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: Voters split over how to secure US from illegal immigration
By EMILY SWANSON and VIVIAN SALAMA

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans reject Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and his support for deporting those in the country illegally. But they’re divided on the presumptive Republican nominee’s proposed temporary ban on the entry of Muslims from other countries, a new survey finds.

The poll shows Trump’s shifting rhetoric on that ban might win some Americans over.

When it comes to Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border, about 6 in 10 Americans oppose the idea while 4 in 10 are for it, the new Associated Press-GfK poll indicated.

Similarly, 6 in 10 Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are in the country illegally to become U.S. citizens, while about 4 in 10 are opposed.
Seventy-six percent of Democrats, along with 44 percent of Republicans, favor a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Among Trump’s supporters, just 38 percent are in favor of a path to citizenship. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans and just 21 percent of Democrats favor a border wall. Three-quarters of Trump’s supporters favor that proposal.

Trump’s likely rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, has cast his calls for the border wall and temporary foreign Muslims ban as dangerous.

Trump supporter Marile Womack, 79, of Debary, Florida, adamantly favors the border wall. No one else “had the guts to do it,” she said. But the daughter of Austrian immigrants isn’t opposed to immigration from any country so long as it’s done legally.

“I don’t favor banning immigrants, but I am for investigating them before they come,” she said.

In contrast, Mark Wecker, a car salesman from Redding, California, called a border wall stupid, because “it’s a lot of money and it’s not going to keep them out if they want to get in.”

Three-quarters of Latinos, two-thirds of African-Americans and more than half of whites favor providing a path to citizenship. Forty-eight percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks and just 16 percent of Latinos favor a border wall.

Daniella Gil, a stay-at-home-mom from Cornelius, Oregon, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, said, “We should be focusing on the violence coming from Syria as opposed to Hispanics jumping the border.”

She said she supports immigration from any country so long as it’s done legally.

Americans are slightly more likely to oppose than favor a temporary ban on Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the United States, by a 52 percent to 45 percent margin that has been strikingly consistent in AP-GfK polls conducted this year.

Sixty-nine percent of Republicans say they favor the temporary ban on Muslim immigration, while 68 percent of Democrats are opposed. Half of whites and just a third of non-whites say they favor the ban. Seventy-six percent of Trump supporters are in favor.

On a trip to Scotland last month, Trump shifted his rhetoric, saying he would instead “want terrorists out” of the U.S., and to do so, he would limit people’s entry from “specific terrorist countries and we know who those terrorist countries are.”

The poll indicates that rhetorical shift could win support. Among those asked more broadly about a temporary ban on immigrants from areas of the world where there is a history of terrorism against the U.S. or its allies, 63 percent are in favor and 34 percent opposed. Ninety-four percent of Trump supporters say they favor this proposal, as do 45 percent of Clinton supporters.

“That’s a necessity for creating stability,” said Ryan Williams, 40, a health care provider from Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Most Americans — 53 percent — think the United States is currently letting in too many refugees from Syria, engulfed in civil war since 2011 and the Islamic State militant group’s de facto center. President Barack Obama has pledged to admit some 10,000 Syrian refugees this year.

Another 33 percent think the current level is about right, while just 11 percent want to let in more. About 4 in 10 think there’s a very or somewhat high risk of refugees committing acts of religious or political violence in the United States, 34 percent think the risk moderate, and 24 percent consider it very or somewhat low.

Seventy-six percent of Republicans think the U.S. should allow fewer refugees. Among Democrats, 43 percent think the current level is about right, 38 percent think the U.S. should allow fewer, and 18 percent want to allow more.

Said Gil, the stay-at-home mom from Oregon, “Some of those people are innocent kids.”

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,009 adults was conducted online July 7-11, 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 3.3 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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Follow Vivian Salama and Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/vmsalama and http://twitter.com/EL_Swan


AP-GfK Poll: 8 years after hope and change, voters are angry, anxious

By JULIE PACE

ARVADA, Colorado (AP) — Eight years ago, Barbara Conley was one of the millions of Americans swept up in Barack Obama’s promises of hope and change when he accepted the Democratic nomination at a packed football stadium a few miles from her home in the Denver suburbs.

But those optimistic days are almost unrecognizable to Conley now.

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton preparing for their own nominating conventions, the 68-year-old independent is filled with so much frustration at the candidates and the political system that propelled them to victory that she can’t even imagine voting in November.

“I’m so mad about both of the candidates,” said Conley, who finds Clinton too dishonest and Trump too unproven to be president. She paused while loading groceries into her car and declared, “It’s depressing.”

