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On Many Issues, The Tea Party Is Out Of Step With The American Public

tea-party

Looking at the results of the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, NBC News’s First Read team notes that, in many significant ways, people who identify themselves as being part of, or supportive of, the Tea Party are out of step with the American public as a whole:

As House Republicans pick new leaders in the wake of Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat last week, our new NBC/WSJ poll finds that the Tea Party is in a VERY different place on key issues — than both non-Tea Party Republicans and the general population. It’s a stunning contrast. Take the supposedly politically charged issue of Common Core education standards (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is seeking to end his state’s involvement with these standards). Tea Party Republicans oppose them by 53%-38% in our poll. By contrast, the country at large supports them by a pretty non-controversial 59%-31% margin, and non-Tea Party Republicans narrowly favor them, 49%-42%. On immigration, the poll shows that 68% of Tea Party Republicans believe immigration hurts the United States, versus just 47% of non-Tea Party Republicans and 42% of all Americans who say that. And on the environment, Tea Party Republicans disapprove — by a 74%-23% margin — of a proposal that would require companies to reduce greenhouse gases, even if it means higher energy costs for consumers. By contrast, 57% of Americans and 50% of non-Tea Party Republicans APPROVE of the proposal. What’s more, 39% of Tea Party Republicans think that concern about global warming is unwarranted, while just 13% of all Americans and 7% of non-Tea Party Republicans believe that.

So what does this all mean? For starters, it’s just more evidence of the challenge that House Speaker John Boehner and the winners of today’s contests for majority leader and majority whip have in managing their party. The GOP is nearly 100% unified in opposition to President Obama. But after that, there are real fissures inside the party — on the issues above, as well as on others (think foreign policy and national security). It’s also a 2016 challenge for the GOP. Our NBC/WSJ poll shows that Republican respondents are divided evenly between the Tea Party and non-Tea Party. But the more committed Republicans — i.e., your potential primary voters — lean Tea Party. So if you’re a Jeb Bush who supports Common Core and immigration reform, are you more likely or less likely to win over these voters? Additionally, if the winner of the 2016 primaries is someone from the Tea Party or who shares its views, how will that person fare with general-election voters when it comes to education, immigration, and the environment

When you drill down to specific issues, the difference could not be any more apparent:

Does immigration help or hurt the United States?

Republican Tea Party supporters: 68% hurt, 19% help

Non-Tea Republicans: 47% hurt, 40% help

Country at large: 47% help, 42% hurt

Support or oppose Common Core?

Republican Tea Party supporters: 53% oppose, 38% support

Non-Tea Republicans: 49% support, 42% oppose

Country at large: 59% support, 31% oppose

Approve or disapprove of proposal to reduce greenhouse gases?

Republican Tea Party supporters: Disapprove 74%, approve 23%

Non-Tea Republicans: 50% approve, 47% disapprove

Country at large: 57% approve, 39% disapprove

What to do about climate change?

Republican Tea Party supporters: 39% global warming is unwarranted, 38% don’t know enough, 16% some action should be taken, 6% serious/needs immediate action

Non-Tea Republicans: 43% some action, 31% don’t know enough, 17% serious/immediate action, 7% unwarranted

Country at large: 31% serious/needs immediate action, 30% some action, 24% don’t know enough, 13% unwarranted

On some level, of course, this poll doesn’t really come as a surprise. We’ve seen other polling over the past four years that the Tea Party has been an identifiable political movement that many of the issues that the movement stands for are out of step with public opinion as expressed both in polling and in election results. On the Tea Party’s supposed core issues of spending and taxation, for example, the public generally supports things like Social Security and Medicare and opposes their privatization, while supporting the idea that people who earn more should pay more in taxes. Even on an issue like the Affordable Care Act, which remains generally unpopular according to the polls, it is by no means clear that the public as a whole supports the Tea Party idea that the entire bill, which would include such thing as it bars on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and the availability of coverage for dependents up to the age of 26, should be repealed. More broadly, the Republican Party clearly suffered in the polls when it followed the strategy demanded by its Tea Party wing when it came to thing such as the 2011 Debt Ceiling showdown or last year’s utter failure of a government shutdown. On top of all that, of course, there’s the fact of election results, such as President Obama’s re-election in 2012 and Terry McAuliffe’s victory last year over Tea Party darling Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia law years, that seem to indicate quite clearly that the voting public isn’t exactly in line with the agenda of the Tea Party.

