WASHINGTON Nearly half of Americans want their congressional representatives to oppose a rise in the U.S. debt ceiling, a poll said on Friday, as President Barack Obama and Republicans try to bridge differences over how to cut massive annual deficits.
The May 5-8 Gallup survey of 1,018 adults showed that 47 percent of Americans want their member of Congress to vote against an increase in the $14.3 trillion credit limit, versus 19 percent who would prefer a vote in favor.
Thirty-four percent of respondents said they did not know enough to decide.
The question of raising the debt ceiling has become a political bargaining chip in budget negotiations, with Republicans demanding trillions of dollars in annual spending cuts in exchange for their support to increase the debt limit.
The United States is on track to hit the ceiling on Monday, May 16. But it could be July before Obama and Congress strike a deal to increase the borrowing authority, though the Treasury estimates it can avoid default until August 2.
But analysts warn that failure to raise the limit would roil financial markets around the world, raising borrowing costs for the federal government and U.S. companies and possibly be a drag on the global economic recovery.
How to tackle the $1.4 trillion annual deficit and the mounting debt and also likely to dominate the U.S. political debate during the 2012 presidential campaign, as Obama seeks re-election.
Gallup said opposition to raising the ceiling stands at 70 percent among Republicans, while Democrats favor raising the limit by 33 percent to 26 percent.
Forty-six percent of independents are opposed vs. 15 percent in favor.
"A vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling could be a difficult one for many members of Congress, particularly for Republicans," Gallup said in a statement.
More than half of Americans -- 57 percent -- are following news about the debt ceiling debate closely, including 66 percent of Republicans.
The survey has 4 percentage-point margin of error.
(Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Philip Barbara)