Tea Party Hits New Low In New Poll

The Tea Party hit another new polling low, but that really shouldn't be much of a surprise.


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:

Tea Party Gallup One

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:

Tea Party Gallup Two

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.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Which may be why Boehner is throwing them under the bus with regard to the Ryan-Murray budget deal. Finally the guy grows a set.

  2. michael reynolds says:


    What did liberals like me say about the Tea Party from the start? That it was an astroturf movement cooked up by the usual hard right money-raisers, that its essential underpinning was not fiscal issues but white panic, and that it was nihilistic in terms of actual policy matters.

    Which would make us right, right and right.

  3. CSK says:

    The Tea Party as currently constituted is the best friend the Democratic Party ever had. Any group of people who can, with a straight face, refer to Romney, Ryan, Boehner, McConnell, Rubio, and Scott Brown as “men of the left” is clearly not tethered too tightly to reality. What’s really interesting is that they don’t even care if they lose by running clones of Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, or Todd Akin. It would be “unprincipled,” in their view, to support a communist like John Cornyn.

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:


    They are Birchers by another name.

    Incidentally, the elder Koch (father) was a bigtime Bircher back in the day. He helped found the JBS. Connect the dots …

  5. Nikki says:

    Tea Party == Moral Majority == Christian Coalition

    It’s just the latest iteration, only this time they got as close to real political power as they ever have and (I hope) they ever will.

  6. gVOR08 says:


    The Tea Party as currently constituted is the best friend the Democratic Party ever had.

    True. And as a result I’m very much of two minds about them. With them, the Republican Party has been destructive to the economy and the country. Without them, the Republican Party will still be destructive, but it won’t be as obvious.

  7. al-Ameda says:


    They are Birchers by another name.
    Incidentally, the elder Koch (father) was a bigtime Bircher back in the day. He helped found the JBS. Connect the dots …

    Point taken, however, a result of the 2010 mid-term election, was that they (the Tea Party) essentially turned the House of Representatives into Animal House, but without the sober clarity. The Tea Party was hardly a minor John Birch Party type of operation.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    That’s a great point.

  9. stonetools says:

    Doug has seen the light on the Tea Party and it looks like the electorate is finally catching up. Here’s hoping that they realize their mistake and turn them all out in 2014.

  10. Tyrell says:

    People are fed up with both parties. There is an alternative. It is the southern wing of the Democrat party. In the early ’70’s the Democrats’ leadership was taken over by radicals and the party moved away from mainstream America. The Republicans remain confused . There was a time (which I remember well) in which the Republican party did not exist in the south. Today the southern wing of the Democrat party is doing well in local and state elections. It is centrist, moderate, and pragmatic. Past leaders Fulbright, Johnson, Mills, Long, Russell, Connally, Ervin, and Sam Nunn showed that politics and honor can mix. They also showed that government can be effective.
    Consider the Southern Democrat party if you are disillusioned with the Republican, Democratic, and Tea parties. You will be glad you did.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    I’m curious…who is more centrist or moderate than Obama?
    The Government is smaller, deficits are down, spending is down, taxes are down, private sector insurers have millions of new customers, OBL is dead, Syria is destroying chemical weapons, Iran is falling into line. He proposed a Grand Bargain that was more Conservative than Simpson-Bowles. Both the Auto and Financial Industries were rescued without nationalizing either…and at a profit if you total up both. People have more freedom today. He didn’t prosecute the admitted war criminals from the last administration.
    Jesus-Gawd if he was a Republican they would have carved his face on Mt. Rushmore already.
    Wake up, Tyrell…it’s the Republicans who have turned into a party based on radical ideology.
    Obama is more Conservative than Reagan.

  12. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The parallels are pretty interesting. The JBS became fairly powerful politically in its early years, but the growing insanity that typifies such extremist orgs began to manifest itself. Then Welch went after Eisenhower, resulting in the “establishment” conservatives, led by Buckley, turning on the Birchers. Internecine warfare resulting in the establishment retaking control (in the interest of self-preservation, if nothing else).

    It’s nothing new. A unique set of circumstances gives extremists a brief entre to power, only to be attacked by more moderate elements when the extremists go over the line (as they inevitably do).