I’d submit that this poll, as well as the others we’ve seen, hold a lesson for the Republican Party that they’d do well to learn. Rather than pandering to a group that represents, at most, a fraction of the base of their own party, the only way they are going to win elections at the national level is if they appeal to the American public as a whole. That doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning conservative/libertarian principles on issues like economics and the size of government, but it does mean that there probably ought to be a change in what issues they emphasize and the rhetoric that they use. For example, making the argument that taxes are too high in an era when, even for the richest Americans, tax rates remain at historically low levels across the board doesn’t make much sense. Similarly, one can make arguments about cutting government spending without making it sound like you want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, neither of which is a realistic goal from a political point of view.

On some issues, of course, it’s quite apparent that the Tea Party, and by extension the Republican Party, is quite simply out of step with the American public. These include everything from marriage equality and immigration to climate change. The choice the Republican Party will have to make is whether it is more important to listen to their base, or to the American people.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    One number that I would like to see is how christian right and Tea Party align, or if that’s a completely different block of out-of-touch people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Not to get too pedantic, Doug, but isn’t the definition of a faction pretty much a portion of a group that differs in some way from the rest of the group?

    And you forgot to file this one under “Doug the libertarian valiantly defends the establishment GOP.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 11

  3. C. Clavin says:

    I’d submit that this poll, as well as the others we’ve seen, hold a lesson for the Republican Party that they’d do well to learn.

    Good luck with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  4. Gustopher says:

    Your headline has a typo. It should read:

    On Many Issues, The Tea Republican Party Is Out Of Step With The American Public

    Because the Tea Party really isn’t out of step with the Republican Party, it is the base of the Republican Party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  5. Moderate Mom says:

    I couldn’t find a link to the exact polling questions, unless the NBC story linked is showing the exact wording of the polling question on immigration. There are a lot of people that think legal immigration is of tremendous benefit to the country, but feel that illegal immigration, particularly by uneducated and unskilled people, is a drain on our already stretched resources.

    We have a family friend that has been waiting almost twenty years for permission to immigrate to the States from Taiwan. She is college educated, very well off, has close relatives in the States that are citizens with whom she frequently visits, always returning home afterwards, as required by law. She also owns three successful businesses, all incorporated here. She would be an absolute asset to our country, would pay a pretty hefty sum of personal income taxes and already pays a considerable amount in corporate taxes. And yet she still waits.

    In the meantime, we have thousand of unskilled, uneducated people from Central America and Mexico crossing our southern border. Their children will be educated at the taxpayers expense, they will often receive medical care at the expense of someone else, and will qualify for other government benefits depending on where they live, all while not paying taxes.

    It just doesn’t seem very fair.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  6. Senyordave says:

    If it weren;t for the fact that the Tea Party has political clout, thye would be a joke. They remind of the shaeep in Orwell’s “Animal farm”. I coul almost hear them bleating “Spending sad”. But in reality is is “Spending bad, unless its spending on us”. I’ve almost never heard a Tea Party offical articluate an actual policy position. In Maryland, one of the Republican candidates for governor had ads tyalking about $1.5 billion in wasteful spending. I searched on the internet, but he never actually said where the wasteful spending is. I’m guessing aid to cities in any fashion, since cities hav those people living in them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  7. sam says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And you forgot to file this one under “Doug the libertarian valiantly defends the establishment GOP.”

    And that shows that the TP is not out of step because?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  8. gVOR08 says:

    The question is – if they kiss off the TP, who they gonna get to vote for them? The linked article doesn’t seem to offer any idea what percentage of people are TP. Last I saw said 36% of Republicans are TP. 10% fewer of them turn out in ’16 the GOPs have no hope of the presidency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @sam: And that shows that the TP is not out of step because?

    “Out of step” doesn’t always equal “wrong.” It wasn’t that long ago that most Americans opposed gay marriage — Barack Obama among them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  10. SKI says:

    Item missing from poll, article and blog post: what percentage of GOP are Tea Party?

