On closer examination, two points stand out. First, substantial majorities of both independents and swing voters endorse both propositions. Second, while 73 percent of Democrats think that congressional Democrats should be more willing to work with congressional Republicans, only 30 percent of Republicans think that congressional Republicans should be more willing to work with Obama, while 65 percent of Republicans think that they should do even more to stop the president’s agenda. The bottom line: While Democrats and independents want conciliation and compromise, Republicans don’t.

So Obama faces a win-win situation. If he extends his hand to the opposition and they spurn it, the independents and swing voters whose views will determine the 2012 election will give him credit for doing what they want while coming down hard on Republican obstructionists. If the Republicans grasp his outstretched hand, then the country might actually make some progress. And by a margin of 49 to 30, the people think that the president—not congressional Republicans—should take the lead.