Tea Party Hits New Low In New Poll
The Tea Party movement ostensibly began in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the adoption of TARP, and the adoption of President Obama’s stimulus package and his proposals to bail out people who were underwater in their mortgages. It hits its political stride, though, beginning in late 2009 and stretching into 2010 as debate intensified surrounding what eventually became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Politically, its high watermark remains the 2010 midterm elections when its grassroots organization played a significant role, both for good and for ill, in how the Republican Party selected candidates for the elections that year and how the General Election itself played out that year. Since then, however, it appears to have gone downhill. While remaining a powerful force in shaping how Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially in the House of Representatives, have proceeded on nearly every important fiscal bill that has come before that body since the GOP took over control the House in January 2011. For example, the movement was largely divided between any one of several candidates throughout the course of the 2012 GOP nomination fight, none of whom ended up amounting to much of a major factor in the race. At the Congressional level, they did manage to take down Richard Lugar in Indiana, but their candidate of choice, Richard Mourdock, failed to win the General Election despite the fact that Mitt Romney won the Hoosier State by more than ten points. Additionally, in the years that have unfolded since the Tea Party first hit the political scene it has seen its approval among the public as a whole decline steadily. Now, a new poll from Gallup shows that the Tea Party’s approval has hit a new low:
PRINCETON, NJ — For the first time, a slim majority of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement. About one-third view the movement favorably, a new low. A smaller percentage, 22%, in a separate question identify themselves as supporters of the movement, while 24% describe themselves as opponents. Nearly half (48%) are neutral.
The majority of Republicans, 58%, say they have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, with slightly more than one-quarter (28%) viewing it unfavorably. Democrats, on the other hand, are largely unfavorable toward the group, with 74% reporting an unfavorable view. Independents fall in between the two parties, but are more likely to view the movement unfavorably than favorably.
Though the Tea Party espouses conservative fiscal goals, self-identified conservatives, as a whole, are somewhat divided about the movement. A full third (34%) of conservatives have an unfavorable opinion of the group, while 48% are favorable.
By contrast, liberals are largely critical of the Tea Party: 80% view it unfavorably. Moderates’ views fall between those of liberals and conservatives, but still tilt negative.
The partisan breakdown of people’s opinions on the movement is about what you’d expect:
Although, at the same time, it’s worth noting that the largest group off Americans don’t consider themselves to be either supporters or opponents of the Tea Party:
If anything, what these charts tend to show is that the Tea Party “movement” isn’t really much of a movement at all. What may have started out as some kind of protest against excessive government spending and the idea of bailing out people who made irresponsible decisions in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis has turned into nothing more than just the activist wing of the Republican Party and the method by which outside groups like FreedomWorks, The Club For Growth, and Senate Conservatives Fund use to enforce their will upon Republicans in Congress. When it comes to governing, the Tea Party is not a group that actually has a realistic plan for accomplishing anything that they believe in, because the only acceptable alternatives for them always end up being an all-or-nothing solution that is certainly an unrealistic way to proceed in an era of divided government. If you want to accomplish anything in such an era, or indeed at any time, then you need to understand that there’s a point when you have to agree to take half a loaf rather than walk away with nothing. The fact that the Tea Party either does not recognize this, or refuses to do so, means that they end up being nothing but obstructionists in Congress, which is not something that goes over well with the public at all as poll after poll has indicated.
The Tea Party is additionally hobbled by the fact that, notwithstanding the claims that it is a movement primarily concerned with things like spending, taxes, and the size of government, it has quickly evolved into something that parrots the social conservatism of the hard right wing of the Republican Party on everything ranging from abortion, to same-sex marriage, to immigration reform. If the Tea Party were truly just about the things that its supporters claim that it is, then it would be largely agnostic on social issues, immigration, and other related issues, and it would be open to people who oppose the standard conservative line on those issues. The reality, of course, is quite different and, indeed, Tea Party groups have been at the forefront of moves to oppose immigration reform in the current Congress and to support efforts at the state level to restrict abortion rights and the move toward marriage equality. Yes, there are individuals involved in the Tea Party who may disagree with the movement as a whole on this issue, but my experience is that they are few and far between and they stand out precisely because they are exceptions to the rule. Whatever it might have intended to be, the Tea Party is now little more than the hard right wing of the Republican Party decked out in Colonial garb. For that reason alone, it’s no surprise that it never became the mass movement that some may have dreamed it would be and that it has about the same level of support that your average hard-right conservative would.