President Barack Obama enters the debt limit talks with largely the same set of advantages he enjoyed during the fiscal cliff debate: relatively strong personal capital and a public inclined to side with him on the issues at hand, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows.
His job approval rating, which has risen steadily since the late fall, hovers at a near high -- 55 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post survey, his highest since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 -- and a majority say they're optimistic about his second term. About six in 10 Americans, including a third of Republicans, say he's a strong leader.
Approval ratings for Congress, by contrast, remain in the basement, with both parties widely dissatisfied with the legislative branch. Only a quarter of Americans, including fewer than half of Republicans, approve of the GOP's faction in Congress. Democrats score a stronger 37 percent.
More specifically, Americans tend to side with Obama's position that Congress's decision on raising its borrowing limit next month shouldn't be tied to spending cuts. A majority 58 percent said the two should be separate issues, while 36 percent said they should be tied together.
Democrats and independents heavily favored debating the issues separately. Republicans were almost evenly split on whether spending cuts should be part of a deal. But those who did favor tying the two issues together took a hard line, largely saying that the government should default if a deal isn't reached.
Nearly half of Americans say they trust Obama more than Republicans in Congress to handle the issue. But the poll also shows some areas of weakness for the president.
Approval for his economic record is weaker than his overall approval rating, with a slim margin of 50 percent approving and 47 percent approving in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, and many other surveys showing him underwater, though rising, on the issue.
The public is also looking for Washington to work together. Two-thirds of Americans said Republicans in Congress weren't doing enough to compromise with Obama, and 48 percent said Obama needed to work more with Republicans.
Half of Republicans say that their representatives in Congress need to compromise more, while Democrats are comparatively behind the president, with 20 percent saying he should do more. In each party, 16 percent feel their leaders have ceded too much ground.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll surveyed 1,001 adults between Jan. 10 and Jan. 13, with a 3.5 percent margin of error.