    Plus ca change and all that. The names have changed, but the players in this little drama are the same as they have always been.

  13. michael reynolds says:


    Yes, they were called the DLC, or New Democrats in the 80’s. Your party attacked them and spent all their energy trying desperately to invent scandals and impeach the DLC president, Mr. Clinton. Just as you’re now attacking Obama hysterically.

    The moderate alternative is the Democratic Party. Clean the Limbaugh/Fox lies out of your head, and you’d see that. Obama is militarily aggressive (and effective) and socially moderate – everything your party used to pretend they wanted from Democrats. He passed RomneyCare and your party promptly went insane and started ranting about commie Muslim traitors.

    So, don’t tell us where we need to go. We’ve been right all along. We’re not the ones screaming impeachment every ten seconds, or closing down the government, or threatening default. Your side – and only your side – is batsh!t, stark, staring crazy. Our side has spent the last 5 years trying to repair the astounding damage done by 8 years of your policies and your side has spent the entire time trying to stop us. Attacking us for trying to clean up the piles of feces you scattered all across the land.

    So here’s the alternative to choosing between the Crazy Republicans and The Even Crazier Republicans: the Democratic Party. The grown-ups. The non-aszholes.

  14. JKB says:

    The Tea Party is dead. Long live the Tea Party.

    But, is the Tea Party really this unpopular or are people just staying off the IRS radar? That is the question. “Why yes, I neither like or dislike the Tea Party” wink, wink, nod, nod,

    Whereas, the Occupy Movement has brought us, Drum Pants.

  15. Grewgills says:

    Yes, because the NSA and IRS have teamed up to ferret out all anonymous survey respondents and target anyone that says something even vaguely positive about the Tea Party.
    Thanks Obamacare

  16. rudderpedals says:

    Seriously, survey respondents that paranoid JKB?

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @rudderpedals: Heck, these are the same people who refuse to answer the National Census because communism or something.

    And then they complain when redistricting according to the census results means their state loses House reps.

  18. mantis says:


    the Democrat party

    Perhaps your helpful suggestions would be taken more seriously if you used the right name of the party and didn’t sound like yet another dittohead Rushbot.

  19. al-Ameda says:


    Whereas, the Occupy Movement has brought us, Drum Pants.

    In 2010, the Tea Party Movement spawned the current dysfunctional House of Representatives. The Occupy Movement – on the other hand – never became a political force, nor an important part of the Democratic Party. Can you think of one Senate or House Democratic Party politician who was affiliated with the “Occupy Movement” and elected because of their support? There are none.

  20. rudderpedals says:

    @grumpy realist: Possibly a poll of an Alex Jones audience. n0bama keyed my car and made me an insomniac.

  21. ernieyeball says:

    Maybe if we had laws that made it mandatory for all eligible citizens to vote in political party primaries the Tea Party would be a more dominant force in American politics.
    Then again maybe not.
    I guess if we pass laws forcing all Americans to vote in all elections or be punished we would find out.

  22. Grewgills says:

    I had to look up drum pants. They are a bit ridiculous, but not so ridiculous and certainly less destructive than the tea party.

  23. Davebo says:


    Having failed to unscew the polls they now fall back on some perceived intimidation.

    What next?

    Only Aliens From Outer Space Responded!!!

    And did you notice how fast JKB crab walked away from the party he enabled all these years? The guy has a spine of jelly.

  24. MarkedMan says:

    I’m not sure why you are associating drum pants with occupy, but c’mon, if we are talking about goofy looking dorkus costumes, the tea party has that covered. Old fat men dressed up like revolutionary generals? Check. Pasty middle aged women with red, white and blue hats with 25 teabags dangling from the brim? Check.

  25. anjin-san says:

    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.

    A bit verbose. Let’s just lay out the essential facts

    The Tea Party movement began when the ni**er moved into the White House

    As Aaron Nevill once said “tell it like it is”

  26. Kylopod says:

    The fact that a conservative commenter would respond to this poll by trying to analogize the Tea Party with a group none of the liberals here have even heard of suggests something I’ve been suspecting for some time: just as the right disowned Bush after his popularity collapsed, they’re doing the same with the Tea Party. Pretty soon you’ll be hard pressed to find a conservative who admits to ever having supported the Tea Party, and before long they’ll start claiming that the TP, like Bush, is in fact liberal.

