Tea Party Popularity
Yes, the Tea Party is popular compared to the Democrats and Republicans.
In a column in the Washington Examiner, Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen make the following observation:
The Tea Party movement is broad-based with wide support. Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement, and 2 to 7 percent say they are activists.
The data is particularly clear, and some polls have shown that the Tea Party movement is the most popular force in American politics … and is increasingly been recognized as such by a media that was, at the very least, late to the party.
To which I have two responses:
1) We are currently in an era of prolonged economic turmoil that will rank as one of the worst in our country’s history. The Tea Party is a movement fueled by general frustration with government and the direction of the country. As such, where, exactly, is the surprise that the Tea Party movement would be viewed favorably by roughly half the electorate?
This is especially unsurprising given that:
a. Roughly half of the country tends, over time, to vote Republican and Republicans are out of power at the moment. As such, a movement that is angry at Democratically controlled Washington has a pretty good automatic base of favorability to begin with. Beyond that, the 35% figure for people who “support” and not just “favor” the movement tracks pretty well with the number of people who identify as conservatives. As such, I am not sure what the big new is that conservatives want less spending and lower taxes, and that they don’t like President Obama or the federal government.
b. The movement lacks a clear leader for people to like or dislike. This helps general favorability. Further, they have zero elected officials at the moment to be a disappointment to the faithful.
c. More important than 1b, the movement lacks a clear policy program. We know that it is against government waste, government overspending, and is in favor of fiscal sanity. Of course this begs the question: who isn’t? The devil of what those things mean is very much in the details.
2) Being “the most popular force in American politics” these days isn’t difficult, given the lousy view of the two political parties that most American have at the moment.
The column concludes with the following, emphasis mine:
To underestimate the importance of a movement that has fundamentally altered American politics and will almost certainly affect both the 2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election would be the most profound mistake of all.
I will readily allow that the Tea Party movement has been of some significance to this point in time and will continue to have salience going into 2010 (and perhaps 2012), but to claim that it has “fundamentally altered American politics” is utter nonsense, insofar as to date all that it has done is affect a handful of GOP nomination processes. This is interesting, to be sure. It may also mean various behavioral changes by the GOP in the short-to-medium term, but it is a far cry from a fundamental alteration of much of anything.
For further reading on this subject, see the CSM: ‘Tea party’ is polarizing, but has many ‘closet admirers,’ poll finds.