Less than four months before Election Day, that same sense of anger and anxiety runs deep with voters across the country. Trump and Clinton will each try to paint a rosy picture of life under their leadership during their back-to-back conventions, but it seems unlikely either can quickly shake Americans out of their bad mood.

A stunning 79 percent of Americans now believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, a 15-point spike in the past year, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Voters are strikingly unhappy with the candidates who will be on the ballot this fall, with only 22 percent saying they would be proud to see Trump win and 27 percent to see Clinton.

Julie Defoe, a 51-year-old who works for a startup, said she feels backed into a corner by the nominees. A self-described conservative Democrat who voted for Republicans in the past two presidential elections, Defoe has considered simply not voting in November.

“Or can we rally for a box that says, can we get a do-over?” said Defoe, who lives in Lafayette, Colorado.

Kristie Boltz, a registered Republican from Black Lake, Ohio, said a choice between Clinton and Trump is so unappealing that she would rather Obama stay in office for a third term.

“And I didn’t even vote for Obama. How crazy is that?” said Boltz, a 39-year-old who works in marketing.

By some measures, America’s palpable pessimism can appear at odds with the country’s economic and security standing.

The economy is growing, jobs are being created and unemployment is low. Tens of thousands of American troops have come home from dangerous war zones during Obama’s presidency. Crime is down nationwide.

But the improving economy is no doubt a changing one, leaving some Americans without the skills they need for the jobs available. Terrorism fears have been heightened in the U.S. after a string of deadly incidents in the West, including Thursday night’s attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people during a Bastille Day celebration.

This summer in particular has seemed to bring a steady stream of gruesome news.

A mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub left 49 people dead, as well as a gunman who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group despite no formal ties to the group. Shootings by police of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota were captured on video, followed by the murder of five police officers in Dallas.

The incidents seemed to momentarily spark national soul searching about gun violence and race relations. But as Americans looked toward the presidential candidates and other political leaders, some saw little sign of readiness to meet a challenging time.

“I wish the candidates would get together and be a team to help each other and help the country, that’s what I wish,” said Lonila Duarte, a 71-year-old from Denver who plans to vote for Trump. “And stop acting like children.”

Emilie Passow, a 68-year-old Democrat from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, said her disgust extends beyond the presidential candidates to Congress as well. “There’s so little attempt at conciliation and consensus,” she said.

More than any other candidate in this election, Trump has latched onto the public’s fears. He promises to “Make America Great Again,” pledging to bring back manufacturing and mining jobs from areas where they’ve disappeared. With coded — and sometimes not so coded — language, he’s cast aspersions on immigrants seeking to come to the United States and on Muslims already here.

“We’re trying to be so nice, we’re trying to be so civil. We’re so weak,” Trump said hours after the Nice attack. “The world has got to strengthen up, and we have to be very tight with our borders. It’s now a different world.”

While Trump supporters cheer those lines, they leave other voters on edge.

“It’s humiliating as an American that we would actually entertain that, that there are people who actually support him,” said Melissa Andreas, a 42-year-old dance instructor from Erie, Colorado. “I’m shocked.”

Indeed, three-quarters of Americans consider Trump to be only slightly or not at all civil, and half say he’s at least somewhat racist, according to the AP-GfK poll.

But three-quarters consider Clinton to be only slightly or not at all honest, and most think her use of a private email address and server while she was secretary of state broke the law, including 4 in 10 who think she did so intentionally.

Andreas has never voted before in a presidential election. She liked Obama, but felt his Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney were palatable enough that she didn’t see a need to cast a ballot in her swing state.

That’s all changed in this election.

“This election actually has me chiming in,” said Andreas, who plans to vote for Clinton. She said of the prospect of a Trump presidency: “I’m scared that our country is going to be in utter turmoil with him as our leader.”

Seventy-six-year-old Mike Ryan shares many of those sentiments about Trump. But his view of Clinton isn’t much better.

“I’ve always been a Democrat and always will be,” Ryan said. “But it’s going to be a toughy.”

Like his fellow Coloradan Barbara Conley, some of Ryan’s feelings stem in part from his frustrations with Obama’s eight years in office. Though Ryan supports Obama, he’s been irritated by the years of battle between the Democratic president and Republican lawmakers that have often ended in stalemate.

Asked whether he believes Clinton — or Trump — could do any better, Ryan said simply, “I’m disappointed with what we’re left with.”

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Associated Press writers Kathleen Ronayne and Marc Levy, and AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jpaceDC