A new Gallup Poll finds Tea Party support fall to a near-record low:
As Washington braces for another budget showdown, this time with the threat of defunding the new healthcare law in the mix, the key political force pushing for conservative policies sees diminished popular support. Fewer Americans now describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement than did at the height of the movement in 2010, or even at the start of 2012. Today’s 22% support nearly matches the record low found two years ago.
Opponents of the Tea Party now outnumber supporters 27% to 22%, which is similar to their edge in 2012. However this differs from most of Gallup’s earlier measurements, in 2010 and 2011, when supporters and opponents were either equally matched, or Tea Party backers had the slight edge.
Fully half of Americans, 51%, currently say they are neither a supporter nor an opponent of the Tea Party, or they have no opinion about it.
………In addition to their overall advantage in numbers, opponents of the Tea Party also lead supporters in intensity. The majority of Tea Party opponents call themselves strong opponents, while supporters are evenly divided as strong and not strong supporters. The net result is that 17% of Americans consider themselves strong opponents of the Tea Party, contrasted with 11% who are strong supporters, similar to the balance seen in 2011.
Tea Party Supporters Ambivalent About GOP, and Vice Versa
The poll suggests that the partnership between the Tea Party and the Republican Party may be waning. Although some of the Tea Party’s most visible representatives in politics today are associated with the Republican Party, and while rank-and-file Republicans are more likely to call themselves supporters than opponents of the Tea Party movement — a far greater number identify as neither.
The polls show independents slightly favor the Tea Party and Democrats strongly oppose it.
U.S. support for the Tea Party is at a low ebb at a time when key issues of concern for the movement — funding for the Affordable Care Act and raising the U.S. debt ceiling — are focal points in Washington, with Tea Party-backed Sen. Ted Cruz prominently fighting both policies. The discomfort he has created in the Republican caucus is merely emblematic of the ambivalence national Republicans feel toward the movement. Although few Republicans outright oppose the Tea Party, far more are neutral toward it than support it.
Notably, while Tea Party supporters and activists may not be fully satisfied with the GOP, they feel just as negatively as Republicans do about the Democratic Party, indicating they have little alternative in national elections. However, their frustration with the GOP could result in more Tea Party-backed conservative challenges to Republican incumbents who don’t embrace Tea Party principles.
You could say there are three bottom lines: 1)the Tea Party started out as an independent organization and was quickly tapped by the GOP as a good source of energy and votes. If the party is distrusted and disliked among many of its members, the Republican Party may not have co-opted it, but it is more of an appendage of the GOP than of the Democrats. 2)Tea Party members are still unlikely to stay home on election day and can be counted on to vote more GOP than Democratic. 3)It isn’t in the GOP’s advantage if it wants to expand its coalition to be seen as being controlled by the Tea Party.
But so far there are no signs the GOP seriously is trying to rebrand or expand its existing coalition.
UPDATE: Dan Stewart in The Week:
But perhaps, as Jeb Golinkin suggested at TheWeek.com earlier this year, the Tea Party is losing support because its followers believe it has sold out to the mainstream Republican Party. Supporters may have realized that what was once a grassroots movement of true believers has been “appropriated by a new class of political insiders,” made up of freshmen congressmen awed by Washington, and money-scraping strategists for political action committees…
…Then again, while support is dwindling, opposition to the Tea Party is not growing……
….And if Tea Partiers still believe their movement is leaking popular support, they might be comforted by the fact that there is still one group in politics even less popular than they are: The U.S. Congress.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.