Despite dire predictions from some about the harmful impact of the "sequester" spending cuts due to kick in on March 1, 29 percent of Americans have never heard of the sequester, and a full 40 percent of Americans believe we should allow the cuts to go into effect, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.
Forty-nine percent of Americans, on the other hand, believe we should delay the automatic spending cuts. But if the cuts do land, congressional Republicans would shoulder a far greater share of the blame than President Obama: only 31 percent would blame the president, while 49 percent would blame the GOP in Congress.
And more bad news for Republicans: the solution offered by Democrats and the president - a combination of tax increases and spending cuts - is in greater concert with public opinion than Republicans' solution, which would trim the deficit with spending cuts alone. 76 percent of respondents told Pew that policymakers should combine spending cuts and tax increases, while only 19 percent would take tax increases out of the deficit reduction toolbox. Those who advocated a combined approach, by more than 3 to 1, believed that the combination should be mostly spending cuts.
Despite disagreements about how to reduce the deficit, there is broad agreement that we must do something: 70 percent of Americans say that major deficit reduction legislation should be a priority.
Some of the president's other agenda items do not evoke the same sense of urgency. Only 51 percent of Americans believe major immigration legislation is essential this year, 46 percent say the same about gun legislation, and only 34 percent believe combating climate change should be a priority.
Still, in each area, respondents tended to side with President Obama's approach to the issue over that of the GOP. On immigration, 50 percent agreed with the president's approach; only 33 percent agreed with Republicans'. On gun policies, 45 percent sided with Mr. Obama, while 39 percent sided with the GOP. And on climate change, the president outpaced Republicans nearly 2 to 1.
The president's job approval rating stands at 51 percent, down from a post-reelection high of 55 percent, according to Pew, but still well above the 25 percent of Americans who approve of the job Congress is doing.
Pew's poll, which surveyed 1,504 American adults between February 13 and 18, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.