WASHINGTON (CNN) - Americans are increasingly taking President Barack Obama's side in the battle over the federal budget, according to a new national poll.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey also indicates that fewer than four in 10 agree with the president when it comes to raising the nation's debt ceiling. The poll's Thursday morning release comes just a few hours before Republican and Democratic congressional leaders join Vice President Joe Biden for a bipartisan meeting on the budget.
Half of the people questioned in the poll say they prefer Obama's approach to the budget over the proposals from congressional Republicans, with 42% saying they prefer the GOP approach.
"That's a switch from March, a when a plurality favored the Republicans," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The numbers are virtually the same on Medicare, with 49% saying they prefer the president's approach compared to four in 10 who favor the GOP proposals on Medicare."
House Republicans say that their budget, put together by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman, will save Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees. Democrats say the opposite is true, that the GOP plan will end the entitlement program in its current form and force seniors to pay much more for their health care coverage.
The House passed the Republican plan last month, but it faces serious opposition in the Democratically controlled Senate.
The poll indicates that 60% of the public opposes raising the debt ceiling.
"One reason may be that while many Americans predict major problems if the debt ceiling were not increased, only one in six think it would create a crisis in the U.S. And only a quarter think that the debt ceiling affects their personal financial situation a great deal," says Holland.
But according to the survey, the president has one advantage: Roughly half say that he has acted responsibly in discussions with the GOP on the debt ceiling, compared to only a third who think that the Republicans in Congress have acted responsibly on this issue.
The pace of U.S. borrowing is still on track to hit the current $14.294 trillion debt ceiling by May 16. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Monday that he would start taking "extraordinary measures" this week to keep the country's debt below its legal limit. In a letter to Congress, he also said that he now estimates he can keep the country out of default until August 2, three weeks later than he estimated last month.
Congressional Republicans and some Democrats say they will not support an increase to the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied by spending cuts and enforceable budget measures designed to keep spending or deficits down. And agreements on those types of measures will take some time.
If the debt ceiling isn't raised, lawmakers will have two choices: Either cut spending or raise taxes by that amount, or let the country miss payments on many of its legal obligations.
Geithner said missing any payments would amount to default, a step the United States has never taken and which could have "catastrophic economic impact that would be felt by every Americans." Some Republicans who are using the debt ceiling to extract fiscal concessions, however, say the country will not be in default so long as it continues to pay interest on its bonds.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 29-May 1, with 1,034 adult Americans questioned by telephone. All interviews were completed before news of Osama bin Laden's death was reported. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.