Poll: Americans follow 'fiscal cliff' debate more closely than other stories

As the conflict between Israel and Gaza escalates and the investigations into the former CIA Director David Petraeus and attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi dominate the news cycle, a new poll shows Americans are following Washington's debate over the so-called fiscal cliff more closely than the other stories.

According to the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 36% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats say they are following the debate 'very closley' while only 28% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats are following the Petraeus investigation 'very closely.'

The 'fiscal cliff,' a series of automatic tax rate increases and federal spending cuts set to go into affect at the beginning of the new year if President Barack Obama and Congress fail to negotiate a deal on the nation's budget, has Washington lawmakers searching for common ground as congressional approval ratings have hit all-time lows and the weeks wind down to the end of the year deadline.

While Republicans and Democrats have similar interest levels on the 'fiscal cliff' debate versus the Petraeus investigation, the two sides differ on how closely they are following the on-going investigation into the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Forty-two percent of Republicans say they are following the story compared to 21% of Democrats and 22% of independents.

In the fighting between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian health officials have said the conflict has resulted in 100 deaths in Gaza -- 24 of them on Monday -- and 860 wounded since Israel began its offensive in response to what Israel characterized as incessant rocket attacks by militants. Israeli officials say three people have died and 68 have been wounded in Israel as the result of rocket fire from Gaza. The poll indicates 34% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats and 28% of independents say they are following the conflict 'very closely.'

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll was conducted from November 16-18 among 1,002 adults. The survey's sampling error is 3.7 percentage points.

CNN's Sara Sidner, Arwa Damon and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.