By TOM RAUM and JOSH LEDERMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all the attention it got, Republican Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate has not altered the race against President Barack Obama. The campaign remains neck and neck with less than three months to go, a new AP-GfK poll shows.

Overall, 47 percent of registered voters said they planned to back Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November, while 46 percent favored Romney and Ryan. That’s not much changed from a June AP-GfK survey, when the split was 47 percent for the president to 44 percent for Romney.

At the same time, there’s a far wider gap when people were asked who they thought would win. Some 58 percent of adults said they expected Obama to be re-elected, while just 32 percent said they thought he’d be voted out of office.

After just over a week on the campaign trail, Ryan has a 38 percent favorable rating among adults, while 34 percent see him unfavorably. Among registered voters, his numbers are slightly better — 40 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable. Ryan remains unknown to about a quarter of voters.

Romney put the 42-year-old conservative chairman of the House Budget Committee on the ticket Aug. 11. The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Aug. 16-20.

Romney and Ryan will be crowned as the GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees next week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The Democrats hold their convention the following week in Charlotte, N.C.

The closely locked contest reflects deep partisan divisions across the country.

Among true independents, those who say they do not lean toward either party, the share of undecided voters is declining, with each candidate picking up new support at about the same pace. However, Romney maintains a small advantage with the group, with the backing of 41 percent of independents to Obama’s 30 percent. Some 21 percent still say they support neither candidate.

Among all voters, 23 percent are undecided or say they have not yet committed to their candidate.

One independent voter, Frank Nugent, a 76-year-old retired sales manager from Pittsburg, Calif., said he always gives both parties a chance to win him over — but not this time.

“Considering what the opposition is like, I can do nothing else but vote for Obama,” he said. Part of his dislike for the GOP ticket is due to Ryan, he said, describing Romney’s ticket mate as “further right that the bulk of the Republican Party.” But while he’ll vote for Obama, Nugent said he’s disappointed in Obama’s record.

Robert Hamrick, 39, from Cedartown, Ga., is going the other way. Although a registered Democrat, he plans to vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket, claiming Obama has been deceptive and failed to make good on his promises on the economy, jobs and government debt.

As for Ryan, Hamrick said: “He’s very smart. He knows his stuff. He knows the finance. He can take apart Obamacare with ease.” Hamrick is a former nursing home manager who left his job about four years ago in hopes of finding one with more security — and has been mostly unemployed ever since.

The frail economy, with the unemployment rate hovering at 8.3 percent more than three years after the deep recession officially ended, remains the No. 1 issue. Nine in 10 call it important for them and half of voters say it is “extremely important,” outpacing all other issues tested by at least 10 percentage points. Two-thirds in the poll described the economy as poor.

Registered voters split about evenly between the two candidates on whom they’d trust more to handle the economy, with 48 percent favoring Romney and 44 percent Obama. They are also about evenly divided on who would do more to create jobs, 47 percent for Romney to 43 percent for Obama. Among independent voters, Romney has a big lead over the president on handling the economy — 46 percent to 27 percent.

Romney often appeals to his business background as proof that he could better manage the federal government, and the poll finds that overall, voters are more apt to trust him to handle the federal budget deficit over Obama, by a 50 percent to 40 percent margin.

But it’s unlikely that Ryan’s background in authoring Republican budgets will boost them as an issue in the campaign. The share of adults saying the budget deficit was deeply important to them dropped from 75 percent in February to 69 percent in the new poll.

Among those who rate the economy as the top concern is Mattise Fraser, a 52-year-old Democrat whose hometown of Charlotte is gearing up for the Democratic gathering. “We’re in a crisis situation now,” said Fraser, who said she plans to vote for Obama. She says she’s a homemaker — but not by choice. “The economy is crazy. There’s no jobs.”

Obama holds a clear edge among voters on handling social issues such as abortion, 52 percent to 35 percent, and a narrow one on handling Medicare, 48 percent to 42 percent. Medicare has grabbed a lot of attention as an issue lately, with Ryan’s proposals to partly change the program drawing criticism from Obama and other Democrats.

Of those who said Medicare is an extremely important issue, 49 percent say they plan to vote for Obama and 44 percent for Romney.

Obama’s approval rating held steady at about an even split, with 49 percent saying they approve of the way he’s handling his job and another 49 percent saying they disapprove.

The president remains more positively viewed than Romney, and continues to be seen as more empathetic. Some 53 percent of adults hold a “favorable” opinion of the president, compared with just 44 percent who view Romney favorably. Obama also held a commanding lead among voters as the candidate who better “understands the problems of people like you,” 51 percent to 36 percent for Romney. Some 50 percent see him as a stronger leader than Romney; 41 percent see Romney as stronger.

Michelle Obama remains more popular than her husband. Sixty-four percent of adults view her favorably and just 26 percent unfavorably, although that’s down from 70 percent favorable in May. Ann Romney’s favorable rating is mostly unchanged since May, with 40 percent viewing her favorably, 27 percent unfavorably and nearly a third declining to say.

Thirty-five percent overall say things in the nation are heading in the “right direction,” up from 31 percent in June.

Melinda Cody, a 45-year-old undecided voter in San Diego, sees positives and negatives with both candidates — and says she’ll vote for the candidate who does the least bullying. “When they just run a negative campaign, it backfires,” she said.

The poll involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,006 adults nationwide, including 885 registered voters. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9, while it’s 4.1 points for registered voters.

AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed this report.

 

___

 

Online:

 

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

 

 

How the AP-GfK poll was conducted

 

The Associated Press-GfK Poll on the 2012 presidential election was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Aug. 16-20. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,006 adults, including 885 registered voters. Interviews were conducted with 604 respondents on landline telephones and 402 on cellular phones.

 

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. The margin of sampling error for registered voters is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

 

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 and http://surveys.ap.org

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.

___

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.

___

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:

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

Online:

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

___

Follow Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/EL_Swan