The number of Americans who say the economy is getting worse jumped 13 percentage points in a month to 39 percent, with 38 percent saying it's staying about the same and 23 percent saying it's improving, down 3 points, the New York Times/CBS News poll indicated.
Most say they think neither President Barack Obama nor congressional Republicans share their priorities for the country, the poll suggested.
After 100 days of divided government and Republican leadership in the House, 75 percent of respondents say they disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.
Obama's job approval remains below a majority, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of his performance in office and 46 percent saying they approve of it.
Fifty-seven percent disapprove of his handling of the economy while 38 percent say they approve. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of his handling of the federal budget deficit while 33 percent approve.
By contrast, 63 percent say they disapprove, and 27 percent approve, of the way congressional Republicans are handling the deficit, the poll indicated.
Seventy-two percent say they think Obama's proposal to end tax cuts for households earning $250,000 or more a year is a good way of cutting the deficit.
But for all the deficit-reduction talk, respondents are split on whether they think it will create jobs. Twenty-nine percent say they think it will and 29 percent say they think it will lead to job cuts. Twenty-seven percent say it will have no effect on employment.
Fifty-five percent say they'd rather have fewer services from a smaller government than more services from a bigger one, compared with 33 percent who say the opposite, the poll indicated.
But 61 percent say they believe Medicare for the elderly is worth the costs and they'd rather pay higher taxes than have Medicare services cut. Among Republicans the ratio was 45 percent saying Medicare is worth the costs compared with 44 percent who say it isn't.
The Democratic split was 78 percent to 14 percent. Only among people who said they were aligned with the Tea Party movement did the ratio go the other way, with 41 percent saying yes to Medicare and 46 percent saying no.
Given the choice of cutting military spending, Social Security or Medicare to reduce the overall budget, 45 percent chose military cuts, 21 percent said Medicare and 17 percent listed Social Security.
As for whether providing healthcare coverage for the poor is a federal government responsibility, 56 percent say it is, while 38 percent say it isn't. Among Republicans 25 percent say it is while 71 percent say it isn't.
The nationwide telephone survey of 1,224 adults was conducted Friday through Wednesday and has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.