Friday's deadline for sequestration looms against familiar political terrain, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday evening, with Americans divided on the negotiations but especially unhappy with Republicans' performance.
Opinion on the automatic budget cuts is conflicted, if not confused: A majority of people say the sequester is a bad idea, but the public is split over whether Congress should embrace more or fewer cuts, and respondents only narrowly preferred avoiding the sequester altogether to facing its results (and reducing the deficit), the survey found. In addition, the pollsters caution those numbers could look very different should the cuts go through.
For now, Americans aren't convinced that anyone in Washington is interested in compromise, but they view Republicans as especially intransigent, echoing the results of another poll released Tuesday that found most view the party as extreme. While President Barack Obama is viewed as only slightly more interested in unifying the country, the Republican party is seen as emphasizing partisanship by an almost 3-to-1 margin.
Just 29 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican party, compared to 41 percent with a positive view of the Democrats, the NBC/WSJ poll found. The GOP is still more trusted to manage the debt and control government spending, but, for the first time in years, the new polling gives Democrats a small edge on handling the economy and taxes.
Obama faces some challenges of his own. His approval rating on the economy has dropped, shifting into the negative for the first time post-November, with 44 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving. Americans are about evenly split on whether they agree with most of the president's second-term agenda.
His positions on health care, gun control, and the economy are flashpoints, with both supporters and opponents most likely to cite his handling of those topics as the reasons for their views.
But Obama's numbers remain strong next to those of congressional Republicans, who garnered 57 percent disapproval of their plans.
Those who agreed with the GOP were most likely to mention protecting gun rights and cutting spending and taxes. Those who disagreed also cited the Republican position on gun control, as well as a lack of compromise with Democrats and opposition to taxing the wealthy.
The NBC/WSJ poll surveyed 1,000 adults by phone between Feb. 21 and Feb. 24.