Poll: Public wary of sequester cuts, losing confidence in economy

A new poll shows the public wary of the economic fallout from looming sequester cuts, but President Obama in stronger political shape as the White House and congressional Republicans debate a replacement plan.

Fifty-two percent said the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts slated to take effect Friday are a “bad idea” in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday. Twenty-one percent say the cuts are a good idea.

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The ongoing debate has also undermined confidence in the economy, with 51 percent saying the sequester fight has made them less confident about the recovery. Sixteen percent said sequester negotiations made them more confident about the economy’s future.

But the poll also shows broad support for continued deficit reduction, with 53 percent saying they prefer Washington to move ahead with the current sequester cuts or a plan that would cut more deeply. Thirty-nine percent want a plan with more cuts, 14 percent support the current automatic cuts, and 37 percent say they would prefer a plan with fewer cuts.

The poll’s findings come as Washington remains at an impasse over a solution to avert the automatic cuts.

Obama on Tuesday warned that the sequester would be a “self-inflicted” wound to the nation’s economy, and pressed the GOP to accept a plan including both spending cuts and tax hikes to replace the automatic budget ax.

The White House has launched an aggressive public campaign to rally public support for its stance, warning of the real-world fallout if the cuts take effect.

Republicans, though, have said they will only accept targeted spending cuts and entitlement reforms to replace the sequester.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the onus is on the Senate to act, pointing to two bills the House GOP passed last session to replace the sequester.

The Senate is slated to vote on two competing Democratic and Republican proposals this week, but neither bill is expected to pass.

On Tuesday, Boehner said it was unlikely that a deal would be reached.

But as both sides seek to lay the blame for the impending cuts on each other, the NBC/WSJ poll shows Obama in a stronger political position than the GOP.

Twenty-nine percent surveyed said they support “most” of what congressional Republicans have proposed, with 57 percent disagreeing with that agenda. By contrast, 45 percent support Obama’s policy proposals, with 46 percent disapproving.

Respondents also viewed the GOP as more partisan than the president, with 48 percent saying Obama was interested in unity, to 43 percent who said he is adopting a partisan approach.

Sixty-four percent said Republicans are taking a partisan approach, with 22 percent saying they were focused on unity.

The president’s overall approval rating is at 50 percent, a slight drop of 2 points from the same poll taken in January. Forty-five percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance.

But voters are also dissatisfied with Obama’s handling of the economy, with 51 disapproving of his job to 44 percent approving, highlighting uncertainty about the sequester's likely impact on the recovery.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted from Feb. 21 to 24 and has a 3-point margin of error.

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