Nightly News   |  December 12, 2012

NBC/WSJ poll: Public wants party leaders to unite

Fiscal cliff talks have stalled as ‘serious differences’ remain between both parties – and according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll the public wants an agreement, soon. Although both sides are still discussing ways to avoid the fiscal cliff, neither side is optimistic that they’ll come to a resolution before Christmas. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> we now know what americans want to see from their lawmakers in washington. the people who do the work and pay the taxes in this country would like them to work out a deal on this so-called fiscal cliff and they don't want to see it go down to the wire. it's some of what we have learned from the numbers in our new nbc news/" wall street journal " poll. our political director chief white house correspondent chuck todd at the white house tonight with that and more. chuck, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. first, the latest. the best way to describe the status of the fiscal cliff talks is stalled but that may be too kind of a description. things are bad. while the two sides are still talking, neither side is optimistic a deal can get done at all, let alone a deal before the christmas holiday . with congress and the president careening to the edge of fiscal cliff, the public is ignoring party lines and demanding an end to this. 70% of democrats and 59% of republicans want their own party's leaders to come to an agreement even if it means not sticking to long-held positions on taxes and entitlements. despite those demands, the country is evenly divided on whether they think a consensus can be worked out. judging by today's back and forth, the public may be on to something. after hints of progress earlier in the week, today, speaker boehner declared there are still serious differences.

>> the longer the white house slow walks this discussion, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff and the more american jobs are placed in jeopardy.

>> reporter: the white house in turn insisted it's republicans who are being inflexible.

>> i don't believe that we've heard anything from the leadership that suggests they have moved off their position. we certainly haven't heard it publicly.

>> reporter: republican insiders tell nbc news they didn't view the latest white house plan as a serious counteroffer. so they simply resent their original proposal back to the president. fearing they were insulted by the last offer, the president called boehner last night, attempting to save the talks. both men have a lot on the line. our polls show more folks would blame the republicans than the president if they failed to compromise. but the real loser would be washington. as a large majority would blame both sides equally. the bickering over the fiscal cliff has the country even more pessimistic about its leaders. 69% are convinced that next year will bring more of the same, a period of division. only 26% expect unity and cooperation. it's a dramatic change. four years ago in the wake of mr. obama's historic first election, 52% believed the two parties would set aside their differences. a few more notes here, brian, on the poll. by a 2 to 1 margin, the president prefers president obama to leave the fiscal negotiations over boehner . speaking of the president, he has his highest job approval rating, 53%, that we've recorded in nearly four years. that explains why he feels he can go more public with his campaigning on the fiscal cliff.

>> chuck todd from the white house lawn.