Fox News Poll: Voters say sequester needed because Congress can't make cuts

American voters think the impending across-the-board budget cuts, known as the sequester, are what it will take to get the federal deficit under control -- because there’s no other way Congress will do it.  In addition, less than half think the cuts will have a negative effect on the country.

A new Fox News national poll shows 57 percent of voters think the “only way” to control the deficit is through actions like the automatic cuts because lawmakers are unable to do it on their own.  Some 29 percent have confidence that Congress has the know-how and power to make it happen.

Click here for full poll results.

The $85 billion in mandatory cuts are set to take effect Friday.

While 45 percent of voters think the consequences of the cuts would be negative, slightly more say they would either have a positive effect (27 percent) or not make much of a difference (22 percent).

Even voters who think the cuts would have a negative effect are more likely to say sequester-style tactics are necessary to control the deficit.

In January, President Obama and Congress reached a budget agreement that raised tax rates on wealthy Americans and postponed making spending cuts.  Since then, Republicans and Democrats alike have insisted there must be a smarter way to reduce the deficit.  How would voters like to see this done?  Just over half think a new debt deal should focus only (33 percent) or mostly on budget cuts (19 percent).  Thirty-six percent say it should include an equal mix of spending cuts and tax increases, while hardly any -- 7 percent -- think the new deal should focus only on tax increases.

Meanwhile, people are feeling worse about the economy.  Over half -- 55 percent -- say it feels like things are getting worse for their family.  That’s not only up from 45 percent who felt that way in October, but also nearly matches the high of 56 percent in 2006.  Thirty-one percent say it feels like things are getting better.

Views on the economy are closely tied to party identification:  52 percent of Democrats say things are getting better for their family, while just 8 percent of Republicans say the same.  Fully 77 percent of Republicans say things are getting worse, up from 71 percent in October.

The president’s ratings are down a bit, with 46 percent approving of the job Obama’s doing and 47 percent disapproving.  Earlier this month 49 percent of voters approved and 45 percent disapproved (February 4-6, 2013).

Despite his mixed ratings, the president continues to trounce Congress:  77 percent disapprove of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, almost five times as many as the 16 percent who approve.

In addition, more than twice as many voters have a favorable opinion of Obama (51 percent) as feel that way about his main Republican sparring partner on the budget negotiations, House Speaker John Boehner (23 percent favorable).

On a series of issues the poll asks voters if they feel “fed up” or if it doesn’t bother them that much.  Most voters are fed up with the growing deficit (81 percent), too much government spending (79 percent) and gridlock in Washington (78 percent).  The only thing to top the aggravation with what’s going on in Washington: 84 percent are fed up with gas prices.

After the State of the Union address this month, President Obama took his message on the road with campaign-style events in North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.  Voters disagree with this as a method for getting things done.  Nearly 6 in 10 say the best way for the president to solve the nation’s problems would be to “lock himself in a room with Republicans” and work out solutions, while 32 percent think he should travel and “make his case directly to voters.”

The new poll, released Thursday, shows voters see the president in a better negotiating position than in the past.  A 54-percent majority says Obama is a “strong and decisive leader,” up from 45 percent (August 2011).

More voters think Obama is a strong leader than approve of the job he’s doing.  That’s because some 17 percent think Obama is a strong leader even though they disapprove of his job performance.

Republicans are about two and a half times as likely to say Obama is a strong leader (24 percent) as they are to give him positive marks for his job performance (10 percent approve).

Recently former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who co-chaired Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, said that Obama will have a quote “failed presidency” unless he deals with entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security because those must be dealt with to get the economy on a sustainable path.  By a margin of 51-42 percent, voters agree with Simpson -- including 38 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans.  Those most likely to agree are Tea Partiers (70 percent) and “very” conservatives (68 percent).

Former President George W. Bush stopped golfing after the start of the Iraq war.  Views are divided over whether the condition of the economy merits the same from President Obama:  43 percent think he should stop golfing until the unemployment rate improves and the economy is doing better, while 45 percent disagree.

Republicans (57 percent) are more likely to say Obama should stop golfing, while over half of Democrats (55 percent) and independents (51 percent) come down on the other side.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,010 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from February 25 to February 27.  The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.