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Public split on which party is handling budget crisis best

A one-day Gallup poll finds a statistical dead heat between those who support the Republicans' approach and those who favor the Democrats' position.

February 25, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Public opinion is roughly split on whether Republicans or Democrats have best handled federal budget negotiations, according to a poll released Thursday, as members faced criticism in their districts over the extent of proposed spending cuts.

Gallup released results of a one-day survey conducted this week that showed 42% of Americans polled backed congressional Republicans' efforts on a new federal spending plan, while 39% supported President Obama and the Democrats — a statistical dead heat.

Sixty percent of those surveyed hope lawmakers will agree to a compromise that would avoid a government shutdown, but one-third want their party to hold out for their plan; Republicans were more likely than Democrats to prefer their party holds out.

The survey also found that respondents were more likely to say the Democratic plan does not go far enough in cutting spending. Republicans highlighted that result Thursday amid a rhetorical battle largely between the House GOP and Senate Democrats over negotiations on a measure to fund government operations beyond March 4, when the current spending plan expires.

Democrats, meanwhile, have flagged a number of local media reports that some GOP lawmakers are defending — or in some cases distancing themselves from — votes that would affect their districts. Freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), for instance, said he hoped his state's two senators would restore a $230-million federal grant to build an Amtrak line from Chicago to Iowa City.

Congress will return to Washington next week with little time to reach agreement on a temporary spending plan. The White House said Thursday that members of the administration were working with leaders from both parties to avoid a shutdown.

Meanwhile, the weekly poll of party insiders conducted by National Journal finds that Democrats largely believe a shutdown would be to the party's political benefit, and Republicans overwhelmingly said it could hurt the GOP.

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