WASHINGTON — The vast majority of Americans approved of President Barack Obama's handling of the Arizona shooting but were divided on the role political rhetoric played in the attack, a poll found Monday.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 78 percent approved of Obama's call for a more civil politics in the wake of the tragedy, including 71 percent of Republicans and conservatives.

But Americans were divided evenly between saying that the increasingly partisan political discourse in the United States encourages violence.

The poll found just 52 percent of Americans favor stricter gun regulation after the shooting, roughly the same percentage as in past years and less than in the days after the deadly 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the Post said.

The January 8 attack in Tucson, Arizona was allegedly carried out by disturbed 22-year-old Jared Loughner, who's exact motives remain unclear.

Six people were killed in the attempted assassination of US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot through the head and is in serious condition. More than a dozen others were wounded in the assault.

Just 31 percent of those polled favor a blanket prohibition on all handguns, which the Post said was comparable to the number following the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and the Virginia Tech massacre.

But the poll found widespread support for curbing the sale of firearms to individuals with a history of mental illness or drug abuse by adding their names to a federal gun registry.

Most Americans, 57 percent, say enforcing existing laws is a better way to reduce gun violence than legislating new ones.

On the country's increasingly angry political discourse, 45 percent said Republicans had "crossed the line" of acceptable rhetoric on political issues, while 39 percent said Democrats had.

But the vast majority of self-identified Republicans and Democrats accused their opponents and rival media commentators of going too far.

In contrast to Obama's glowing reviews, a large number of Americans disapproved of Sarah Palin's response to the tragedy, in which she accused the media of manufacturing a "blood libel" against her conservative backers.

The use of the term for an anti-Semitic slander that stoked centuries of violence was criticized as insensitive by Jewish leaders.

However, almost half of all Republicans and a majority of conservative Republicans approved of Palin's actions, the poll found.

The poll was conducted by telephone on January 13-16 among 1,053 randomly chosen adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.