The Tea Party’s declining favorability

“Unfavorable” views of the Tea Party movement have jumped from 22% in February 2010 to 51% in March 2012, mostly at the expense of “don’t know” respondents.

The Tribune ran an article over the weekend about the Tea Party’s (waning) influence in Utah politics. I was quoted characterizing some trends in the national polling data. For the curious, here are the exact polling numbers. My statements were based on trends in two separate polls.

Poll 1: Declining Tea Party favorability

The first is from Fox News, generally posed to a sample of around 1000 voters. Here’s the question wording:

I’m going to read you the names of several groups and individuals. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you’ve never heard of one, please just say so. … The Tea Party Movement.”

The results are in the figure below. Note that “favorable” has been mostly flat (with a minor downward trend) since this question was first asked in early 2010. “Unfavorable” views of the Tea Party movement have jumped from 22% in February 2010 to 51% in March 2012, mostly at the expense of “don’t know” respondents.

D you have a generally favorable of unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement?

We see that the tea party maxed out its support two years ago. Those who weren’t familiar with it at the time are overwhelmingly “unfavorable” today. Some of those who were “favorable” two years ago have shifted to “unfavorable.” From these polls, it appears that the tea party’s moment is waning nationwide.

Poll 2: Steady Tea Party membership

The second poll was run by Quinnipiac University, generally to over 2000 respondents each time. Here’s the question wording: “Do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party movement or not?

It’s a very different thing to ask people whether they are “part of the Tea Party movement” (as this poll does) instead of whether they have a “favorable” opinion. You’ll get far fewer “unsure” responses when asking this question. Generally, people know whether they are part of something or not.

Because the question is different, the trend is also a little different. We see a pretty flat line from early 2010 (when the question was first asked) until February 2012, the most recent version of this poll. Roughly 12-16% of respondents are “part” of the Tea Party movement in any given poll. That’s about one-third as many respondents as had a “favorable” opinion of the Tea Party in the Fox News poll.

Do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party movement or not?

Punchline

There are roughly as many people (12-16%) today who consider themselves “part of the Tea Party movement” as two years ago. There are also almost as many people today (30%) with a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement as two years ago (35%). However, there has been a steep drop in the percentage of people who don’t have an opinion about the Tea Party, from 42% two years ago to 19% today. Most of them have developed an unfavorable opinion, producing a rise from 22% two years ago to 51% today in the percentage with an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party.

You can find lots more polling about the tea party here.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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