By JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A month after the bitterly fought election, President Barack Obama has his highest approval ratings since the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, and more Americans say the nation is heading in the right direction now than at any time since the start of his first term.

 Obama’s approval rating stands at 57 percent, the highest since May 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs killed the terror leader, and up 5 percentage points from before the election. And 42 percent say the country is on the right track, up from 35 percent in January 2009.

 A majority think it’s likely that the president will be able to improve the economy in his second term.

 ”Compared to the alternative, I’m more optimistic about government and the economy with him in office,” said Jack Reinholt, an independent from Bristol, R.I., who backed Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. “I feel he has the better path laid out.”

 Still, four years of partisan conflict in Washington have taken a toll on the president’s image.

 ”I’m less enthusiastic about him than the first time he was elected,” Reinholt added.

 Americans are divided on what kind of president Obama has been, with 37 percent saying he’s been above average or outstanding and 36 percent describing his tenure as below average or poor. Another quarter say he’s been just average.

 Obama held much stronger numbers on this measure at the start of his first term, with two-thirds expecting an above-average presidency. And the public’s take on Obama’s relative performance has bounced back and forth over his four years in office, moving higher following the death of bin Laden, after declining in the summer of 2010, a few months before the GOP took back control of the House.

 Looking ahead to Obama’s final four years, most Americans doubt he can reduce the federal budget deficit. But almost 7 in 10 say he will be able to implement the health care law passed in March 2010 and remove most troops from Afghanistan. And most think he’ll be able to improve the economy and boost race relations in his final term, though both those figures are down significantly from January 2009.

 About a quarter say the economy is in good shape in the new poll, similar to pre-election poll results, but optimism about the economy has dipped since before the election. In October, 52 percent of Americans said they expected the economy to get better in the next year; now, that stands at 40 percent. Among Republicans, the share saying the economy will improve in the coming year has dropped sharply since before the election, from 42 percent in October to 16 percent now.

 ”The economy, if left alone, will gradually improve because of our people wanting to better themselves and make more money,” said Bobby Jordan, 76, a Romney voter from Green Valley, Ariz. “They’re going to be doing things to improve their own position, which will collectively mean the economy will gradually get a little better. But (Obama’s) not doing anything to improve the economy.”

 Overall, the public gives Democrats the advantage on handling the economy, 45 percent saying they trust the president’s party to do a better job on it, 39 percent favoring Republicans.

 As Obama took office four years ago, Republicans were mostly optimistic about his chances for improving the economy, with nearly 7 in 10 saying it was likely the new president could improve it in his first four years in office. Now, just 21 percent of Republicans feel the next four years are that promising. Independents, too, have grown skeptical about Obama’s ability to turn around the economy. About three-quarters thought he could fix it in 2009; just a third do now.

 Those sharp partisan divides in expectations are represented in the president’s approval ratings. About 9 in 10 Democrats say they approve of the way Obama is handling his job, compared with just 2 in 10 Republicans. That gap approaches the 82-point partisan gap in George W. Bush’s approval ratings according to Gallup polling in December 2004.

 The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 3 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,002 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.


EDITOR’S NOTE — Jennifer Agiesta is director of polling for The Associated Press.


Associated Press News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.



AP-GfK Poll:

 How the AP-GfK poll was conducted

 The Associated Press-GfK poll on Obama and politics was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. It is based on landline telephone and cellphone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,002 adults. 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.

Topline results are available at and


The questions and results are available at

AP-GfK Poll: Clinton appears on cusp of commanding victory


NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Clinton appears on the cusp of a potentially commanding victory over Donald Trump, fueled by solid Democratic turnout in early voting, massive operational advantages and increasing enthusiasm among her supporters.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday finds the Democratic nominee has grabbed significant advantages over her Republican rival with just 12 days left before Election Day. Among them: consolidating the support of her party and even winning some Republicans.

“I’m going to pick Hillary at the top and pick Republican straight down the line,” said poll respondent William Goldstein, a 71-year-old from Long Island, New York, who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. “I can’t vote for Trump.”

Overall, the poll shows Clinton leading Trump nationally by a staggering 14 percentage points among likely voters, 51-37. While that is one of her largest margins among recent national surveys, most show the former secretary of state with a substantial national lead over the billionaire businessman.

