To hear liberals tell the tale, you might think that most Americans want to tax the pants off  businesses and wealthy Americans, making them pay their “fair share,” as President Obama would have you believe. But according to a new poll, that simply isn’t the case. In fact, the vast majority of likely voters want individuals and businesses to pay lower rates. The Hill reports:

Three-quarters of likely voters believe the nation’s top earners should pay lower, not higher, tax rates, according to a new poll for The Hill.

The big majority opted for a lower tax bill when asked to choose specific rates; precisely 75 percent said the right level for top earners was 30 percent or below.

The current rate for top earners is 35 percent. Only 4 percent thought it was appropriate to take 40 percent, which is approximately the level that President Obama is seeking from January 2013 onward.

The Hill Poll also found that 73 percent of likely voters believe corporations should pay a lower rate than the current 35 percent.

Translation? The vast majority of Americans believe the reach of government should be considerably less than do most elected liberals. And it turns out that the only reason people say the rich should be paying more is that they assume the rich pay little or nothing in taxes today; so anything is more than nothing. It’s all about context and what the voters believe the status quo to be. If voters believe businesses or the rich don’t pay enough in taxes, then of course they’ll say they should be taxed more. But if you ask voters what wealthy Americans and corporations should pay, that’s a different story altogether.

The Hill‘s findings are consistent with previous polling data that show Americans wanting a lower tax burden across the board. Heritage’s Mike Franc writes that between 2005 and 2009, the Tax Foundation commissioned a series of polls asking voters what the maximum level of taxation should be. The mean response? Between 14.7 percent and 16.0 percent, which is well below today’s levels. Likewise, a 2009 Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll showed that more than half of respondents said the total tax burden should be less than 20 percent, while another quarter thought it should top out at between 20 percent and 30 percent, all of which would be below today’s tax burden.

Those sensibilities, though, don’t jive with liberals’ class warfare arrows which are aimed directly at wealthy Americans and corporations. But that’s why pro-tax politicians are forced to rely on inflammatory rhetoric — if they can create the perception that the rich don’t pay enough, they can win popular support to raise taxes. But if forced to reckon with the reality of America’s progressive tax system, their tax hiking crusade will be stopped dead in its tracks.