A chunk of the American intelligentsia is permanently convinced that the American people are waiting for a genuinely left-populist message before turning out in large numbers to transform the American political system, and that if the Democrats in particular would just embrace left economic ideas, they could become the dominant party for the foreseeable future.Unfortunately for the career prospects of those who push this agenda, the people who run on this platform keep losing. President Walter Mondale, President Dick Gephardt, President Jesse Jackson, President John Kerry, President Dennis Kucinich and President John Edwards all learned how this works.Today the Gallup Organization has a new poll out that helps explain why leftie populism always looks like a good strategy but never seems to get anybody into the White House. By a significant margin, voters continue — even in the midst of tough economic times and rising economic inequality — to think it is more important to pursue pro-growth policies for the economy than to reduce inequality. According to the poll, 82 percent of those asked said it was either extremely important or very important to “grow and expand the economy”, compared to 46 percent who thought it was extremely or very important to “reduce the income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor.” 32 percent think growing the economy is extremely important; only 17 percent feel that way about reducing the income and wealth gap.This means that even among many liberal or left leaning voters, a pro-growth message will work better than a pro-equality one. But it also means that there is enough pro-equality sentiment out there that in some congressional districts and even states, that message can win. At the national level, however, left populism looks like a loser compared to pro-growth.Moreover, it appears that hard times may strengthen pro-growth rather than pro-equality sentiment. For the left, it is axiomatic that bad economic times are a period of political opportunity. That’s why the Obama White House saw the economic crisis as a historic, not to be missed opportunity for sweeping back in 2009.But that perception looks wrong. It may be that equality is like the environment: it is perceived as a luxury good by much of the electorate, something you pursue when you think you can afford it, but something you ditch when you worry about the basics.In any case, it looks as if 2012 is not going to be the year of Huey Long in American politics. Most voters want jobs and they want growth that will raise the value of their homes and their retirement portfolios more than they want to punish the rich. It will be interesting to see whether the White House, once it reassures the base, will swing back away from equality rhetoric towards the politics of growth. If its own polling agrees with Gallup, we are likely to see the left populists pushed back under the bus well before next November.