Think that the residents of Southern red states like North Carolina don't want the government to do more about poverty? Think again.

A new state-wide poll from Elon University's Center for Public Opinion Polling conducted this February finds that North Carolinians think poverty is a growing problem that requires public action. Among the findings:

*** 59% of North Carolinians think poverty is a "big problem"

*** 68% believe that government has an obligation to improve the standard of living of poor Americans

*** 58% think the government spends too little money fighting poverty -- only 14% said it spends "too much."

*** Fully a fifth of those polled would be willing to spend at least $200 more a year in taxes to fight poverty.

*** 47% say that those in poverty are there because of "circumstances beyond their control," compared to 37% who blame "lack of effort." According to the authors, "Interestingly, a large majority of North Carolinians (68%), regardless of political persuasion, recognize the fact that most poor people in the state work but can't earn enough money."

*** Only 9% of those surveyed think the official poverty line of $19,000 a year is enough for a family of four to live on. Most surveyed thought a family income in the mid-20s was the bare minimum.

So there you have it: the people in this red state have about as progressive a set of views on poverty as one could hope for -- way ahead of the state's elected leaders. The question is, what can and will progressives do to capitalize on it?