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Obama Has 'Mandate' to Increase Taxes on Wealthy: Poll

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

A strong majority of Americans wants the two political parties to compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff," and most back President Barack Obama's prescription for doing so, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

By 65 percent to 28 percent, respondents to the survey preferred that political leaders compromise to reach a deal—even if that means tax increases and cuts in Social Security and Medicare—rather than stick to their positions and allow across the board tax hikes and spending cuts on Jan. 1. The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Dec. 6-9, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

(Read More: 'Cliff' Talks at Standstill: 'It's Getting Worse, Not Better'.)

But on the specific measures that might be part of a compromise, public opinion favors Obama's views. Fully 68 percent said Obama "has a mandate" from the November election to cut taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year; 65 percent said he has a mandate for "increasing taxes on the wealthy and reducing federal spending."

Some 59 percent said Obama has a mandate to eliminate the Bush tax cuts on incomes above $250,000. And an overwhelming 76 percent said that higher tax rates on incomes that high would be an "acceptable" element of a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff.

(Read More: It Could Get Hairy Before 'Cliff' Deal: Greenspan.)

In part, those assessments reflect the traditional afterglow that presidents enjoy after winning re-election when partisan attacks taper off. The poll shows Obama's job approval rating, which never stood higher than 50 percent earlier this year, now at 53 percent.

It also reflects the weak standing of the Republican Party and its leaders. Just 19 percent of Americans express a positive view of House Speaker John Boehner, while 29 percent express a negative view.

A month after Obama defeated him, Mitt Romney is rated positively by 35 percent, while 44 percent rate him negatively. His running mate, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, is rated positively by 30 percent and negatively by 34 percent.

(Read More: In Talks, House Majority Weighs Loyalty to Voters.)

The GOP itself suffers from long-term damage to its reputation. While Americans rate the Democratic Party positively by a 44 percent to 35 percent margin, Republicans fare much worse: 30 percent positive, 45 percent negative.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the NBC/WSJ survey with his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, noted that Republicans have suffered a net negative rating in every NBC/WSJ survey for six years except for a single poll just after 2010 mid-term elections. Republicans enjoy a positive reputation with only two groups within the electorate: white Southerners, and residents of rural areas.

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

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