The poll also shows that, among all Americans, the plans proposed by President Obama and Democrats have more support. Asked to choose between Obama's proposal, "which would reduce the Federal deficit by four trillion dollars over the next decade by cutting federal spending, increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and reducing the level of spending on Medicare," or the Republicans' proposal to "reduce the Federal deficit by two and a half trillion dollars over the next decade by cutting Federal spending and would not raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy," respondents choose Obama's plan by a 58-to-36-percent margin.
Asked whether Democrats should accept cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to forge a deal, just 38 percent of Americans want them to agree to those conditions. But asked whether Republicans should accept higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy if that was the only way to strike a deal, 62 percent of Americans say the GOP should accept that.
While Obama's proposals are more popular with Americans, there is political peril for each side in intransigence. Asked whom they would blame if the debt ceiling is not raised and the country defaults, nearly equal percentages assign responsibility to Congressional Republicans (39 percent) and Obama (35 percent).
And the debate, combined with a sluggish economic recovery, is taking its toll on broader measures of Obama's job performance. Obama's approval rating (47 percent approve to 48 percent disapproval) is underwater for the first time this year. And just 25 percent of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction -- a new low-water mark of Obama's presidency.
Among registered voters, a generic Republican (39 percent) trails Obama (42 percent) by just three points -- the smallest gap since the NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling team began asking the question in February.
Among Republicans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the national frontrunner, leading the field with 30 percent of the vote for the second consecutive month. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has surged into second place with 16 percent, a jump from just 3 percent in June.
The poll was conducted July 14-17 by a bipartisan team of pollsters led by Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. The poll surveyed 1,000 adults, for a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. There were 829 registered voters and 234 Republican primary voters, for margins of error of +/- 3.4 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.