Americans Doubt Obama on Fiscal Cliff

Survey finds Americans pessimistic about Obama reducing deficit in his second term.

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President Barack Obama speaks to the media in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 16, 2012.
President Barack Obama speaks to the media in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 16, 2012.

As negotiations proceed to find a budget agreement by year's end, Americans aren't optimistic President Barack Obama will be able to substantially reduce the federal deficit any time soon, according to a new poll.

[Ken Walsh: Obama, Congress Begin Fiscal Cliff Talks]

A majority of Americans, 58 percent, express skepticism he can make much of a dent in the deficit, says a new Gallup survey. In addition, nearly two-thirds of Americans think Obama will not be able to heal the nation's political divisions in the next four years, while only 33 percent think he can. This is a drop in optimism from four years ago when 54 percent thought Obama would reduce the partisan rancor during his first term.

Obama is trying to create a climate for finding compromise on the budget, but it's slow going. Over the weekend, he placed phone calls to several CEO's of major corporations to help build pressure for a deal. Among those he lobbied were investor Warren Buffett, Tim Cook of Apple, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Jim McNerney of Boeiing, and Craig Jelinek of Costco. Obama has designated Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew as his lead negotiators.

[READ: A Simpleton's Guide to the Fiscal Cliff]

Obama favors an immediate deal that would include raising taxes on the wealthy but maintaining current tax cuts for the middle class. Republicans who hold a majority in the House say they oppose hikes in tax rates but will consider ending some tax breaks in order to bring in more revenue. The GOP favors more of an emphasis on spending cuts to reduce the deficit.

Obama met with congressional leaders of both parties Friday. Everyone pledged to work hard to make a deal, but no specific progress was announced.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook or Twitter.