The AP-GfK poll finds that Clinton has secured the support of 90 percent of likely Democratic voters, and also has the backing of 15 percent of more moderate Republicans. Just 79 percent of all Republicans surveyed say they are voting for their party’s nominee.

With voting already underway in 37 states, Trump’s opportunities to overtake Clinton are quickly evaporating — and voters appear to know it. The AP-GfK poll found that 74 percent of likely voters believe Clinton will win, up from 63 percent in September.

Troubles with President Barack Obama’s signature health care law have given Trump a late opening to warn voters against putting another Democrat in the White House. But even Republicans question whether the rising cost of insurance premiums is enough to overcome the damage the businessman has done to his standing with women and minorities.

“Donald Trump has spent his entire campaign running against the groups he needs to expand his coalition,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed presidential campaign. Ayres called Trump’s campaign “strategically mindless.”

Even if Clinton’s support plummets in the contest’s closing days, or she’s unable to motivate strong turnout in her favor, it’s not clear that Trump could marshal the resources to take advantage and collect enough states to win the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.

Clinton’s team has overwhelmed Trump’s campaign in its effort to turn out voters.

An Associated Press review of campaign finance filings finds that her campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in 12 states have more than three times as many paid employees as Trump’s campaign and the main Republican organizations supporting him. Clinton and Democrats had about 4,900 people on payroll in September, while Trump and Republicans had about 1,500.

Both sides benefit from legions of volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters, as well as outside forces such as unions and super PACs pitching in on voter turnout operations. But key Republican groups such as the ones funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers are sitting out the presidential race because of their distaste for Trump, further extending Clinton’s likely advantage at getting out the vote.

The strength of the Democratic turnout effort appears to be paying dividends in states where voting is underway. Nationwide, more than 12 million voters have already cast ballots, according to data compiled by the AP, a pace far quicker than 2012.

In North Carolina, a must-win state for Trump, Democrats lead Republicans in early ballots, 47 percent to 29 percent. The Democrats hold an advantage even though turnout among blacks, a crucial voting bloc for Clinton in the state, is down compared to this point in 2012. Strategists in both parties attribute the lower black turnout in part to an early reduction in polling stations, though more sites are to open in the days leading up to Nov. 8.

In Florida, a perennial battleground, Democrats have drawn even to Republicans in votes cast, reaching that milestone faster than in 2012. Traditionally, Republicans do well initially with mail-in ballots. But Democrats were able to keep it close, putting Clinton in position to run up the score during in-person voting.

Clinton also appears to hold an edge in Nevada and Colorado based on early returns. David Flaherty, a Republican pollster based in Colorado, said the data signal “a Democrat wave in the making.”

Buoyed by support from white voters, Trump looks strong in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia, a Republican state where Clinton is trying to make inroads. But wins in those states would still leave him well short of the required 270 Electoral College votes.

Trump’s top advisers have conceded in recent days the businessman is trailing Clinton. But they point to his large rallies and enthusiastic supporters as an indication he could be poised for an upset. Clinton draws smaller crowds to her events and has been perceived by some voters a lesser of two evils.

“We have a couple of different paths to get to 270 and we’re actively pursuing them,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told MSNBC on Monday.

The AP-GfK poll suggests Clinton’s advantage is about more than just voter dislike for Trump. Clinton supporters are more likely than his backers to list their candidate’s leadership, qualifications for the presidency and positions on issues as major factors in their support.

Although voters are still more likely to have an unfavorable than a favorable view of Clinton, her ratings have improved slightly in the past month. Forty-six percent of likely voters now say they have a favorable view of the former secretary of state, up from 42 percent in September. Just 34 percent of all likely voters have a favorable view of Trump.

Trump’s unpopularity has opened surprising opportunities for Clinton as the White House race barrels toward its finish. Her campaign is actively competing for Arizona, a state that has voted for the Democrat in only one presidential race since 1952, and she is also spending money in Georgia, a reliably Republican state over the past two decades.

Both states have been on Democrats’ wish lists in recent years given their increasingly favorable demographics, though the party had little expectation they might flip this year. Hispanics are a growing share of the Arizona electorate, while Georgia is on its way to becoming a majority-minority state.

The real electoral map surprise this year is Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country. Utah’s heavily Mormon population has turned its back on Trump, providing an opening for third-party candidate and Utah native Evan McMullin to carry the state. Stripping Trump of six Electoral College votes Republicans have never had to worry about would further narrow his already slim path to victory.

