Polling,  Tea Party

Poll Watch: Tea Party Unfavorables Reach New High

According to the latest Gallup Poll.

About half of Americans, 47%, now have an unfavorable image of the Tea Party movement, the highest since it emerged on the national scene.

Gallup began tracking Americans’ views of the Tea Party in March 2010, when 37% had a favorable and 40% an unfavorable view. Those views stayed roughly the same through January of this year, but have now turned somewhat more negative. The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven’t heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.

This is not surprising to me, especially since Gallup’s tracking is about one year too late. The Tea Party first began prior to April 15, 2009 and here is one of my first posts on the Tea Party.

The GOP took over the House of Representatives thanks to the Tea Party in 2010, after having lost control in 2006. Now, the Democrats and organized LEFT have been able to counter and paint some in the Tea Party as either racists, white supremacists or right wing nuts of some sort.

So, you have two factors depressing the poll numbers: lack of fear of TOTAL LEFT control of Congress and the Presidency AND organized opposition to an unorganized and amorphous Tea Party.

You ask whether the Tea Party then has any future utility? Or will it be rolled in part into the GOP?

The answer is probably a little yes on both.

The Tea Party movement has no official status as an organization or association. It is not officially connected with the Republican Party. Still, Tea Party candidates who ran for the House and Senate in last fall’s midterm elections for the most part ran as Republicans. And Tea Party candidates who were elected to the House are now making their voices heard in Congress as they pressure House Republican leadership to take strong conservative positions on such issues as cutting government spending and reducing the deficit.

While Americans who identify as Republicans and conservatives clearly tend to be favorably predisposed toward the Tea Party, these attitudes are by no means universal, underscoring the challenges House GOP leaders face as they try to reflect the interests of their constituencies.

The views of Republicans split 60% positively to 24% negatively toward the Tea Party; conservatives’ views split 56% to 29%. Substantial majorities of Democrats and liberals view the Tea Party unfavorably. Views of the Tea Party became more negative between January and April among both Republicans and independents; there was very little change in Democrats’ already negative views.

So, what are the implications?

The precise influence of the Tea Party movement on U.S. politics is difficult to pinpoint, given its vague shape and lack of any type of official organization. The Tea Party, however, did have a significant influence on last year’s midterm elections. Candidates who were supported by voters who identified with the Tea Party made a significant impact on primary outcomes, and in a number of instances won election to the House and Senate.

Now observers continue to ponder the impact of those elections on the Republican Party, as these newly elected members attempt to follow through on their campaign promises and pressure House leadership to take stronger conservative positions on key issues.

The data reviewed here demonstrate the nature of the political challenges Republican congressional leadership faces in responding to Tea Party-supported members. A majority of rank-and-file Republicans nationwide give the Tea Party favorable ratings, but a sizable minority say their opinion is unfavorable or do not classify themselves as supporters.

Further, the overall image of the Tea Party among all Americans has become substantially more negative than positive over the last several months, which could weaken its perceived clout among GOP congressional leaders. Americans’ negative views of the Tea Party contrast with their much more balanced views of the Republican Party, measured at 44% favorable and 47% unfavorable in the same April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll.