By CHARLES BABINGTON and JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s re-election glow is gone. Congress’ reputation remains dismal. And only about one in five Americans say they trust the government to do what’s right most of the time, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Most adults disapprove of Obama’s handling of the federal deficit, a festering national problem. But they also dislike key proposals to reduce deficit spending, including a slower growth in Social Security benefits and changes to Medicare.

Rounding out the portrait of a nation in a funk, the share of people saying the United States is heading in the wrong direction is at its highest since last August: 56 percent.

The government in Washington is “dealing with a lot of stuff that are non-issues,” said Jeremy Hammond, 33, of Queensbury, N.Y.

Hammond, a Web programmer and political independent, said Congress should focus on “the incredible debt and lack of spending control.” He said it’s absurd for Congress to force the Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery when the agency says “we can’t afford it.”

Hammond reflects the lukewarm feelings toward Obama found in the poll. Asked his opinion of the president, Hammond paused and said: “I don’t know. I voted for him in 2008, not in 2012.” When it comes to presidents, he said, “it’s one set of lawyers or the other.”

Just 7 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always,” the AP-GfK poll found. Fourteen percent say they trust it “most” of the time. Two-thirds trust the federal government only some of the time; 11 percent say they never do.

Obama’s overall job approval rating is at its lowest point since his re-election: 50 percent, with 47 percent disapproving. His approval rating among Republicans — 10 percent — is back to where it was before the election. Among independents, disapproval has crept up to 49 percent.

With more and more components of the 2010 “Obamacare” health law taking effect, 41 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of health care. That’s the lowest level during his time in office.

Ratings of the president’s handling of the economy, meanwhile, are back in negative territory, with 52 percent disapproving and 46 percent approving. In last September’s run-up to the election, 49 percent said they approved, and 48 percent disapproved.

In the new poll, disapproval among independents on handling the economy is up 10 percentage points since September 2012. It now stands at 57 percent.

Obama’s budget proposals are winning few kudos. Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the way he is handling the federal deficit, while 39 percent approve. Those levels have changed little in the past 15 months.

Public support has dropped, however, for proposals recently floated by Obama and others to slow the growth of benefits in the popular but costly Social Security and Medicare programs.

Opposition to raising the Medicare eligibility age has grown over the last few months in AP-GfK polling. Shortly after the fall election, 48 percent opposed such a plan, while 40 percent supported it. Opposition has grown by 11 points since then, with 59 percent now saying they dislike the idea.

Support among Democrats fell from 41 percent last fall to just 27 percent now, with 60 percent opposed.

Curiously, perhaps, the sharpest drop in support for a higher Medicare eligibility age was found among adults under 30. The new poll found 32 percent of them backing the idea, compared to 48 percent last fall. Medicare, the major health care program for seniors, is partly funded by payroll taxes on all wage earners.

Most Americans also oppose a proposal to slow the cost-of-living hikes in Social Security benefits. Now, 54 percent oppose the idea, up slightly from January, when 49 percent opposed it. Only about a quarter favor it.

Donald Roberts of Kingsport, Tenn., is among those who want no changes to Medicare and Social Security. “Leave them alone,” he said, “because it’s all you can do to get by on it.”

Roberts, 57, a political independent and former construction worker, receives disability benefits and is diabetic. He said Medicare pays for his doctor visits, but he must cover some of his medications’ cost.

Roberts also shared the often-heard disenchantment with Obama. “He’s OK, I guess,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t have voted for him.”

Hammond, the 33-year-old Web programmer, holds a different view of Medicare and Social Security.

“They are critical programs,” he said, “but we should start privatizing some of that stuff.”

Hammond said he thinks younger workers could get better returns if at least some of their payroll taxes were invested in stocks or other instruments, and then earmarked for each worker’s eventual retirement.

Americans are ambivalent about raising taxes on wealthier households, which Obama proposes as a means to help shrink the deficit. Forty-five percent support new limits on itemized tax deductions for the top 2 percent of earners. That covers individuals making at least $183,000 a year, and married couples making $223,000 or more. One in three Americans oppose the idea.

Most Democrats — 57 percent —favor the proposal. But only 41 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans do.

Most Americans support Obama’s “Buffet rule,” which would require those making $1 million or more annually to pay at least 30 percent of their earnings in federal income taxes. Just under 60 percent support the idea, while 29 percent oppose it.

Democrats might find comfort in the fact that Republican lawmakers are even less popular than Democrats.

Thirty-seven percent of adults approve of congressional Democrats, while 57 percent disapprove. Republicans in Congress fare worse: 27 percent approve of their performance, and 67 percent disapprove.

Even self-identified Republican adults have dim views of GOP lawmakers. Just 44 percent approve of the way congressional Republicans handle their jobs, and 52 percent disapprove.

Democrats’ views of their own party’s lawmakers are considerably better, with 68 percent approving the job being done by Democrats in Congress.

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted April 11-15, 2013, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,004 adults nationwide. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

 

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

 How the poll was conducted

 The Associated Press-GfK poll on President Obama, politics and the federal budget deficit was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from April 11-15. 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.

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

 Topline results available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com and http://surveys.ap.org.

AP-GfK Poll: Most say the US is heading the wrong way, hope for new direction come November

By JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has checked out, and the American people have noticed.

Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It’s about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.

This time around, it’s not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection.

One-third say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall — which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress — a far less likely possibility.

The final third? They say it just doesn’t matter who takes control of Congress.

Overall, just 13 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress overall is handling its job.

