WASHINGTON -- A majority of Americans -- 54% -- want Congress to delay automatic spending cuts set for March 1 so the economy will have more time to heal, according to a new poll.
Four in 10 respondents in the Bloomberg News poll said Congress must make steep budget cuts now to reduce the deficit before it gets out of control.
The poll's findings should provide a boost to the White House as it battles with congressional Republicans over how to avoid the looming spending cuts, known as sequestration.
Both sides want to avoid the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts, but differ sharply on how to do that.
Obama has pushed to replace the automatic cuts -- $85 billion this year as part of $1.2 trillion over the next decade -- with targeted, phased-in cuts and increased revenue from the elimination of some corporate tax breaks.
In the poll, 59% of the 1,003 randomly selected respondents said they supported that approach. Just 35% said it was better to focus exclusively on cutting spending, as Republicans have advocated.
Republicans also want to replace the automatic cuts, but do not want to delay spending reductions and do not want to raise additional revenue.
The poll also indicated that a majority of Americans don't fully understand the nation's fiscal situation. For example, 62% of respondents incorrectly said the nation's annual budget deficit was getting larger.
In part because of tax increases that began last month, the 2013 budget deficit is projected to be $845 billion, down from last year's $1.1 trillion.