Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items “unacceptable.”
A clear majority of Americans, 74 percent, say they would tolerate Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on those with incomes over $250,000, but neither side in the talks thinks that alone would generate enough revenue to bridge the budget gap. A smaller majority backs limits to tax deductions.
In general, the public mood is sour about both sides. Fully 76 percent see the Republicans as too intractable on the deficit issue, and most, 57 percent, also see Obama as not being willing enough to compromise. Both numbers are similar to those from a Post-ABC poll amid the 2011 clash over raising the nation’s debt limit.
Underscoring the lack of faith in Washington, just 14 percent see it as “very likely” that Obama and congressional Republicans will agree on a deficit-reduction plan.
In the first Post-ABC poll since Obama’s reelection six weeks ago, 54 percent of all Americans say they approve of how the president is handling his job — his highest mark in nearly two years, other than a momentary high of 56 percent after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The positive trend for Obama extends into another key measure: For the first time in 2 1
2 years, 50 percent approve of his handling of the economy. Obama bottomed out at 35 percent on this score after the showdown over the debt limit.
Nonetheless, barely more than a third of all Americans see the president as having a broad-based mandate coming out of the November election. Among political independents, which as a group narrowly sided with Republican Mitt Romney over Obama in November, twice as many say the president should compromise with the GOP than say he has a general mandate.
While there is a desire for both sides to reach across the aisle in the fiscal cliff talks, the public is particularly critical of congressional Republicans. That puts Obama in a relatively strong negotiating position with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), at least in the court of public opinion.
While only 45 percent of Americans give Obama positive marks, far fewer — 26 percent — approve of the way Republicans are handling the budget issue. Among Republicans, barely more than half approve of their party leaders’ handling of the negotiations, while three-quarters of Democrats see Obama as doing a good job.
Should the talks break down, 47 percent say they would blame Republicans; 31 percent say they are more likely to point the finger at Obama. Some 18 percent, a growing number, volunteer that they would hold both sides equally culpable.