thought they just might have found her campaign-crushing-blunder.

The gaffe, they hoped, was a way to cement an image as an out-of-touch snob, just as Democrats did four years ago to Mitt Romney after he said “47 percent” of voters backed President Barack Obama because they were “dependent on government.”

 But a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that Clinton’s stumble didn’t have quite the impact that Trump and his supporters wanted. Instead, it’s Trump who’s viewed as most disconnected and disrespectful.

Sixty percent of registered voters say he does not respect “ordinary Americans,” according to the poll. That’s far more than the 48 percent who say the same about Clinton.

Trump supporters had begun showing up at his rallies with shirts and signs riffing on the word “deplorable.” The hashtag #BasketofDeplorables began trending on Twitter, as the Republican nominee’s backers demanded an apology. At a rally last week in Florida, Trump walked out to a song from the play Les Miserables.

“Welcome to all you deplorables!” he shouted, standing in front of a backdrop that read, “Les Deplorables.”

But the poll findings underscore how Trump’s no-holds-barred approach may be wearing on the country. Despite efforts by his campaign to keep him on message, his image as an outspoken firebrand who brazenly skips past societal norms appears deeply ingrained among voters.

Nearly three in four do not view him as even somewhat civil or compassionate. Half say he’s at least somewhat racist. Those numbers are largely unchanged from the last time the AP-GfK survey was conducted in July.

Even among those saying they’ll most likely vote for Trump, 40 percent say they think the word “compassionate” doesn’t describe him well.

“He was always a decent guy even with his marriages and everything,” said David Singer, a retiree from Simsbury, Connecticut. “But when he got on the debate stage something happened to him. The insults just got me crazy. I couldn’t believe what he was telling people.”

Trump is viewed unfavorably by 61 percent of registered voters, and Clinton by 56 percent. But despite her similarly high unfavorability rating, voters do not hold the same negative views about her as they do of Trump.

Only 21 percent believe she’s very or somewhat racist. Half say she’s at least somewhat civil and 42 percent view her as compassionate.

Democrats see Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric as a major campaign asset — for them. Clinton’s campaign spent much of the summer casting Trump as a dangerous force in American society, one that consorts with racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists.

“Our most cherished values are at stake,” Clinton told students at Temple University on Monday. “We have to stand up to this hate. We cannot let it go on.”

It’s a strategy lifted right out of the party’s 2012 playbook. Four years ago, Democrats seized on a leaked video showing Romney at a private fundraiser in Florida dismissing “47 percent” of voters who pay no income tax, people who believe “the government has a responsibility to care for them” and would automatically vote for Obama.

The comment helped Democrats paint the GOP nominee as a heartless plutocrat only concerned about protecting the wealthy, a message they’d been pushing for months through a barrage of battleground state ads.

This year, Clinton’s campaign and allies have spent more than $180 million on TV and radio advertising between mid-June and this week, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. Trump and his supporters spent about $40 million in the same time period.

Many of the Democratic ads focus on Trump, featuring footage of him insulting military leaders, women and immigrants — often with explicit language.

“You can tell them to go f— themselves,” he’s shown saying in ads aired repeatedly by the campaign. The word is bleeped out, but the message is clear.

Clinton’s comments about Trump’s supporters at the fundraiser were a clumsy version of her campaign message, one that she’d expressed in other settings as well.

Speaking to donors in New York City, Clinton said half of Trump’s supporters were in “a basket of deplorables,” a crowd she described as racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic. Clinton later said she regretted applying that description to “half” of Trump’s backers, but stuck by her assertion that “it’s deplorable” that the GOP nominee has built his campaign on “prejudice and paranoia” and given a platform to “hateful views and voices.”

Most American voters don’t see his backers as deplorable. Seven percent say Trump’s supporters are generally better people than the average American, 30 percent say they’re worse, and 61 percent consider them about the same.

But Clinton’s comments resonate with the voters her campaign must turn out to the polls in large numbers on Election Day. Fifty-four percent of Democratic voters think that Trump’s backers are generally worse people than the average American.

About half of black and Hispanic voters, and more than 4 in 10 voters under 30 years old, agree.

“He’s a bully and he’s just made it acceptable,” said Patricia Barraclough, 69, a Clinton supporter in Jonesborough, Tennessee. “Since he started running, civility has just gone down the tubes. The name-calling. The bullying. All of a sudden it’s like it’s OK to act on it.”

