Washington (CNN) - A new national poll suggests that neither party has an edge as Congress returns to the nation's capital with the clock ticking towards a possible government shutdown in just a week and a half.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday, 46 percent of Americans say they prefer President Barack Obama's approach on budget negotiations, with 45 percent saying they prefer congressional Republicans' approach to the tough choices involved in both cutting programs to reduce the deficit and at the same time maintain needed federal programs.
"The GOP leaders in Congress have a 49 percent to 34 percent advantage among independents, while nearly nine in ten Democrats and Republicans favor their own party's leaders in the budget battle," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Overall, women tend to favor President Obama and men the GOP, but this seems largely due to the fact that women tend to identify with the Democratic party and men tend to identify with the Republicans."
Democrats and Republicans in Congress are still far apart on reaching a deal to fund the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends September 30. And there seems to be little political appetite to pass another temporary two or three week funding extension, as has been the case the past two months. Without any agreement by Friday April 8, funding would expire and some government offices and services would shutdown.
The poll indicates that only a third of the public approves of how the Democratic leaders in Congress are handling their jobs, and the GOP leaders don't fare any better. Sixty-two percent disapprove of the Democratic congressional leadership, with 64 percent feeling the same way about the GOP leaders in Congress.
According to the survey, more than six in ten Americans think that things are going badly in the country today, an increase in the level of pessimism since January, although still below the levels that polls found in the last half of 2010.
"As Congress comes back into session, Americans are in a bad mood about the state of the country and are taking it out on both parties' leaders in Congress," adds Holland.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey was conducted March 18-20, with 1,012 people questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report