By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press

Quick: What do these things have in common? Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Wall Street volatility. A cranky, even angry American populace.

Answer: They all have something to do with gasoline. No matter what happens in the world today, just about everything points back to fuel and the tricky politics that emerge when prices spike.

Is it any wonder, then, that a recent Associated Press-GfK poll shows a correlation between the country’s more pessimistic outlook and rising gas prices.

The issue also has taken on greater importance to Americans. They rank it above subjects including Iraq, Afghanistan, immigration, terrorism and taxes. Last fall, 54 percent called gas prices a highly important issue to them personally, but 77 percent said that in the latest poll.

Many don’t expect relief from soaring gas costs anytime soon: Two-thirds say they expect the higher prices will cause financial hardship for them or their families in the next six months. That group includes more than a third who say gas cost spikes will cause serious financial hardship. And that is on top of a still-poor economy.

Most are changing the way they live. Three-fourths are cutting back on other expenses, two-thirds are driving less, half plan to vacation closer to home, and almost as many have thought seriously about buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Most also are bypassing the most convenient gas station to bargain shop for the lowest prices.

GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications conducted the poll from March 24-28. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

The underlying links between current events aren’t lost on President Barack Obama, and for good reason. Like death and taxes, this cycle is a certainty: Prices at the pump rise, the public’s mood falls and the president gets punished.

Listen to him when he pressed recently for reducing the nation’s oil imports by one-third by 2025.

“Obviously, the situation in the Middle East implicates our energy security. The situation in Japan leads us to ask questions about our energy sources. In an economy that relies so heavily on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody,” Obama said. “Businesses see rising prices at the pump hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. And for Americans that are already struggling to get by, a hike in gas prices really makes their lives that much harder. It hurts.”

Sure, that’s true. But there’s also much more to it. In an era in which globalization is a given, gas prices are the most obvious, most closely felt connection between the daily lives of Americans and the larger world.

“Whenever gasoline prices spike, there is enormous political consternation because it’s a highly invasive issue,” said Pietro Nivola, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies energy policy and American politics.

Has there been a time in modern history when that’s been more apparent than the past few weeks?

Look at what’s happened.

—Populist uprisings swept across oil-rich North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt and now to Libya, where rebels are in a standoff with Gadhafi that has shut down much of the country’s 1.6 million barrels a day of crude exports. Energy traders fear unrest will spread further across the region and disrupt shipments from bigger producers like Saudi Arabia and Iran. That could limit supply when demand is high, boosting costs.

—An earthquake and tsunami in Japan last month triggered a nuclear emergency, with the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant leaking radiation. The reactor’s near meltdown has renewed debate in the United States over nuclear fuel and raised questions about the vulnerability of some U.S. plants.

—Oil surged to a 30-month high — more than $100 a barrel — as investors worried that the unrest in Libya and elsewhere would keep crude exports from oil-producing nations off the market longer than expected. On Wall Street, key indexes fluctuated as oil prices soared.

—Consumer confidence dropped at a troublesome time, just as the post-recession economy was struggling to recover. Gas costs were the reason. Experts say if people are forced to pay more for gasoline, they’re likely not to spend elsewhere and that could further slow already sluggish economic growth.

And none of that even takes into account last year’s Gulf Coast oil spill.

Even if there’s no proven cause and effect between the latest turn of events, there’s a commonality that’s not lost on experts and consumers alike.

“It’s a combination of trends and luck that have put energy repeatedly at the forefront,” said Michael Levi, director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We always are going to be dealing with energy in some form or another because it’s the lifeblood of society.”

The poll also indicated a disconnect between expectations and reality. Consumers on average said $2.36 per gallon was a fair price for gas, but the national average was $3.65 during the week the survey was taken.

Albert Mercado, a restaurant employee from Wallingford, Pa., is among those feeling more than just a pinch.

“When I swipe my card at the gas pump, it stops at $75 and I’m nowhere near full,” says the owner of a 2004 Ford Explorer, who lives outside Philadelphia. He adds: “I have not been driving as much.” He now limits his travels to and from work, his son’s day care and their home. He saves rather than spends. He hasn’t visited his parents, who live a three-hour drive away in New York, for a long time.

And Mercado, 44, has little hope that costs will fall anytime soon. After all, he says, he once worked at a gas station and knows how the price game is played. “Something’s got to change. I doubt it will,” he said.

So far, Obama’s overall political standing isn’t suffering; it’s held steady for months at about 50 percent. Even so, his job performance rating on handling the issue of gas prices is at just 36 percent, his lowest rating on any issue tracked in the poll.

“What’s different this time is the U.S. economy is still fragile,” Nivola said. “If we had a sustained gasoline hike, it would be like imposing a substantial tax on the economy at a very inopportune moment.”

Eventually, consumers will look for someone to fault if gas prices remain high. Obama’s the likely target, and Republicans are trying to hasten the blame game.

“His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security,” said Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate who is considering a White House run of her own. “The good news is there is nothing wrong with America’s energy policy that another good old-fashioned election can’t solve. 2012 is just around the corner.”

History, however, offers no certainty that a different president would dramatically change how Americans deal with energy.

For decades, a national energy policy has proven elusive because Republicans and Democrats sharply differ over how to make America closer to energy independent. Progress has been impeded by not-in-my-backyard fights over nuclear plants and wind farms, battles over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and election-year sloganeering.

The same cycle has persisted. Gas prices rise, Americans complain and politicians raise alarms.

Consider the words that came out of one president’s mouth: “This country needs to regain its independence from foreign sources of energy, and the sooner the better.” That was Republican Gerald Ford — in 1975.

Nearly four decades later, Obama said: “As long as our economy depends on foreign oil, we’ll always be subject to price spikes.”

He’s probably not the last president who will give voice to that notion, given the complexities of the issue. As Levi puts it: “The nature of energy is that it matters because it gets entangled with so many other things. But those other entanglements are what make it precisely so difficult to deal with.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE — Liz Sidoti has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 2003.

Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

 

How the poll was conducted

 

By The Associated Press

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on gas prices was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Mar. 24-28. 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 .

 


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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Online:

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

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Swanson reported from Washington.

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