AP-GfK Poll: Voters tend to trust and like Obama; Romney may gain on economic front

 By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s popularity among women, minorities and independents is giving him an early edge over his likely GOP rival, Mitt Romney, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The Democratic president also earns strong marks on empathy, sincerity, likeability and social issues. But Americans are split over which candidate can best handle the economy, which might open pathways for Romney six months before the November election.

Half of registered voters say they would back Obama in November, while 42 percent favor Romney, the AP-GfK poll found. About a quarter of voters indicated they are persuadable, meaning they are undecided or could change their minds before Election Day.

Forty-one percent of voters say they are certain to vote for Obama, and 32 percent say they are locked in for Romney.

The nationwide poll of 1,004 adults comes as Romney is focusing heavily on fundraising after gaining endorsements from of all but one of his GOP rivals, and conservative voters are reminding politicians of their muscle. Republicans in Indiana on Tuesday ousted a six-term senator accused of being too friendly to Obama, and North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, however, Obama endorsed gay marriage, a sign that he is eager to fire up young and liberal voters even if it costs him some support in battleground states such as North Carolina, which he narrowly won in 2008.

In the AP-GfK poll, Americans give Obama an edge over Romney on numerous attributes, but handling the economy is a key exception. The public is divided over whether Obama or Romney would do a better job on the issue that strategists say will dominate the fall election. Forty-six percent prefer Obama on this topic, and 44 percent prefer Romney.

Romney, who oversaw the restructuring of several companies while at Bain Capital, says he understands the private sector better than Obama does. Democrats dispute the claim.

If the economic recovery continues to limp slowly, as it has in the past two months, Republicans say voters will become more open to Romney’s campaign.

On other issues: Half of adults say Obama is the stronger leader, while 39 percent choose Romney; Obama is more trusted to handle taxes and social issues, and to protect the country.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has changed his stance on some important issues over the past 18 years, may need to shore up his image on questions of credibility and sincerity. More than half of adults say Obama is the one who more often says what he believes, while 31 percent choose Romney on that measure.

Morris Griffin, 76, a Democratic-leaning voter from Liberty, Miss., is among those who question Romney’s consistency.

“He changes his mind every other day,” said Griffin, a Marine veteran. “This is the guy that didn’t want to save the automotive industry some time back, and now he says he’s the one that had idea for saving it.”

Still, Griffin said there is a 25 percent chance he will change his mind and not vote for Obama.

Obama’s biggest advantages are among women and minorities. His biggest problem is with whites who lack college degrees.

Female voters favor the president by 54 percent to 39 percent. Men are evenly split, with 46 percent for each candidate. That’s largely in line with the 2008 “gender gap” that helped Obama win the White House.

Romney draws the backing of half of all white voters, while Obama gets 43 percent. White voters with college degrees split 50 percent for Obama to 46 percent for Romney. Whites without college degrees break 53 percent for Romney to 38 percent for Obama.

The president continues to draw strong support from black voters; 90 percent favor him; only 5 percent back Romney.

Obama holds an edge among independent voters, an important but easily misunderstood group. Independents neither identify with nor lean toward the Democratic or Republican parties, but not all are swing voters. Some are strongly liberal or conservative, so they can be just as committed to a candidate as some partisans.

The AP-GfK poll found 42 percent of independents backing Obama, 30 percent backing Romney and about a quarter undecided. Fifty-five percent said they remain persuadable.

Marianne Noble, a retired teacher from Eveleth, Minn., is an independent voter who supports Obama. “I think he’s a good president,” she said. “He needs a little more time, four more years to fulfill his potential.”

Noble, 83, said Romney “skirts around certain issues. He’s not very committed to a certain stance.”

But Rebecca Fabrizio, a Republican from Henderson, Ky., said she will gladly vote against Obama.

Romney “is not my favorite, but out of my choices, that would be the one,” said Fabrizio, 49, a retired nurse with three grown children.

She said Obama “wants to be president of the united world. He wants to be so loved… king of the world.” Romney, she said, “is more willing to listen to both sides of the story, get all the facts before he decides something.”

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted May 3-7, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,004 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The poll included interviews with 871 registered voters; results among that group have an error margin of plus or minus 4.2 points.


Associated Press writer Stacy Anderson, Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.


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




How the poll was conducted


By The Associated Press


The Associated Press-GfK Poll on the 2012 presidential election was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from May 3-7. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,004 adults, including 871 registered voters. Interviews were conducted with 703 respondents on landline telephones and 301 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 one 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 4.2 percentage points.

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 are available at http://ap-gfkpoll.com or http://surveys.ap.org

AP-GfK Poll: Clerks must issue gay marriage licenses
WASHINGTON (AP) — Linda Massey opposes gay marriage. But she was incensed last summer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“If the government says you have to give out those marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it,” says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. “That woman,” she said of Davis, “should be out of a job.”

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It’s partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs. But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which: religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders. But it’s not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis’s answer was the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom — and she served jail time to back it up — a majority of respondents don’t buy that argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses. That’s a shift since an AP-GfK survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split. Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Now, just 41 percent favor an exemption and 56 percent think they should be required to issue the licenses.

