WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of Americans prefer cutting the deficit to increasing government spending as a way to improve the tough economy and believe a more balanced budget would help create jobs, a Reuters Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.
The poll results could bolster Republican calls for spending cuts and put pressure on President Barack Obama and Democrats to work with Republicans to reduce the $1.47 trillion deficit after the November 2 congressional elections.
Obama’s public approval rating edged up to 47 percent, compared to 45 percent in an August poll, while 50 percent disapproved of his job performance, down from 52 percent last month, the poll found.
With economic worries dominating the run-up to the elections, 57 percent of Americans want the U.S. government to cut the deficit in hard economic times while 39 percent support deficit spending to stimulate the economy.
Three quarters of Americans believe persistently high unemployment is a sign that something in the economy is broken, the poll found, and only 22 percent thought it was part of the natural economic cycle.
“The message from Obama and Democrats on job growth and government spending is not resonating with Americans,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark. “The economy is the number one issue, and more people are in line with Republican rhetoric on this than with the Democrats.”
The poll showed national support for Democrats and Republicans essentially tied six weeks before the election.
The number of people who believe the country is on the wrong track dipped 1 percentage point to 61 percent.
Support for Obama and his fellow Democrats has been hurt by high unemployment, which stood at 9.6 percent last month, and by their support for an economic stimulus package and other costly measures that have not eased joblessness as they promised.
The poll of 1,161 adults, including 993 registered voters, was conducted Wednesday through Saturday and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points for all adults and 3.1 percent for registered voters.
Both parties have said they will address the growing budget deficit after the election. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told the Reuters Washington Summit on Monday there would be an attempt to work with Republicans.
“On fiscal restructuring, the president will put some ideas and some issues on the table and we’ll see if the Republican Party is serious about meeting him halfway,” Gibbs said.
“There is no doubt that we are going to have to make, Democrat and Republican, some choices on the medium- and long-term fiscal picture,” Gibbs said.
The sour public mood and low approval ratings for Obama have helped move Republicans into position to make big gains in Congress, where they are threatening to gain control of the House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate.
The economy has dominated debate on the campaign trail, with Republicans attacking Democrats as big-spending budget busters and criticizing Obama for failing to rein in unemployment.
The conservative “Tea Party” movement has grown in strength through the year, knocking off a handful of establishment Republican candidates in party primaries, by pushing an agenda focused on reducing spending, cutting taxes and limiting government.
The two parties are headed toward another confrontation over expiring tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush. Obama wants to renew the lower rates for families making less than $250,000 but let the lower rates for wealthier Americans expire.
Obama and Democrats argue that keeping the tax cuts for the wealthy would increase the budget deficit by $700 billion over a decade.
The poll found 68 percent of registered voters think lowering taxes creates jobs, and 60 percent think reducing the budget deficit creates jobs. Only 50 percent believe government spending creates jobs.
“These are deep-held beliefs for people. I don’t think attitudes on this are very changeable no matter what Obama or Democrats may say,” Clark said.
Lowering taxes and the budget deficit to help the economy drew support from majorities of both Democrats and Republicans. About three-quarters of Democrats believed more government spending created jobs, but only 27 percent of Republicans did.
Editing by Will Dunham