In interviews in South Jersey and Center City, some said they had followed the debate closely; others said they had stopped paying attention out of disenchantment.
"It seems to be very vague," said Graham Rigby, 25, a first-year medical student at Temple University. "I hope that it's finished by the time I graduate."
Rigby, a Republican, added he would blame politicians of all stripes if a compromise wasn't reached.
Michael Clark, 41, his wife, Cindia, 43, and their daughters Haley, 9, and Delaney, 7, were on their annual vacation to Philadelphia from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Clark had his facts down, fluently detailing how a fall off the cliff would affect taxes and defense spending. He said failure to reach a deal might help the country learn to live within its means.
"I almost think that it would be a good thing to go over the cliff," he said.
Clark said no party or politician was to blame: "It's just a broken system."
Michael Walters, 47, cited two reasons he also thought a fall from the financial ledge wouldn't spell disaster.
"Our deficit will go down," he said. Moreover, the fallout would serve "to straighten the parties out."
Walters voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but cast his vote for Mitt Romney this year because of the economy.
"Look at the debt we're passing on to our children and grandchildren," he said.
He, too, said he would blame both sides for failure to compromise.
"They keep on talking about the middle class," he said, "not about us, the working poor."
Kathy Tavoularis, 42, and Kimberlee MacMullan, 48, were visiting Philadelphia from the Los Angeles area, where they are active Republicans.
"I don't think the president is taking leadership," Tavoularis said. "He has the bully pulpit, and he's not using it very well."
Both said they were hoping for a compromise but didn't necessarily expect one.
Given the cloudy economic picture, Tavoularis said she had been cutting back on spending. MacMullan said she had reduced her charitable cash donations, choosing to "donate more of my time than my money, because I might need that later."
JeanMarie Andrews, 47, of Medford, just earned her nursing degree. She has been working as a waitress while she she prepares to begin her second career.
She said she backed the Democratic push to increase taxes on the nation's wealthiest taxpayers.
If the Bush-era tax cuts expire, she added, "the rich would only be paying what they should have been paying anyway," she said.
As for herself, Andrews said, "I can't wait to be in a higher bracket and to pay more."
Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @JS-Parks on Twitter.