The poll was conducted March 7 to 10 among a random sample of 1,001 adults. The full survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
At a moment when the statistics — a booming stock market and surprising new strength in the job market — suggest a more vigorous economy, many Americans are not themselves seeing progress.
Barely more than half of those surveyed say the economy has started its recovery. And after a brief foray into neutral territory, most Americans again give Obama negative marks on handling the economy. The personal assessments of the economy’s trajectory relate directly to Obama’s overall rating: Seventy-three percent of those who say they sense economic growth approve of the way the president is doing his job, and an identical 73 percent of those who don’t see a recovering economy disapprove of his performance in office.
As they do on the economy, the president and the Republican opposition have rough parity on the question of who is better positioned on gun control, with Obama the choice of 42 percent and congressional Republicans, 41 percent.
On immigration, Obama has a six-point advantage, with 45 percent saying they trust him more and 39 percent expressing greater confidence in the Republicans’ approach. The margin may be surprisingly slender, given big majority support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and strong Latino support for Obama in the November election.
Nor does the election seem to have produced a lasting consensus on which side is better equipped to figure out what government spending should be cut and what services preserved. When it comes to finding the right balance, 44 percent side with Republicans and 43 percent with the president.
The poll also confirms one of the political verities of deficit reduction: People may want to see an end to red ink, but there is rarely public support for reductions in popular social programs to achieve it.
Asked about alternatives to the automatic cuts now in place, 71 percent reject a reduction in Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, and 60 percent oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.
There is broader but still limited support for slicing business tax deductions. Most, 56 percent, say they back limiting tax deductions for high-income earners as part of a path out of the sequester. Tax reform is often considered a quid pro quo for reining in entitlement spending, which is a long-term driver of deficit spending.
A Post-ABC News poll last week found broad opposition to the across-the-board cuts to the military that started March 1 with the sequester, but there is majority support in the new survey for more targeted defense cuts.
Cohen is director of polling for Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Capital Insight pollsters Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this report.
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