There are some signs in the new poll that Republicans have gained ground as the height of the campaign approaches. In May, they trailed Democrats a bit on who ought to control Congress. Partisans are about equally likely to say they’d like to see their own in charge of Congress after November 4, with about three-quarters in each party saying they hope their side winds up in control. Democrats are a bit less apt to say they want their own party to win than they were in May, 74 percent in the new poll compared with 80 percent then.

And the GOP now holds narrow advantages over Democrats on handling an array of top issues, including the economy, immigration and the federal budget.

But neither party is trusted much to manage the federal government, with 27 percent having faith in the GOP to 24 percent in Democrats. More people, 31 percent, say they trust neither party to run the federal government.

Fewer people have confidence in the federal government’s ability to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014 than at the start of the year, with 74 percent saying they have little or no confidence. That’s a slight change from the 70 percent who said so in a December AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. That shift in confidence stems from a small drop-off among Democrats. While 56 percent lacked confidence in December, 62 percent say the same now.

Overall, few express faith in those currently on Capitol Hill. Just 36 percent say they’d like to see their own member of Congress re-elected, 62 percent say they want someone else to win this November. So far, just three House incumbents have been ousted in primaries this year, and none in the Senate. The Congressional approval rating, 13 percent in the new poll, lags behind President Barack Obama’s 40 percent.

Though the economy pushed the nation’s “right direction” figures to historic lows in the fall of 2008, that does not seem to be the culprit in the new poll. About a third (35 percent) say the economy is in good shape, about the same as in May, and 58 percent say the economy has stayed about the same in the past month.

The decline in optimism about the country’s path in the new poll seems to mirror those in October 2013 and August 2011, when congressional inaction led to the threat of a government shutdown in 2011 and a partial one in 2013. Among Democrats, the share saying the nation is heading in the right direction dipped 11 points since May, to 49 percent, while among independents, it’s down slightly to 23 percent. Among Republicans, the 9 percent saying the country is heading the right way is similar to May. The October 2013 and August 2011 declines in right direction were also driven by sharp drops among Democrats and independents.

Among those who say they are highly likely to vote this fall, just 8 percent say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, though 43 percent would like to see their member of Congress re-elected, a bit higher than among all adults. Republicans have an edge among this group as the party more preferred to control Congress, 43 percent to 34 percent, with 23 percent saying it doesn’t matter.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. It is larger for subgroups.

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

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Online:

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

 


AP-GfK Poll: No agreement on how to pay for highways

By JOAN LOWY and JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Small wonder Congress has kept federal highway and transit programs teetering on the edge of insolvency for years, unable to find a politically acceptable long-term source of funds. The public can’t make up its mind on how to pay for them either.

Six in 10 Americans think the economic benefits of good highways, railroads and airports outweigh the cost to taxpayers. Yet there is scant support for some of the most frequently discussed options for paying for construction of new roads or the upkeep of existing ones, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Among those who drive places multiple times per week, 62 percent say the benefits outweigh the costs. Among those who drive less than once a week or not at all, 55 percent say the costs of road improvement are worthwhile.

Yet a majority of all Americans — 58 percent — oppose raising federal gasoline taxes to fund transportation projects such as the repair, replacement or expansion of roads and bridges. Only 14 percent support an increase. And by a better than 2-to-1 margin, Americans oppose having private companies pay for construction of new roads and bridges in exchange for the right to charge tolls. Moving to a usage tax based on how many miles a vehicle drives also draws more opposition than support — 40 percent oppose it, while 20 percent support it.

Support for shifting more responsibility for paying for such projects to state and local government is a tepid 30 percent.

“Congress is actually reflecting what people want,” said Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a transportation think tank. “People want to have a federal (transportation) program and they don’t want to pay for it.”

Last week, Congress cobbled together $10.8 billion to keep transportation aid flowing to states by changing how employers fund worker pension programs, extending customs user fees and transferring money from a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks. The money was needed to make up a shortfall between aid promised to states and revenue raised by the federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax and the 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax, which haven’t been increased in more than 20 years.

It’s the fifth time in the last six years that Congress has patched a hole in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for highway and transit aid. Each time it gets more difficult for lawmakers to find the money without increasing the federal budget deficit. Critics described the pension funding changes used this time as budget gimmicks that would cost the government more in the long run and undermine employee pension programs.

The latest patch cleared Congress about three hours before midnight last Thursday, the day before the Transportation Department said it would begin cutting back aid payments to states. The current fix is only expected to cover the revenue gap through next May, when Congress will be back where it started unless lawmakers act sooner.

The most direct solution would be to raise fuel taxes. That’s what three blue-ribbon federal commissions have recommended. But opposition to a gas tax increase cuts across party lines, although Republicans are more apt to oppose an increase, 70 percent, than Democrats, 52 percent.

“Every time we turn around there’s another tax, and our gas taxes are so high now,” said James Lane, 52, of Henry County in rural south-central Virginia, who described himself as leaning toward the GOP.

Lane favors allowing companies to pay for the construction of new or expanded roads and bridges in exchange for the right impose tolls on motorists, often for many decades. There have been projects like that in Virginia, but since those roads are in more populated areas of the state where he doesn’t drive it makes sense to have the people who use them pay for them, he said.

But Michael Murphy, 63, a data services contractor who lives near San Antonio, Texas, where a high-speed public-private toll road is scheduled to open this fall, said he’d rather see gas taxes increased than tolls imposed on drivers. Roads benefit everyone, even if indirectly, so it’s only fair that everyone who drives pays something toward their cost, he said.

A majority of those surveyed, 56 percent, say traffic in the area where they live has gotten worse in the last five years. Only 6 percent say traffic has improved in their area, and 33 percent that it’s stayed about the same.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents, larger for subgroups.

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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Online:

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

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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy