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Washington Post-ABC poll: Public is not yet sold on GOP

Now that the 2010 midterm elections are over, tongues have already started wagging over who the potential Republican presidential candidates may be in 2012.

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Leadership poll

Even so, 55 percent of all Americans say they disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the deficit, and he has not had majority approval on the issue since the 100-day mark of his presidency in late April 2009. Most - 54 percent - disapprove of Obama's work on the economy. But in terms of his overall job performance, it's a nearly even divide: 49 percent approval, 47 percent disapproval.

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Independents, who played a major role in delivering the House to the Republicans, also split about evenly on the president's performance, and they give Obama a narrow edge over the GOP when it comes to dealing with major issues. Nearly one-fifth of independents do not trust either the president or the Republicans, a sign that both sides remain on trial in the eyes of this crucial part of the population.

Most independents say the Republicans are not doing enough to make deals with Obama, and more than four in 10 say the president is not doing enough to reach out to the other side.

Obama's tax compromise with Republicans on Capitol Hill sparked vocal protests from liberal elected officials and leaders of some progressive groups. But the poll shows no notable erosion in his support among liberal Democrats in the population at large. His approval rating among liberal Democrats stands at a lofty 87 percent, almost identical to where it was in an early October poll and down marginally from a survey later that month.

Persistent pessimism

More broadly, the poll found that the widespread public pessimism that shaped election-year attitudes has not been alleviated by the vote's outcome. Two-thirds of all Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, the same number that said so a month into Obama's term.

It's the nation's puttering economy that continues to drive the negative views. Nearly six in 10 Americans - 57 percent - say that, in personal terms, the recession has not ended, regardless of what economists say. More than a third say that someone in their household has lost a job in the past year, nearly double the proportion saying so when Obama took office. Nearly three-quarters now say they have close friends or immediate family members who have been hit with job loss.

During the fall campaign, most Republican candidates pledged to cut federal spending and attack the deficit. Both congressional Republicans and the president now say they hope to make deficit reduction a high priority in 2011. But it is a tricky issue, even though most of those polled want the government to make efforts to reduce the imbalance now, not wait for the economy to recover.

Of the nine ways proposed in the poll to close to budget deficit - including some outlined in the report recently released by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform - not a single one gets majority support. Seven are opposed by 51 percent or more.

Nearly eight in 10 poll respondents oppose raising federal gasoline taxes, and about two-thirds are against cutting yearly Social Security benefit increases or eliminating the tax deduction that parents can take for children younger than 18. Most also oppose raising the capital gains tax, reducing federal aid to agriculture, cutting defense spending or gradually bumping up the qualifying age for Social Security payouts.

The poll was conducted Dec. 9 to 12 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

balzd@washpost.com cohenj@washpost.com

Polling consultant Meredith Chaiken contributed to this report.


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