With so much appearing to lean in their favor heading into Election Day, the Clinton campaign’s biggest concern is that some supporters take victory for granted and don’t show up to vote.

“Donald Trump said he could still win, and he could if our people get complacent,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, 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 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 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.



Poll results:


Associated Press writers Hope Yen, Nicholas Riccardi, Thomas Beaumont and Chad Day contributed to this report.


Follow Julie Pace and Emily Swanson on Twitter at: and


AP-GfK poll: Third party backers a wild card in 2016 race


WASHINGTON (AP) — Most people who are drawn to third party candidates in the presidential election aren’t sold on their choice, making these voters wild cards in an already unpredictable contest.

A shift in their support toward either of the major party nominees — away from Libertarian Gary Johnson, Jill Stein of the Green Party or another third party candidate — could drastically change the shape of the race.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that nearly 7 in 10 third-party supporters say they could still change their minds.

They are about evenly split between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump if forced to choose between just those two. Nearly one-third refused to pick or said they would just not vote if it came down to that.

Margaret Bonnem, a stay-at-home mother in Colliersville, Tennessee, had previously supported Stein. But now she says she’ll vote for Clinton because she realizes that “a third party candidate can’t really do anything but pull votes away” from the major parties.

“I can’t vote for Trump, and I don’t want him to benefit from me voting for someone else,” said Bonnem, 54. “So I’ll end up voting for someone I don’t fully trust.”

The poll, conducted before last Monday night’s first presidential debate, also shows signs that many third party backers would rather vote for no one than throw their support either to Trump or Clinton.

Among likely voters in the AP-GfK poll saying they’ll support a third party candidate, 7 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of both the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Altogether, the poll found 9 percent of likely voters supported Johnson, 2 percent Stein, and 2 percent “another candidate.”

Among third-party supporters, 72 percent say Clinton’s not at all honest, and 64 percent say she’s at least somewhat corrupt. Sixty-eight percent say Trump is not at all compassionate and 59 percent think he’s at least somewhat racist.

Overall, 8 in 10 say they have an unfavorable opinion of each of the major party nominees. For 6 in 10, that opinion is very unfavorable.

Patrick Cannon, 63, from Minneapolis, says he’ll vote for Johnson though he knows Johnson can’t win.

“I guess my vote is in the nature of a protest vote,” said Cannon, who retired from the graphics industry. “I just can’t bring myself to vote for the other two.”

These third party voters don’t fit into easy political boxes.

They’re disproportionately young: 26 percent of them are under age 30, compared with just 15 percent of likely voters overall. More than half of them self-identify as independents, though when asked which way they lean, they’re about evenly split between the two parties.

They’re deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Eight-two percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, far closer to the percentage for Trump supporters (94 percent) than Clinton supporters (45 percent). Six in 10 disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

Despite their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, 74 percent of them say they would be afraid if Trump is elected president, compared with 56 percent who say that of Clinton. They’re also slightly more likely to say they would be angry about electing Trump than put Clinton in the White House, 54 percent to 45 percent.

Whether the Democrat or the Republican can win them over lends potential volatility to the race. In the AP-GfK poll, 69 percent of them said they could still change their minds about whom to support, while more than 85 percent of both Trump and Clinton supporters said their minds were made up.

Jim Stab, a retired captain in the Navy, is planning to vote for Johnson but says his “leaning is weak.”

“Not voting is a waste,” said Staub, 75, of Laguna Niguel, California. “If I won’t for Johnson, I will for one of them,” meaning Clinton or Trump.

On average, surveys have suggested Clinton may perform slightly better when voters are forced to choose between only Trump and her.

But first, they’d need to actually vote. And there are reasons to think many of them wouldn’t come out to hold their noses for their least-disliked candidate.

While 6 in 10 Trump and Clinton supporters in the AP-GfK poll say they always vote, just 45 percent of third party voters say the same. In fact, more than a quarter straight up say they would not vote if they had to choose between Trump and Clinton.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 160 likely voters who said they’ll vote for a third party candidate, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, 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 2.5 percentage points, and for third party voters is plus or minus 8.2 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.


Lemire reported from New York.



Poll results:


Follow AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson on Twitter at and Jonathan Lemire at