Free Markets, Free People


More fuel for the Tea Party discussion

As we do the back and forth on the origins of the Tea Party (TP) a poll has been published that gives us a peek at the demographics:

Diverse group:

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

Tip of the iceberg:

The Winston Group conducted three national telephone surveys of 1,000 registered voters between December and February. Of those polled, 17 percent – more than 500 people — said they were “part of the Tea Party movement.”

Unified by fiscal matters:

The group is united around two issues – the economy/jobs and reducing the deficit. They believe that cutting spending is the key to job creation and favor tax cuts as the best way to stimulate the economy. That said 61 percent of Tea Party members believe infrastructure spending creates jobs. Moreover, given the choice Tea Party members favor 63-32 reducing unemployment to 5 percent over balancing the budget.

43% do not identify themselves as Republicans. That’s a large chunk – bigger actually than I thought it would be. And 13% self-identified Democrats. That diversity of politics tends to moderate the platform and explains why in some areas you hear Medicare cuts used as ammunition against the HCR monstrosity. What I would have loved to have seen is age demographics on this, because I’m also of the opinion that for the most part this is an older movement in terms of age of those identified with it. The poll says the make up is “male, slightly older and middle income”. I’m not sure what “slightly older” means. Someone will find a way to put “white” in front of male and revive the “angry white male” meme, I’m sure.

17% is a significant chunk of the population if that’s a good indicator of the size of the TP movement. Those we see out in the streets and attending TP rallies are indeed the tip of the iceberg if that’s true.

The unifying themes are economy and the deficits. Jobs and spending. But, as you can see the diversity of opinion is evident in the two issues cited in the poll. Neither reflect a “hard core” fiscal conservative theme. And both actually place jobs before spending.

So those points tend to reinforce my ideas about the Tea Party movement.

OTOH, reinforcing one of Jason’s primary contentions:

The group also vehemently dislikes President Barack Obama – even more so than those who called themselves Republicans in the survey. Over 80 percent of Tea Party members disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, whereas 77 percent of Republican respondents said they disapprove of Obama. The Tea Party members are also strongly opposed to the Democrats’ healthcare plan, with 82 percent saying they oppose it — only 48 percent of respondents overall were opposed.

Although dislike is high, it doesn’t yet point to Obama being the reason for their formation. What it does point out is much more than just the Republican portion (57%), if everyone of them voiced their dislike, weren’t the only one’s who dislike Obama. A good portion of the independents must feel that way as well – something I’ve been droning on about for some time.

And to my point about Congressional Republicans:

The group has a favorable view of Republicans generally but that drops from 71 to 57 percent if they’re asked about Congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats are viewed very unfavorably by 75 percent of Tea Party members – a uniquely strong antipathy. An overwhelming 95 percent said “Democrats are taxing, spending, and borrowing too much.”

There is a good bit of anti-incumbent fever among this group. And I think part of it is they’ve seen the Congressional Republicans talk the talk so many times and then cave when given the opportunity to walk the walk.

Interestingly Gallup has done a similar poll to the Winston poll.  And they find a slightly larger percentage supporting TP but find the demographics to be very similar to the Winston poll:

Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Their polling found a much larger independent percentage (43%) and slightly smaller Republican (49%) and Democratic (8%) slice. Men to women is 55% to 45%. Gallup did publish age demographics 50% are age 50 or older, however, when you look at the comparison to all of the US the TPs are very representative of national demographics.

What these polls tell us is while there is a rightward skew to the TP (which some would explain by saying the country is a “center-right” country) the demographics of these polls show a remarkably diverse group that are quite representative of the demographics of middle America. And, they’re finally fed up.

While we’ll probably argue till the cows come home as to the TP’s origins, but it hard to argue that the group isn’t diverse, has a unifying theme, and isn’t aimed at changing the way the federal government does business – and if that means firing every Congressional Rep up there, they seem more than willing to do that. The party most threatened is the Democratic party, however, Republicans that don’t meet TP criteria are subject to attack as well. And that’s entirely justifiable in my book.