    It is one thing to walk away from a faction of your party that sticking with will kill your General Election chances (see Bill Clinton, the DLC and “Sister Souljah”) , it is another to tick off a sizeable, if not majority, portion of your base that will prevent you from being nominated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. sam says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “Out of step” doesn’t always equal “wrong.”

    Sure, but the title and theme of the posting was “The TP is out of step, etc.” Not, “The rest of the country is wrong.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  12. Franklin says:

    Impressive that 60% of Non-Tea Republicans think that “some action” or “serious/immediate action” needs to be done on climate change. I see that as a good sign.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Of course, these question — as quoted — are total BS.

    Does immigration help or hurt the United States? Does this separate legal and illegal immigration? There is a significant difference, just like there’s a difference when discussing “drugs” and “guns.”

    Support or oppose Common Core? Again, there are aspects of it that are good, but so far there are enough flaws that to make it mandatory across the nation is bad.

    Approve or disapprove of proposal to reduce greenhouse gases? So far, the proposals have had very bad down sides — in Obama’s own words, they will make energy prices “necessarily skyrocket” — for little tangible gain.

    One of the criticisms of the Tea Party movement is that they are “naive.” It seems that the real criticism is that they are not naive enough in the “right” areas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 11

  14. Scott says:

    I’d submit that this poll, as well as the others we’ve seen, hold a lesson for the Republican Party that they’d do well to learn.

    I think it holds a lesson for the rest of the population also. Too much of the political oxygen is taken up by the tea party. Time for everyone not to be afraid to push back.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @sam: Sure, but the title and theme of the posting was “The TP is out of step, etc.” Not, “The rest of the country is wrong.”

    Forgive me for assuming the subtext — it’s at the core of all of Doug’s Tea Party postings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  16. Moosebreath says:

    @Franklin:

    “Impressive that 60% of Non-Tea Republicans think that “some action” or “serious/immediate action” needs to be done on climate change. I see that as a good sign.”

    One question I had (and could not find in the linked article) is what is the proportion of Tea and Non-Tea Republicans. If Tea Republicans are a majority, then their incentives to change are small, especially in these days with aggressive gerrymandering making most seats safe for one party or the other.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Approve or disapprove of proposal to reduce greenhouse gases? So far, the proposals have had very bad down sides — in Obama’s own words, they will make energy prices “necessarily skyrocket” — for little tangible gain.

    But that wasn’t what was the Tea Party response.

    Republican Tea Party supporters: 39% global warming is unwarranted, 38% don’t know enough, 16% some action should be taken

    Unwarrented is different than “some action should be taken.” What you articulate falls under “some actions should be taken.” The Tea party was the only group where they felt action was *unwarrented.*

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    In other environmental news, Greenpeace — which is working to cut down on commercial aviation because of its environmental harm — has been buying plane tickets for one of its top execs so he can commute 250 miles to and from work several times a month.

    To quote two lines from Glenn Reynolds, “’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis” and “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER GODDAMN THING ABOUT MY CARBON FOOTPRINT.”

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Franklin: There are lots of things majorities favor that aren’t going to get done: higher taxes on the rich, universal gun background checks, and carbon reduction. Lobbyists speak way louder than voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @gVOR08: There are lots of things majorities favor that aren’t going to get done: higher taxes on the rich, universal gun background checks, and carbon reduction. Lobbyists speak way louder than voters.

    Yes, let’s pretend that one side has ALL THE MONEY, and the other side has ALL THE PEOPLE. Never mind how much money the Brady Foundation and Bloomberg have pumped into gun control, and the NRA having record numbers of members.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Senyordave:

    In Maryland, one of the Republican candidates for governor had ads tyalking about $1.5 billion in wasteful spending.

    I saw that. He was talking about spending in Mississippi. ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. JohnMcC says:

    @Moderate Mom: Ma’am, your Taiwanese friend’s efforts to get a green card are not being delayed by ‘illegals’.

