Voters Tune Out as Budget 'Sequester' Cuts Near: Poll

House Speaker John Boehner listens as President Obama gives his 2013 State of the Union address.
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House Speaker John Boehner listens as President Obama gives his 2013 State of the Union address.

The public is only dimly aware of automatic budget cuts set for next week despite weeks of dire warnings from Washington, according to a poll released Thursday.

About 43 percent of those polled had only heard a little about the "sequesters" that on March 1 could start to disrupt many important government services like meat inspection and air traffic control.

Of all those questioned on the topic, 40 percent would let them take effect while 49 percent would delay them, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today.

About half of those surveyed said Republicans in Congress would be more to blame for the spending reductions versus 31 percent who would blame Democratic President Barack Obama.

The findings may help explain the lack of activity in Congress, which has the power to stop or delay the so-called sequestration. Congress is not meeting this week, even as officials from the Pentagon and other agencies sound alarms across the country about the widespread consequences of the cuts, including furloughs of thousands of federal employees.

(Read More: Obama Warns Sequester Will Cause Job Losses)

The reductions, totaling $85 billion spread evenly between defense and nondefense programs, were set in motion in August 2011 as part of a deficit reduction deal between Democrats and Republicans designed to head off a debt default by the Treasury.

While Obama and members of Congress say the issue is urgent, about 29 percent of Americans polled said they have heard nothing at all about the issue while 27 percent said they have heard a lot.

The survey of 1,504 adults nationwide, reached on home telephone lines and cell phones, was conducted between Feb. 13 and Monday and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.