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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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AP writer Jill Colvin contributed from Philadelphia.

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Online:

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

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Follow Lisa Lerer and AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/llerer and http://twitter.com/@EL_Swan


AP-GfK Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws

By LISA MARIE PANE and RYAN J. FOLEY

Jul. 23, 2016

Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws by margins that have grown wider after a steady drumbeat of shootings in recent months, but they also are pessimistic that change will happen anytime soon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.
“If you live in the United States in these days right now, you have to be concerned,” said Milonne Ambroise, a 63-year-old administrative assistant from Decatur, Georgia. “You could be on the street somewhere. You could be at a shopping mall thinking there will be a mass shooting and you will be in the middle of it. You can’t not think about it.”

Ambroise, a native of Haiti who moved to the U.S. nearly 50 years ago, said she is now much more alert and on guard whenever she is in public.

“I’m looking for exits. This isn’t something I did before,” she said. “What if I have to run? Where’s the exit? Where would I go?”

The level of concern about being victimized is not uniform, however. Nonwhites are significantly more likely to be very or extremely concerned.

Alonzo Lassiter, 66, of suburban St. Louis worries that his autistic 17-year-old son could be the victim of gun violence, either by a robber or the police.

“If somebody told him to get on the ground and put his hands up — or told him to give up his headphones — he wouldn’t readily identify those instructions,” said Lassiter, who is black. “He may be an easy target.”

He said straw purchasers who buy and then resell guns to ineligible felons and teenagers have flooded some urban neighborhoods with firearms and need to be stopped.

The poll was conducted July 7 to July 11, shortly after a string of high-profile shootings. That included the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 50 dead, including the gunman, and 53 others wounded, and the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. Most interviews took place after the sniper attack that killed five officers in Dallas.

A majority of respondents expressed a desire for a national approach to gun laws, rather than a patchwork of state laws or local regulations, even though Congress has thus far failed to act on many of the initiatives the poll showed Americans support. Yet less than half of respondents said they believe gun laws will indeed get tougher in the coming year.

By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents said laws that limit gun ownership do not infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms. But the responses also revealed a partisan divide: 87 percent of Democrats support stricter gun laws compared with 41 percent of Republicans.

Gender and geography are other dividing lines, the poll found. Women and those who live in cities and suburbs are more likely to support gun restrictions than men and those who live in rural areas.

Americans find common ground on other issues. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they support requiring background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through other private sales. They also back a ban on gun sales to people on the federal terrorism watch list even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

“Why should it only be the dealers that have to do the background checks? At gun shows, individual sellers should be required to do the background checks so they don’t end up selling them to the criminal element,” said John Wallace, a disabled Vietnam veteran and former gun dealer who lives in Limestone, Maine, and owns several guns.

Despite the support for tighter gun laws, majorities oppose banning handguns, imposing an Australia-style gun buyback program or making gun manufacturers or sellers liable if guns are later used in a crime.

While 70 percent of people in gun-owning households favor universal background checks, there were stark differences in how gun-owning households and gun-free households view efforts to limit access.

Just 42 percent of those who live in gun-owning households, for example, support bans on assault-style guns and banning high-capacity magazines.

Kimberly Huebner is an exception. The 43-year-old high school special education teacher from San Marcos, Texas, grew up in a household with guns and learned firearms safety. She also believes some restrictions should be imposed, including a ban on AR-style firearms and high-capacity magazines.

Her opinion has been shaped in part by recent mass shootings, she said.

Huebner believes the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to protect themselves against the government, but not necessarily the right to possess any firearm they choose, especially when it comes to AR-platform long guns. Those types of firearms, she said, “just are not necessary. Nobody is using them to hunt deer.”

Instead, she said, some people have a skewed view of the Second Amendment.

“Like the Bible, they use it for their own arguments,” she said. “You can manipulate and twist arguments for your own benefits.”

She believes current laws need to be better enforced, specifically citing gaps in enforcing background checks.

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AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report from Washington, D.C. You can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EL_Swan. Follow Lisa Marie Pane at http://twitter.com/lisamariepane and Ryan J. Foley at https://twitter.com/rjfoley.

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,009 adults was conducted online 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 3.3 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for the KnowledgePanel who did not have access to the internet were provided access for free.

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Online:

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