Majority disapprove of Boehner's handling of 'cliff' talks, poll finds

A slim majority of Americans disapprove of Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) handling of budget negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff," with a near equal number backing President Obama's work toward a deal.

Just over half — 51 percent — of those surveyed by The Washington Post and ABC News say they disapproved of Boehner's approach to talks for a deal to prevent tax hikes and automatic spending cuts from taking effect. Disapproval of the Speaker was roughly even across party lines, with 56 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of independents and even 49 percent of Republicans saying they did not approve of his handling of the negotiations. 

Boehner earned some of his poorest marks from traditional Republican areas of strength, underlining discontent with his leadership among conservatives. The Midwest and the South were the regions most likely to disapprove of his handling of the debt talks, with 55 percent of voters in both areas disagreeing with his stance. Middle-class taxpayers making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year opposed Boehner's efforts, 57 percent to 28.

Boehner's botched "Plan B" vote and subsequent acceptance of a Senate deal that failed to garner majority support within the Republican Conference have left the Speaker vulnerable. Boehner narrowly held on to his gavel during a vote last week, with 10 Republicans defecting.

By contrast, 52 percent of those surveyed said they approved of President Obama's handling of negotiations. Unlike Boehner, there was a strong partisan divide for the president: While 81 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents supported his actions, only 27 percent of Republicans did so. The president's support was weakest — just 41 percent — among the wealthiest taxpayers, who will see the greatest increase in their taxes under the deal. 

Overall, Americans seem to favor the deal — albeit not by an overwhelming margin. While 45 percent say they approve of the fiscal-cliff agreement, 38 percent say they disapprove. That result is driven mostly by Democrats, two-thirds of whom say they like the deal. By contrast, only four in 10 independents and 26 percent of Republicans say the same thing.

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