By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan effort to expand background checks is in deep trouble as the Senate approaches a long-awaited vote on the linchpin of the drive to curb gun violence. As the showdown draws near, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows ebbing public support for tightening gun control laws.

 In the run-up to the roll call expected Wednesday, so many Republicans had declared their opposition to the background check measure that supporters — mostly Democrats — seemed headed to defeat unless they could turn votes around in the final hours. Supporters seemed likely to lose some moderate Democratic senators as well.

 ”It’s a struggle,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, conceded Tuesday.

 Perhaps helping explain Democrats’ problems, an AP-GfK poll this month showed that 49 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws. That was down from 58 percent who said so in January — a month after the December killings of 20 children and six aides at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school propelled gun violence into a national issue.

 Just over half the public — 52 percent — expressed disapproval in the new survey of how President Barack Obama has handled gun laws. Weeks after the Newtown slayings, Obama made a call for near universal background checks the heart of his gun control plan.

 In a climactic day, the Senate planned to hold eight other votes Wednesday besides the one on background checks, all of them amendments to a broad gun control measure.

They included Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, which are expected to lose; a Republican proposal requiring states to honor other states’ permits allowing concealed weapons, which faces a close vote; and a GOP substitute for the overall gun measure.

 The concealed weapons amendment, seen by advocates as protecting gun rights, was vehemently opposed by gun control groups, who say it would allow more guns into states with stricter firearms laws.

 The votes were coming a day after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, badly injured in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, tried galvanizing gun control support by visiting Capitol Hill and attending a private lunch with Democratic senators. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the lunch — senators said it included emotional speeches from lawmakers — “as moving as any” he has attended.

 Background checks, aimed at screening out criminals and the seriously mentally ill from getting firearms, now apply only to purchases handled by licensed firearms dealers.

Wednesday’s first vote was on an amendment by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., extending the checks to firearms sales at gun shows and online. The compromise was widely seen as advocates’ best chance for winning enough GOP votes to muscle broadened checks through the Senate.

 As the roll call approached, Manchin and others kept saying they were close — but never said they had the votes they needed.

 ”We’re close, but we sure need their help,” Manchin told reporters after he and Toomey met privately with Giffords and Kelly.

 In a sign that the two senators faced a steep path to victory, they were no longer considering a change to their bill that would have exempted people who live far from gun dealers.

 Such people have a difficult time getting to dealers’ shops to have background checks performed. The hope had been to attract votes from Alaska and North Dakota senators, and the sponsors’ decision to move ahead without it suggested that their effort to win over those senators would fail.

 No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois said Democrats would need support from nine or 10 Republicans — a daunting task.

 Opponents will need just 41 of the Senate’s 100 votes to derail the Manchin-Toomey background check plan.

 Thirty-one senators voted last week to completely block debate on overall gun legislation. Just two were Democrats — Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska.

 If all 31 oppose the Manchin-Toomey measure — and that is not certain — opponents would need just 10 more votes to prevail.

 So far, 11 of 16 Republicans who voted last week to let debate on the gun bill begin have said they will oppose Manchin-Toomey. That would give foes of expanded background checks 42 potential votes — one more than they need to win.

 Still uncertain was support from some Democrats from GOP-heavy states, including Max Baucus of Montana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Baucus and Landrieu face re-election next year.

 The Senate gun bill would extend background checks to nearly all gun purchases, toughen penalties against illegal gun trafficking and add small sums to school safety programs.

 The AP-GfK poll found that overall, 49 percent said gun laws should be made stricter while 38 percent said they should stay the same.

 Among independents, support for stricter gun laws dipped from 60 percent in January to 40 percent now. About three-fourths of Democrats supported them then and now, while backing among Republicans for looser laws about doubled to 19 percent.

 The AP-GfK poll was conducted from April 11-15 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,004 randomly chosen adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, news survey specialist Dennis Junius and writers Henry C. Jackson, Stephen Ohlemacher and Jim Abrams contributed to this report.

 

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Online: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

 

 

 

How the AP-GfK poll was conducted

 

The Associated Press-GfK poll on gun control was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from April 10-14. It is based on landline telephone and cellphone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,004 adults. Interviews were conducted with 601 respondents on landline telephones and 403 on cellular telephones.

 

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 1 time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.9 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.

 

Topline results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com.

The questions and results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

AP-GfK Poll: Americans approve of drone strikes on terrorists

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly three-quarters of Americans say it’s acceptable for the U.S. to use an unmanned aerial drone to kill an American citizen abroad if that person has joined a terror organization, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

A majority, 6 in 10, supports the use of drones to target terrorists in general. Only 13 percent oppose the use of drones, the poll said, and another 24 percent don’t feel strongly either way.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted April 23-27, in the days after President Barack Obama publicly apologized for a CIA drone strike in Pakistan that inadvertently killed American hostage Warren Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto. The strike also killed Ahmed Farouq, an American citizen who was an al-Qaida planning leader. Another strike killed Adam Gadhani, an American citizen who joined al-Qaida and became Osama Bin Laden’s spokesman.

The survey is the latest in several years of data showing broad support among the U.S. public for a targeted killing program begun under President George W. Bush and expanded dramatically under Obama. While the U.S. once condemned Israel for targeted killing from the air, such operations are now the centerpiece of American counterterrorism policy, and they enjoy widespread public backing.

