The American people don’t subscribe to the conservative position about why our nation has a deficit. Most people blame our deficit not on excessive social spending but instead on low taxes for the rich or the huge military budget, according to this National Journal poll.

As important, the survey found Americans unconvinced that safety-net programs represent a major source of the deficit problem. When asked to identify the biggest reason the federal government faces large deficits for the coming years, just 3 percent of those surveyed said it was because of “too much government spending on programs for the elderly”; only 14 percent said the principal reason was “too much government spending on programs for poor people.” Those explanations were dwarfed by the 24 percent who attributed the deficits primarily to excessive defense spending, and the 46 percent plurality who said their principal cause was that “wealthy Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.” While minorities were more likely than whites to pin the blame on the wealthy avoiding taxes, even 43 percent of whites agreed.

That is basically 70 percent of the country that holds a progressive opinion about what is driving federal deficits, while just a tiny fringe minority of 17 percent primarily blame excessive social welfare spending.

This is important to keep in mind when you see polls ranking how important the deficit is as an issue. Just because some people might be concerned about the deficit doesn’t mean they support the Republican party on the issue. By far the most popular ideas for cutting the deficit, raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting military spending, are completely opposed by the GOP.