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All-America Survey: Who's to Blame If 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks Fail?

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Republicans face greater public post-election pressure to compromise with President Barack Obama, but Americans would blame both parties if Washington fails to reach a "fiscal cliff" compromise, according to CNBC's All-America Economic Survey. (Read More: Why Many Americans Aren't Spending More This Holiday.)

Some 20 percent of Americans said the main message of the election was that Republicans should compromise more with President Obama, compared to 9 percent who said voters were telling Obama to compromise more with Republicans. A plurality, 44 percent, said both sides should compromise.

Yet Americans split evenly on whether Republicans in Congress or Obama and Democrats in Congress will be more to blame if gridlock in Washington causes scheduled tax increases and across the board spending cuts to take effect. Some 21 percent would blame Obama and Democrats, 23 percent would blame Republicans, and 52 percent would blame both sides equally, according to the survey. (Read More: How the Obama and Republican 'Fiscal Cliff' Plans Differ.)

The telephone poll of 805 adults was conducted Nov. 26-28 by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff. It carries a margin for error of 3.5 percentage points.

Other surveys have shown Obama holding a stronger edge over Republicans in whom voters would hold responsible for a fiscal cliff failure. One explanation for the different findings in CNBC's survey is that Democrats in Congress—an exceptionally unpopular institution these days—were lumped with Obama in the question. (Read More: Obama: 'We Can Probably Solve This in a Week.')

The survey shows Americans split on whether the economy will get better (37 percent) or worse (35 percent) in the next year. That reflects a significant increase in pessimism from the 25 percent level Hart and McInturff found in September.

One explanation, in the wake of Republican candidate Mitt Romney's election defeat, is increased pessimism among Republicans, a phenomenon McInturff referred to as "losers' lament."

By 58 percent to 9 percent, members of the GOP said the economy will get worse rather than better in the next year. Democrats, by 64 percent to 10 percent, said it will get better. Among independents, 25 percent said it will get better and 41 percent said it will get worse.

—By CNBC's John Harwood; Follow him on Twitter: @JohnJHarwood

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