Poll: Budget cuts? What budget cuts?

About 3 in 10 Americans hadn't heard about the government's automatic budget cuts slated to take place March 1.

WASHINGTON — Despite weeks of dire warnings from Washington about automatic budget cuts set for March 1, the U.S. public is only dimly aware of them, according to a poll released Thursday.

About 43 percent of those polled had only heard a little about the deep cuts that could 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, conducted 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.

The reductions, totaling $85 billion spread evenly between defense and non-defense 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 Feb. 18 and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

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