THE PUBLIC ISN’T BUYING WHAT THE GOP IS SELLING…. If there’s any good news for Republicans in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, it’s hiding well.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these results are a “cautionary sign” for a Republican Party pursuing deep budget cuts.

He points out that the Americans who are most concerned about spending cuts are core Republicans and Tea Party supporters, not independents and swing voters.

“It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger,” he said. “That tiger is the Tea Party.”

Literally every day for the last few months, GOP officials have argued, ad nauseum, that “the American people” want and expect Republicans to pursue their far-right agenda. The public wants deep spending cuts, they say. Voters are demanding austerity measures, they insist.

And yet, the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming — the party’s agenda is appealing to its far-right base, not the American mainstream.

On the party’s union-busting efforts, for example, a 62% majority believe it’s unacceptable to eliminate public workers’ collective-bargaining rights as way to deal with state budget deficits. Only 33% think it’s acceptable.

On national priorities, most Americans believe job creation and economic growth — not deficit reduction — should be policymakers’ top issue. Similarly, a 52% majority of Americans believe GOP budget tactics “go too far” in “cutting programs and reducing federal spending.”

But the results that should cause Republican leaders to break out in a cold sweat were the ones on how Americans would like to see policymakers reduce the deficit.

The most popular: placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent), eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent) and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).

The least popular: cutting funding for Medicaid, the federal government health-care program for the poor (32 percent said that was acceptable); cutting funding for Medicare, the federal government health-care program for seniors (23 percent); cutting funding for K-12 education (22 percent); and cutting funding for Social Security (22 percent).

In other words, the most popular ideas are the one Republicans refuse to even consider, while the least popular ideas are Republican favorites.

GOP pollster McInturff added that the numbers should “serve as a huge flashing yellow sign to Republicans.”

Of course, Republicans aren’t likely to see that huge flashing yellow sign if they’re busy running from a tiger that’s chasing them off a cliff.

For the full results from the poll, the 20-page pdf is online here.

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.