  27. JKB says:


    Obama just realized that government is large, unwieldy and anachronistic. Who knows what he’ll discover next. What if he starts to think of us as a Korean uncle?

  28. Tillman says:

    @JKB: Y’know I disagree with what you’ve said here, but I really like the phrase “starts thinking of us as a Korean uncle.”

  29. Tillman says:


    Consider the Southern Democrat party if you are disillusioned with the Republican, Democratic, and Tea parties. You will be glad you did.

    A) The Southern Democrat(sic) party is just, as you expressed at the beginning, just the southern wing of the Democratic party. You’re basically saying we should be Democrats if we’re disillusioned with Republicans or, uhh, Democrats? Yes, that’s what you said.
    B) My state of North Carolina indeed had centrist, moderate, and pragmatic Democratic leadership at the state level for a while. My empirical proof of this is how you never read about North Carolina in the national news (or, more appropriately, my state didn’t turn up on the Daily Show as a subject of pity or mockery). This has changed lately. You might be underestimating how much some Republicans are craving pragmatic, moderate leadership.

  30. angelfoot says:

    @JKB: Drum Pants! That’s hilarious. Why didn’t Occupy put their money where their mouth was and, say, buy millions of dollars of medical debt at pennies on the dollar and then forgive the debtors? Oh, wait! They did, and they are.

  31. James Pearce says:


    Consider the Southern Democrat party if you are disillusioned with the Republican, Democratic, and Tea parties.

    The Tea “party” was never a party. They are and always were right-wing Republicans. They were able to convince some Libertarian dupes they were something else, but notice how none of these “Tea Partiers” actually left the GOP.

    They were never stupid. They just thought everyone else was.

  32. C. Clavin says:

    Spent some time in NC this summer….a beautiful part of the country.
    Any state with a Transylvania County is a winner!!!

  33. Barry says:

    Doug: “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 ….”

    Not really; none of them have the slightest problem with giving money to groups favored by the right, and all of them want to make sure that Wall St gets clean away with their crimes, and is in a great position to do it all again.

    The Tea Party is a lie, pure and simple. The GOP lost big-time in 2008, so people created a falst-front organization, to better deny that they were the people who f*cked the country.

  34. jukeboxgrad says:

    none of them have the slightest problem with giving money to groups favored by the right

    Correct. And no one says it better than a certain commenter here (link):

    I’m going to reveal a little secret here: when right-wingers talk about cutting government programs, they don’t mean programs for the elderly like SS or Medicare. They don’t mean programs for veterans. They don’t mean programs for farmers. They don’t mean student loans for their kids. They don’t mean tax breaks for churches or tax breaks for rich people or tax breaks for home owners. They certainly don’t mean defense.

    Here’s what they mean: programs for black people. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. They won’t.

    See, in the mind of the right-winger he’s the victim. He’s being victimized by all sorts of people – liberals, the cool kids, smart people, gay people, but above all: black people. Black people are forever imposing on him, taking from him, making him feel bad.

    In the mind of the right-winger no one in history has suffered as much as he has. The right-winger deserves his programs. You know who doesn’t deserve a program? Black people.

    It’s about race, it’s always been about race, it will go on being about race until these creepy old people just finally die off.

    And that’s why a thread at NR about $2B for “Obamaphones” has 3,982 comments and a thread about the GOP supporting $200B for corporate welfare has 58. Link.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    How does that comment get a down-vote???

  36. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Well, Clavin, you’re a liberal. Therefore various lurkers will automatically down-vote. If you said you loved Jesus and apple pie they’d down-vote. The same mentality as people who hate, hate, hate Obamacare but would actually nominate the namesake of Romneycare.

  37. Tillman says:

    @C. Clavin: I remember having to learn the names of all one hundred NC counties for a social studies test in middle school. No one missed Transylvania County. No one.