Support for the Tea Party is down compared to 2010, but most Republicans continue to back the movement's goals
Is the Tea Party getting stronger – or weaker? Support today is not at its 2010 high point, when it helped to hand control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 28% say they support the Tea Party’s goals. Somewhat more oppose those goals, with the rest of the public on the sidelines.
A third or more supported Tea Party goals in 2010, so today’s support percentage is lower. But Tea Party supporters still make up a majority of Republicans. In contrast, a majority of Democrats say they oppose the Tea Party; independents are evenly divided.
Support for the Tea Party is highest among those whose family income is between $40,000 and $100,000 a year. 36% in that group are supporters. Just one in five of those with lower family incomes are, while a majority of those with family incomes of $100,000 or more call themselves Tea Party opponents. Tea Party support is also gender-related: nearly two-thirds of supporters are men.
Supporters see the Tea Party as first of all “patriotic.” Many also describe it as “conservative,” and “American.” And 79% of Tea Party supporters call themselves conservatives.
Despite the Tea Party’s role in helping Republicans take control of Congress, Tea Party supporters are just as negative about Congress as are other voters. But Tea Party supporters are even more uniformly negative about President Obama. 95% disapprove of the way he is handling his job.
Tea Party supporters generally like all the potential 2016 GOP Presidential nominees, though they like some more than others. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is top-rated, but Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz also score highly. Several others are close behind the leaders. However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is comparatively disadvantaged. A majority of Tea Party have a favorable opinion of the Governor, but 41% are unfavorable, the highest percentage of Tea Party supporters saying this about any Republican hopeful. A third are unfavorable towards Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
The relatively low scores for Christie and Bush indicate Tea Party supporters’ disdain for more traditional Republicans. Another indication of that disdain is the negative rating they give to the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain. Less than half (44%) have a favorable view of McCain; 51% are unfavorable.
Of course, not all Americans are fans of the Tea Party. Just over a third say they oppose its goals, and even more are neutral or not sure what they think about the group. Both opponents and those on the fence see the group as “conservative.” Opponents’ other characterizations are extremely negative, castigating the group’s intelligence and criticizing what it sees as members’ opinions. Some of those who have mixed feelings about the group use similar words as opponents do, but more of them just describe the group as “different,” or admit they are unsure.