By RONALD BLUM

 NEW YORK (AP) — Just over half of Americans surveyed plan to watch or follow the Winter Olympics, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll, and one-third of respondents say they have only a little or no confidence about Russia’s ability to safeguard safety at the Sochi Games that start this week.

The likely audience for the Olympics is on the older side, with 65 percent age 50 or over planning to follow the quadrennial event compared with 47 percent among younger adults, according to the survey, conducted from Jan. 17-21.

Few are deeply confident Russia can keep the games safe: 19 percent are extremely or very confident Russia will protect the Olympics from terrorist attacks, 46 percent are somewhat confident and 33 percent just a little or not at all confident.

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Asked how they would follow the games, 86 percent who said they would follow plan to watch events on television, while 17 percent intend to view online streams. Thirty-five percent say they will read about the results online and 20 percent in newspapers.

There’s a broad age gap, with one-third under age 40 planning to follow online streams and just 9 percent aiming to follow the Olympics in newspapers. Among senior citizens, 37 percent intend to read about the games in newspapers.

With the competition held in a time zone nine hours from the U.S. Eastern Standard Time, NBC’s prime-time coverage will include replayed events, but few are concerned about spoilers. Sixty-eight percent of respondents say it won’t matter if they know the results before broadcasts, and just 20 percent of those planning to watch will actively avoid learning of the results of events they care about prior to the telecasts.

While 61 percent of whites are interested in following the Olympics, the percentage among nonwhites dips to 43 percent. Sixty-nine percent from households with incomes of $100,000 or more plan to watch, with 26 percent in that group intending to avoid spoilers.

Figure skating is by far the most popular Winter Olympic sport, with 24 percent citing it as their favorite. A mixed team event was added this year in figure skating, which has competitive events on 11 of the Olympics’ 18 days.

Ice hockey is a distant second at 6 percent, followed by Alpine skiing and snowboarding at 4 percent each. Forty-six percent of respondents say they have no preference.

Among those planning to watch or follow, the percentage identifying figure skating as their favorite rises to 35 percent. There’s a gender gap, however, with 55 percent of women who plan to watch calling figure skating their favorite, compared with 15 percent of men. Among men, ice hockey runs even with figure skating; 16 percent call it their favorite.

While 45 percent of senior citizens who plan to watch say figure skating is their favorite, that falls to 24 percent for people under 40. Snowboarding tops the list for 12 percent under age 40.

Speedskating is the favorite of 11 percent of nonwhites but just 3 percent of whites.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults, and had a sampling error margin of plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points for the full sample.

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

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AP Director of polling Jennifer Agiesta and news survey specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

AP-GfK Poll: Election indicators suggest GOP edge

By, JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

(AP) – The latest Associated Press-GfK poll holds bad news for President Barack Obama, but as the November elections draw closer, there are ominous signs for congressional Democrats as well.

A look at the key findings from the March poll on this year’s election and the burgeoning 2016 presidential field.

GOP GAINING GROUND

Preferences for control of Congress are tight, but Republicans have gained on Democrats since January. Thirty-six percent in last month’s poll said they would rather see the Democrats in charge of Congress and 37 percent chose Republicans.

Democrats held a narrow advantage on that question in January, when 39 percent favored the Democrats and 32 percent the Republicans.

Democrats are in the majority in the Senate while Republicans run the House.

The shift stems largely from a change among those most interested in politics.

In the new poll, registered voters who are most strongly interested in politics favored the Republicans by 14 percentage points, 51 percent to 37 percent. In January, this group was about evenly split, with 42 percent preferring Democrats and 45 percent the Republicans.

That’s not the only positive sign in the poll for the Republicans.

Favorable views of the GOP have improved, with 38 percent overall now saying they hold a favorable impression of the Party. Republicans’ positive view of their own party has increased from 57 percent in January to 72 percent now.

Even impressions of the tea party movement have shifted more positive in recent months. GOP favorability still lags behind that of the Democrats, however, with 43 percent holding a favorable view of the Democratic Party.

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CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL STAGNANT

Congressional approval is stagnant and negative, with just 16 percent saying they approve while 82 percent disapprove. Among those who have “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of interest in politics, 90 percent disapprove, including 61 percent who strongly disapprove.

Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) would like to see their own member of Congress re-elected, an improvement since January. Among registered voters who say they pay a great deal of attention to politics, 44 percent say they would like to see their current member re-elected, compared with 33 percent in January.

Here, there’s a glimmer of hope for Democrats. Those who consider themselves Democrats are now more likely than Republicans to say their own member of Congress ought to be re-elected. Not all Democrats live in districts represented by Democrats, of course, but it represents a shift in opinion since January.

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WHO’S IN CHARGE

With control of Congress divided between the parties, most Americans say Obama has a lot or quite a bit of control over what the federal government does, outpacing the share who say the Democrats or Republicans in Congress are in control.

Partisans tend to see the opposition as the controlling force, with Republicans more apt than Democrats to see Obama in charge, and Democrats more likely to say the Republicans have the upper hand.

Six in 10 (62 percent) of those with a great deal or quite a bit of interest in politics say Obama has a lot or quite a bit of control of what the federal government does. Just half (51 percent) of those closely attuned to politics say Democrats in Congress exert a similar influence over what the federal government does and 40 percent say the same about Republicans in Congress.

There’s little change since December in which party Americans trust more to handle major issues.

Democrats’ strong points are on handling social issues, including same-sex marriage (31 percent prefer Democrats, 17 percent the Republicans) and abortion (30 percent prefer Democrats, 22 percent Republicans). Republicans have the edge on protecting the country, 34 percent to 16 percent, a slightly wider margin than they held on the question in December.

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LOOKING TO 2016? NOT SO MUCH

The poll measured impressions of 19 potential 2016 presidential candidates, and found that a majority of those surveyed offered an opinion about just seven of them. The other 12 have quite a lot of introducing themselves to do if they are to make a run for the White House.

Most people said either they hadn’t heard of them or skipped the question.

Hillary Rodham Clinton generated the most positive response of the bunch, with 46 percent viewing the former secretary of state and first lady favorably and 39 percent unfavorably.

Among potential GOP contenders, none generated a net positive reaction from the public, with 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan faring best – 27 percent viewed him favorably, 29 percent unfavorably.

Among Republicans, majorities have favorable impressions of Ryan and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. But in a sign that the past isn’t always prologue, nearly half of Republicans say they don’t know enough to have an opinion about former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a large factor in the 2012 nomination fight.

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The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.

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

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AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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Follow Jennifer Agiesta on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JennAgiesta


AP-GfK poll: Fans believe Florida will top tourney

NEW YORK (AP) — A new poll from The Associated Press and GfK says that the quarter of Americans who are following this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament believe the Gators are the overwhelming favorites to win it all.

Twenty-nine percent of those with at least some interest in March Madness think Billy Donovan’s Florida team will take home this year’s crown.

The poll also found about 5 percent of Americans are following news about the tournament extremely closely, 6 percent are following very closely and 14 percent somewhat closely.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted online March 20-24 among 1,019 adults from a probability-based panel. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com