That shift was especially stark among Republicans. A majority of them —58 percent — still favor religious exemptions for officials issuing marriage licenses, but that’s down 14 points since 72 percent said so in July.

The timing of the surveys is important, coming during rapid developments in the politics of gay rights and religious freedom.

Public opinion has favored same-sex marriage in recent years and some politicians — President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton and some members of Congress among them — have come around to that view. In June, the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The cultural change has influenced the governing bodies of some of the most conservative religions, including the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and the Mormon Church, which last week called for compromises between protecting religious liberties and prohibiting discrimination. Both institutions are trying to accommodate society’s shifting views while keeping a firm grip internally on their own doctrines against gay marriage and homosexual activity. And both churches steered clear of the appearance of backing Davis. The Vatican said the pope’s brief meeting with her in Washington should not be construed as a sign of support.

Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks last week told a closed gathering of judges and clergy in Sacramento, California, that when conflicts between religion and law rise and are decided, citizens of a democracy must follow court rulings.

Davis, a Democrat, Apostolic Christian and clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became the face of religious Americans who bristle at government requirements that conflict with their beliefs, whether those mandates cover gay marriage, contraception or abortion referrals. On June 27 — the day after the high court ruling — Davis refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In September she spent five days in jail for defying a court order to issue the licenses. Affixing her name to the certificate, she wrote in a statement, “would violate my conscience.” After serving her jail sentence, Davis returned to work — but her name no longer appears on marriage licenses for gay couples.

Nick Hawks, a business consultant in Ararat, North Carolina, agrees with Davis.

“We’ve got to decide at some point who’s going to be protected first,” said the father of three boys, 50, who says he’s a Republican-leaning independent. “It doesn’t seem quite fair” to allow a minority such as gay people to “control the policy.”

More generally, the poll offers evidence that Americans remain slightly more likely to say that it’s more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians when the two come into conflict, 51 percent to 45 percent. But that, too, is a slight shift since July, when 56 percent said it’s more important to protect religious liberties.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, 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 otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.



Poll results: http://ap-gfkpoll.com/

AP-GfK Poll: Americans still feeling economic gloom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more likely than they were a year ago to have positive views of the nation’s economy, but they’re still feeling more pessimism than optimism, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll conducted ahead of CNBC’s GOP primary debate on Wednesday.

The candidates will attempt to impress Republicans in particular, who the poll finds feel much gloomier about the economy than Democrats.

Here are some things to know about opinions on the economy from the latest AP-GfK poll:



A majority of Americans — 54 percent — say the nation’s economy is poor, the new poll shows. Just 45 percent call it good. Still, views of the economy are slightly rosier than they were over the summer, when a July AP-GfK poll found 41 percent of Americans described the economy as good, and more positive than they were a year ago, when just 38 percent said so.

Half of men, but just 4 in 10 women, describe the economy as good.

Americans are even less likely to see the nation heading in a positive direction overall. Just 36 percent think the country is heading in the right direction, while 63 percent think it’s headed in the wrong direction.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in the new poll described the economy as an extremely or very important issue, down slightly since July. Still, the economy rates higher in importance than any other issue in the poll.



The candidates will aim their messages at a Republican Party that has a particularly negative view of the economy.

While 65 percent of Democrats describe the economy as good, just 29 percent of Republicans say the same. Seven in 10 Republicans say the economy is poor, including more than 8 in 10 GOP supporters of the tea party. Eight-five percent of Republicans say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Independents, too, are unhappy with the economy, with 33 percent seeing it as good and 62 percent poor.



Few Americans — just 17 percent — think the economy has improved over the past month, while 21 percent think it has gotten worse and the bulk — 60 percent — think it’s stayed about the same.

Most Americans don’t expect to see improvement in either the nation’s economy or their own financial situations in the next year, either.

Thirty-one percent say they expect the general economic situation to get better, 32 percent expect it to get worse, and 34 percent expect it to stay about the same. Likewise, 29 percent expect their household financial situation to get better, 25 percent expect it to get worse, and 44 percent expect it to stay the same.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy has gotten worse in the last month, 31 percent to 13 percent. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to expect it to get better in the next year, 40 percent to 21 percent.



Whichever GOP candidate emerges victorious in next year’s presidential primaries will need to convince Americans that the party can do a better job than Democrats at handling economic issues.

Americans are slightly more likely to say they trust Democrats than Republicans more on handling the economy, 29 percent to 24 percent, the poll shows.

But neither party’s a clear winner on the issue — 15 percent say they trust both equally and 30 percent say they trust neither party.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they trust neither party, 29 percent to 17 percent. A majority of independents — 55 percent — don’t trust either party.



Americans are slightly more likely to disapprove than approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, 52 percent to 46 percent, according to the new poll. But that’s an apparent rise in his approval rating on the issue since July, when just 42 percent said they approved.

Americans’ rating of Obama on the economy is nearly identical to how they feel about how he’s handling his job overall, with 46 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online from Oct. 15 to 19. The sample was 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 selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel without Internet access were provided it for free.



Poll results: http://ap-gfkpoll.com/