A RECIPE FOR OVERREACH…. Nearly every poll on government spending shows roughly the same results — folks love the idea of cuts, right up until they’re confronted with specifics. The import takeaway from this, however, is how it relates to the congressional Republicans’ budget plans.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center tells us what we already knew, but with data that should give the GOP pause. Respondents want spending cuts in general, but when asked about individual area of public spending, the results were a Republican nightmare — Americans effectively didn’t want to cut anything except foreign aid. In many areas, a plurality, if not an outright majority, wants to see spending go up, not down, in areas such as education, veterans’ benefits, and health care.

The political salience of this can’t be overstated. House Republicans are convinced that they’ll be rewarded by voters for taking a chainsaw to the budget. Some in the GOP fear they’re already going too far — because they are.

As House Republicans plow ahead with ever deeper spending cuts this weekend, there is growing concern in the party that it s overreaching and missing a chance to drive a wedge through nervous Senate Democrats.

New survey data Thursday suggests that while Americans are losing their appetite for increased federal spending, voters still shy away from the severe, immediate reductions envisioned by the tea party conservatives now driving the House Republican plan.

Had the House GOP gone with a less-ridiculous spending cut package, they might have very well persuaded antsy Senate Dems to go along. Instead, Republicans are pursuing brutal, job-killing cuts that (a) will make them look like monsters to the American mainstream; (b) aren’t at all popular with the electorate; and (c) stand no chance of garnering Democratic approval.

A few days ago, the Republican plan called for drastic cuts to law enforcement, transportation, aid to families, clean-energy programs, medical research, environmental protections, education, and job training. As of last night, the House GOP decided these severe cuts weren’t severe enough — and would have to be three times as deep. And best of all, if Dems balk, Republicans will shut down the government.

If the GOP seriously believes it has the upper hand on this, and that the public will back them up when push comes to shove, they’re in for a surprise.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.