WASHINGTON - Most Americans appear poised to blame Republicans, not President Obama, if negotiators fail to act in time to avert a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts slated for January, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll.

The new poll finds little confidence that leaders in Washington will reach a deal before the Dec. 31 deadline, and the level of pessimism remains largely unchanged since a similar poll three weeks ago. By nearly 2 to 1, more respondents said Republicans in Congress would be to blame if there is no deal, a lopsided assessment little changed from the earlier poll.

In the debate about how to avert the fiscal cliff, Obama has called for raising tax rates for the wealthy, while congressional Republicans have urged that Bush-era tax cuts be extended for all taxpayers. Numerous polls have shown that raising taxes for high-income households is popular, and that is perhaps the reason that Americans seem inclined to blame the GOP if there is no deal.

Fully six in 10 voters in November supported raising tax rates on income exceeding $250,000, a key Obama campaign position, according to a Fox News exit poll. Republicans have refused to budge on higher tax rates.

- Washington Post