Beyond the fiscal showdown, the poll shows traction for the president on immigration, with 47 percent approval of his handling of the issue compared with 38 percent disapproval. Fifty-three percent of Americans support a path to citizenship while 18 percent back a process toward legal status for illegal residents already in the country if certain conditions are met.
Feelings toward Obama are the most positive since December 2009, with 56 percent of Americans holding a favorable opinion of the president and 40 percent a negative one. The Democratic Party he leads is viewed favorably by 47 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent.
Public views of congressional Republicans' record places an added burden on them in the standoff over automatic spending cuts. Americans by 43 percent to 34 percent say they are more to blame than Obama and Democrats for "what's gone wrong" in Washington. Still, another 23 percent aren't sure which side bears more responsibility.
Republicans "are not willing to work at all with the president," said poll respondent Horace Lee Boyd, 64, a political independent and retired wholesale merchandiser who lives in Cullman, Ala. "When you cease to compromise, you cease to accomplish anything. We're at a stalemate. He's willing to compromise and they aren't."
The White House has its own vulnerabilities, the poll shows. The public remains discontented with the state of the nation, with 54 percent saying the country is on the wrong track, though that is the lowest portion to say so since September 2009.
Americans also disapprove of Obama's handling of the federal budget deficit by 55 percent to 35 percent. Political independents disapprove by more than 2-to-1: 61 percent disapprove compared with 26 percent who approve.
"I understand he inherited some of these problems, but he needs to tighten the belt," said poll respondent Rakesh Sethi, 55, a political independent and natural wellness speaker who lives in San Ramon, Calif. "You have to live within your means and when you continue go beyond your means it is a recipe for disaster in the long run."