By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — They may not like it, but they don’t see it going away. About 7 in 10 Americans think President Barack Obama’s health care law will go fully into effect with some changes, ranging from minor to major alterations, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

 Just 12 percent say they expect the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” to dismissive opponents — to be repealed completely.

 The law — covering 30 million uninsured, requiring virtually every legal U.S. resident to carry health insurance and forbidding insurers from turning away the sick — remains as divisive as the day it passed more than two years ago. After surviving a Supreme Court challenge in June, its fate will probably be settled by the November election, with Republican Mitt Romney vowing to begin repealing it on Day One and Obama pledging to diligently carry it out.

 That’s what the candidates say. But the poll found Americans are converging on the idea that the overhaul will be part of their lives in some form, although probably not down to its last clause and comma.

 Forty-one percent said they expect it to be fully implemented with minor changes, while 31 percent said they expect to see it take effect with major changes. Only 11 percent said they think it will be implemented as passed.

 Americans also prefer that states have a strong say in carrying out the overhaul. The poll found that 63 percent want states to run new health insurance markets called “exchanges.” They would open for business in 2014, signing up individuals and small businesses for taxpayer-subsidized private coverage. With many GOP governors still on the sidelines, the federal government may wind up operating the exchanges in half or more of the states, an outcome only 32 percent of Americans want to see, according to the poll, which was developed with researchers from Stanford University and the University of Michigan.

 Finally, the poll found an enduring generation gap, with people 65 and older most likely to oppose the bill and those younger than 45 less likely to be against it.

 ”People are sort of averaging out the candidates’ positions,” said Harvard School of Public Health professor Robert Blendon, who tracks polling on health care issues. “The presidential candidates are saying there’s a stark choice, but when you ask the voters, they don’t believe that the whole bill will be repealed or implemented as it is today in law.”

 Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed to the overhaul and in favor of repeal. But only 21 percent said they think that will actually come about.

 Romney supporter Toni Gardner, 69, a retired school system nurse from Louisville, Ky., said that until a few weeks ago she was sure her candidate fully supported repeal, as she does.

But then Romney said in an interview there are a number of things he likes in the law that he would put into practice, including making sure that people with pre-existing medical problems can get coverage. The Romney campaign quickly qualified that, but the candidate’s statement still resonates.

 ”If Romney gets in, he’ll go with parts of it,” Gardner said, “and there are parts of that he won’t go with.”

 Gardner thinks expanding coverage will cost too much and may make it harder to get an appointment with a doctor. Besides, she doesn’t believe the government can handle the job. She’s covered by Medicare — a government-run health system — but says “that wasn’t a choice that I had.”

 At 26, Santa Monica, Calif., web developer Vyki Englert has only bare-bones health insurance coverage. Her parents, a preschool teacher and a self-employed photographer, are uninsured. Englert says she thinks the law will largely go into effect as passed. (Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 60 percent think it will be implemented with only minor changes or none at all.)

 Englert says that she supports guaranteeing coverage to people with health problems and that provisions such as broader coverage for birth control will help younger women such as her.

 ”I kind of see a day-to-day way where this law could benefit me,” she said. Englert says the health care law dovetails with a trend toward consumerism in her generation. Older Americans “don’t have the context of the young people,” she added. “They are looking more at the theoretical impact on the budget and the country.”

 Overall, the poll found Americans divided on the question of repeal, with neither side able to claim a majority. Forty-nine percent said the health care law should be repealed completely, while 44 percent said it should be implemented as written.

 The notion that the law will be implemented with changes, captured in the poll, mirrors a discussion going on behind the scenes in Washington, particularly among some Republicans.

 ”Whoever wins the election, the (health care law) is going to be modified,” Mark McClellan, who ran Medicare under former President George W. Bush, said in a recent interview.

Congressional Republicans say if tax increases are on the table in a budget negotiation with a re-elected Obama next year, changes to the health care law — including possible delays in implementation — also must be considered. For now, White House officials refuse to be drawn in on that question.

 Some parts of the law already are in effect; its big coverage expansion for the uninsured doesn’t come until 2014.

 Public opinion about the law itself has barely budged since the summer of 2010, soon after it passed. At the time, 30 percent supported the law. It’s now 32 percent. And 40 percent opposed the overhaul. That’s now 36 percent.

 And misconceptions about the law that reigned two years ago continue to live on, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s widely debunked charge that it would create “death panels” to decide on care for the elderly and disabled. In 2010, 39 percent believed the law would set up committees to review individual medical records and decide who gets care paid for by the government. Forty-one percent currently hold that view, according to the poll.

 The poll asked people to say whether 18 different items were in the law or not and to rate how certain they were about their answers. Just 14 percent were right most of the time and sure of it.

Still, knowledge about what the law actually does is growing. More people are aware of provisions that allow adult children to stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26, impose insurance mandates on individuals and businesses, and protect those with pre-existing medical conditions.

 The poll was conducted Aug. 3-13 and involved interviews with 1,334 randomly chosen adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The survey was conducted online by GfK using its KnowledgePanel sample, which first chose people for the study using randomly generated telephone numbers and home addresses. Once people were selected to participate, they were interviewed online. Participants without Internet access were provided it for free.

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AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

 

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

Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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