Support for targeted killing with drones crosses party lines, the new poll found. Nearly 6 in 10 Democrats favor using drones to bomb members of terrorist groups, while only 16 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, 72 percent are in favor and only 10 percent are opposed. Independents are more ambivalent, with 45 percent in favor and 12 percent opposed; 37 percent are neutral on the issue.

Just 47 percent of Americans think it’s appropriate to use drones to target terrorists overseas if innocent Americans might be killed in the process.

More than 4 in 10 (43 percent) of those who initially said they favor using drones — or that they didn’t favor or oppose using them — said it’s unacceptable to use drones if innocent Americans could be killed.

The poll did not include questions about foreign civilian casualties or about public confidence in the government’s assertion that the vast majority of those killed in drone strikes are terrorists. Independent groups have estimated that at least hundreds, and possibly thousands, of noncombatants have been killed in the operations, a count the U.S. government disputes.

Drone skeptics say most polls on the subject frame the question with the assumption that those targeted are terrorists, when it’s not clear that is always the case.

“Almost everyone, of course, is going to support killing people who are trying to kill us, but that’s not who we are necessarily targeting in each case,” said Sarah Kreps, an associate professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University.

Kreps examined poll data and found that if respondents are confronted with evidence of errors and civilian casualties in some drone strikes, support for the strikes drops below a majority.

Since the first operation in 2002, there have been 396 drone strikes in Pakistan and 126 in Yemen, according to the New America Foundation, which tracks the strikes using media reports. The CIA has conducted all of the strikes in Pakistan and most of them in Yemen, though the military also conducts drone strikes in Yemen.

The pace of strikes in both countries has diminished in recent years. Obama imposed a standard in Yemen that no strike would occur unless there was a near certainty that no civilian would be harmed. That standard — more restrictive than the rules governing traditional military action — was not in place in Pakistan, which is considered part of the Afghan war theater. In Pakistan, the drop-off in strikes has been attributed to the success of the program in destroying much of core al-Qaida.

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, 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.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone 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:

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


AP-GfK Poll: Americans evenly split on gay marriage case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are evenly split on whether the Supreme Court should rule that same-sex marriage must be legal nationwide, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The poll was conducted just before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in a case that will likely decide whether state laws banning same-sex marriage are constitutional.

But the poll also finds that Americans are more likely to favor than oppose marriage for gay and lesbian couples being legal in their own states.

Here are five things to know about public opinion on same-sex marriage:

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NEARLY HALF SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE

According to the new AP-GfK poll, nearly half of Americans favor laws allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. Just over a third are opposed.

But Americans are split down the middle on what action the Supreme Court should take when it rules on the marriage case later this year, with 50 percent saying it should rule that same-sex marriage must be legal nationwide and 48 percent saying that it should not.

The poll shows a massive partisan divide on both questions. Two-thirds of Democrats and just under half of independents say they support legal same-sex marriage, compared to less than 3 in 10 Republicans.

Only 15 percent of conservative Republicans want same-sex marriages to be legal, while 46 percent of moderate Republicans say they are in favor.

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SUPPORT DIPS FOR WEDDING BUSINESSES REFUSING SERVICE

The poll shows that a slim majority of Americans (52 percent) say that wedding-related businesses in states where same-sex marriage is legal should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples because of religious objections.

That’s down slightly since the beginning of February, when another AP-GfK poll found 57 percent of Americans in support of allowing wedding-related businesses to refuse service. The earlier poll was conducted before a public outcry forced the state of Indiana to add protections for gays and lesbians to its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics charged was intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people.

That drop appears to have been driven by Democrats, 45 percent of whom supported allowing businesses to refuse service in the earlier poll, while 38 percent say so now. About three-quarters of Republicans say wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service, along with 45 percent of independents.

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LESS SUPPORT FOR NON-WEDDING BUSINESSES

The new AP-GfK survey shows Americans are less likely to support allowing a non-wedding related business to refuse service to a gay or lesbian couple. Just 40 percent of poll respondents asked a similar question that did not mention weddings think businesses should be allowed to refuse service for religious reasons, while 57 percent think that should not be allowed.

Support for allowing businesses to generally refuse service to gays was at least slightly lower than for wedding-related businesses to refuse service among Democrats, Republicans and independents, although a majority of Republicans (63 percent) still said a business of any kind with religious objections should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples.

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RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES OVER GAY RIGHTS

Although most Americans aren’t willing to give just any business the right to refuse service to LGBT people, most say that it’s more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians if the two come into conflict, by a 56 percent to 40 percent margin.

More than 8 in 10 Republicans say it’s more important to protect religious liberties than gay rights. On the other hand, 6 in 10 Democrats think protecting gay rights is more important.

Just a quarter of Americans call gay rights a very or extremely important issue to them personally, while half call religious liberties a very or extremely important issue.

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DIVISION OVER OBAMA’S HANDLING OF GAY RIGHTS

The poll finds that Americans are evenly divided on how President Barack Obama is handling gay rights, with 48 percent saying they approve and 49 percent saying they disapprove. A majority (54 percent) approve of how Obama is handling religious liberties.

On both issues, Democrats hold at least a slight advantage over Republicans on which party Americans trust most to handle gay rights issues. Thirty-one percent of Americans say they trust Democrats more to handle gay rights issues, while only 14 percent trust Republicans more.

But a third of Americans say they don’t trust either party to handle gay rights, with another 20 percent saying they trust both equally. On religious liberties, 28 percent say they trust Democrats more and 21 percent trust Republicans more, with 23 percent trusting both equally and 26 percent trusting neither.

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, 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.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone 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:

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

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