    The immigration laws allow only certain numbers of legal immigrants from each country on earth. There is no real logic to the distribution. I spent almost an entire day recently (surgical leg resting on hassock) trying to figure it all out and barely scratched the surface. In brief, a particular number of green cards are assigned to the Principality of Luxembourg (for example). If none are used, they disappear. Another almost completely arbitrary number is delineated for Honduras. If every one is sucked up by the end of 2d January, no more are available. Period. There are preferences for family connections, particularly valued skills and people willing-and-able to make sizable investments. Your friend is unfortunately on an island with many other people who desperately want to immigrate. I see from the USCIS website that presently 234,000 Taiwanese are awaiting employment-based green card alone.

    In the future perhaps something that could be called a “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” will be made law and immigration will be both controlled and rendered useful for people like your friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    On Many Issues Any Issue, The Tea Party Is Out Of Step With The American Public

    FTFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  24. sam says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    In other environmental news, Greenpeace — which is working to cut down on commercial aviation because of its environmental harm

    You see, this kind of shit is why I, for one, have trouble taking you seriously. Your standard form of comment, when you think someone is goring one your oxes, is “Well, you guys….”. I’m sure you think you’re doing God’s work and all that, but, really, it’s kind of schoolyardish, no? Why not just save the bandwidth, and go “Neener, neener”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  25. al-Ameda says:

    Republican Tea Party supporters: 39% global warming is unwarranted, 38% don’t know enough, 16% some action should be taken, 6% serious/needs immediate action

    Basically, the inference I draw is that Tea Party people want solutions to problems – failing infrastructure and climate change too – that will not cost taxpayers any money.

    The Tea Party wants a free lunch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  26. KansasMom says:

    @Moderate Mom: Is that you Jan?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @sam: Sure, but the title and theme of the posting was “The TP is out of step, etc.” Not, “The rest of the country is wrong.”

    Forgive me for assuming the subtext — it’s at the core of all of Doug’s Tea Party postings.

    Since we live in what is supposedly a representative democracy, it’s pretty important how closely your views align with those of the public. It doesn’t mean you have some moral obligation to change your views to fit whatever the public happens to think at any time, but it does mean that if almost your entire agenda is opposed by the public, you stand little chance of getting it implemented. And if you fail to recognize that fact, you’re not living in reality.

    That last thing is a big part of the problem with the American right–they have this mythical idea that the country is by and large on their side, a “silent majority” supporting their entire agenda. As I explained last year, “one of the unifying myths of America’s conservative movement, going back at least to the days of Goldwater, is that the American public agrees with them. This belief is immune to any evidence refuting it because it’s essentially a piece of dogma, a binding tenet that gives conservatives meaning and purpose.”

    If Tea Party conservatives started with the recognition that they are pushing unpopular ideas, and that their mission is to persuade the public to accept them, it would be easier to take them seriously. The problem is that people who want to be elected to public office, or help others get elected, are simply not likely to make such an admission–at least not explicitly. It’s no wonder Tea Party rhetoric typically ranges from vague bromides about “liberty” to downright nonsensical assertions (e.g. keep your government hands off my Medicare). They can’t afford to get too specific about policy, because it would expose the lack of popular support for their ideas–and that’s just a lot less fun than living in their make-believe world where their ideas already command broad support.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  28. Moderate Mom says:

    @JohnMcC: I realize that illegal immigration isn’t preventing legal immigration. However, the vast majority of illegal immigrants aren’t being deported. Perhaps if they were, it might be possible for legal immigration quotas to be increased, especially for countries with very large lines. Then again, maybe not. But when I see someone that would be a net gain for the country, well educated, accomplished and successful, and already paying taxes here, while waiting patiently to legally immigrate, I find it extremely frustrating.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  29. Moderate Mom says:

    @KansasMom: No. I’ve always been Moderate Mom, from the very first time I ever posted on OTB. Who’s Jan?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. rachel says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    However, the vast majority of illegal immigrants aren’t being deported.

    Lets put the blame where it goes: The vast majority of [people who hire] illegal immigrants aren’t being deported punished by having whatever profits they make by doing so taken from them. If they were, our illegal immigrant problem would clear up pretty quick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. Rick DeMent says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    To quote two lines from Glenn Reynolds, “’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis” and “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER GODDAMN THING ABOUT MY CARBON FOOTPRINT.”

    Great! That means we can stop worrying about the debt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  32. rudderpedals says:

    @Moderate Mom: The Jan persona represented Mit Romney on OTB but was KIA on the night of the election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0