WASHINGTON, D.C. - Gallup is out with a very interesting poll Thursday that looks at how the Tea Party movement is perceived:
“The number of Tea Party supporters among Republicans has dropped by a third since November 2010, and opposition to the Tea Party in the general population has returned to its all-time high -- suggesting that the Tea Party will have less potential to affect elections this year than was the case in the last midterm election in 2010.”
The poll is timely because the most interesting theme of this summer’s congressional primaries is the concerted, national effort by the Republican Party and the GOP “establishment” to prevent fringe (usually Tea Partiers) primary candidates from messing with the party’s chances of recapturing the Senate. Think of this as a battle of the Tea Party versus the Cocktail Party (at the country club).
Tuesday was a win for the martinis. The venue was North Carolina where the state’s House speaker and “establishment” guy, Thom Tillis, firmly smacked down a Tea Party challenge. (For a thorough look at how North Carolina reflects many of the debates we can expect in the fall and in the 2016 presidential campaign, go to Dan Balz’s piece in The Washington Post.)
The Gallup poll shows a substantial, 10-point decline in support for the Tea Party among Republicans from 2010; the decline was steeper, 20 points, with Republican-leaning independents.
The other big finding in the poll is that while support for Tea Party-ism has slowly and steadily dwindled since 2010, outright opposition has shut up in 2014.
It appears the concerted push of the mainstream GOP is working.
Now, there are a couple conclusions that ought not be drawn from the polling. First, a dip on Tea Party support does not mean the Republicans will have a harder time in the midterms – to the contrary. Cumulatively the polling this year predicts that the Republicans will do very well in House elections and have an excellent shot at taking the Senate. Indeed, the Gallup poll found Republicans are more engaged than independents and Democrats with the 2014 elections.
Second, the Tea Party’s waning poll numbers do not reflect waning influence on the Republican Party or on conservative politics. Yet.
There is a cadre of hardcore, libertarian Tea Party boosters willing to pick fights with the GOP brass in the House and Senate that simply did not exist eight years ago. And they have influenced the party’s platform, rhetoric and policy in enduring ways.
The Gallup poll was conducted April 24-30 with a sample of 1,513 people.