Ideology is the major factor in Tea Party support within the GOP
PRINCETON, NJ -- One in four Americans now say they are supporters of the Tea Party. This is down from 2010, but support has been fairly stable since late 2011. The percentage of Americans classifying themselves as Tea Party opponents is slightly higher now than it was in 2010. The lower support for the Tea Party reflects the group's more limited impact in primary election contests this midterm election year, compared with its major role in 2010.
The latest update is from Gallup's Sept. 4-7 Governance survey. The Tea Party came into national prominence in 2010, when its supporters were widely credited with helping elect candidates they supported to Congress. Support among Americans was 30% or higher in a number of polls in 2010 and the first part of 2011, but began to drop later that year. It reached a low of 21% in two late 2011 surveys, followed by a slight recovery in 2012. After declining slightly in three surveys in 2013 and early 2014, support then edged up to 24% in surveys conducted in May and September of this year. Thirty-one percent of Americans now classify themselves as Tea Party opponents -- by one percentage point, the highest opposition level Gallup has measured -- leaving about 44% of Americans who are neither supporters nor opponents, or who do not answer the question.
Tea Party opponents feel more strongly about their position than do supporters. More than half say they are "strong opponents," while less than half of supporters say they are "strong supporters." This pattern has been evident to one degree or the other since 2011.
Tea Party Republicans Much More Conservative Than Other Republicans
The Tea Party movement's major influence has been within the Republican Party, particularly in terms of Republican primaries. Eight in 10 Tea Party supporters in the September survey are Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party, with the rest divided between independents and Democrats.
Gallup has asked about Tea Party support in five surveys conducted over the past year, consisting of more than 6,000 interviews, with 18% of adults in that large sample saying they are Tea Party Republicans, 25% who are Republicans who do not support the Tea Party, and 58% who are not Republicans.
Overall, 77% of Tea Party Republicans are conservative, including 28% who say they are very conservative. That presents a sharp contrast with the 52% of non-Tea Party Republicans who are conservative, including only 10% who classify themselves as very conservative.
Demographically, 31% of Tea Party Republicans are men aged 50 and older, compared with 21% of other Republicans. Tea Party Republicans are also more likely to be married. There are only minor differences between the two groups of Republicans in terms of region and education. Republicans overall are much more likely than other Americans to be non-Hispanic whites, as are Tea Party Republicans, 86% of whom are white.
Tea Party support is down from where it was at the time of the last midterm elections in 2010, although it has remained relatively stable over the last year or two -- while opposition is up from 2010. These trends may help explain the diminished impact of the Tea Party in 2014 Republican primary elections this year, and could mean the Tea Party will have less of an impact in the forthcoming November general elections.
Most Tea Party supporters are Republicans, and within the Republican Party, Tea Party supporters are clearly defined by their conservative ideology, meaning they are generally indistinguishable from conservative Republicans. Tea Party supporters within the Republican Party also tend to be older, are more likely to be male, and are more likely to be married than other Republicans.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted in surveys from Sept. 5-8, 2013, Dec. 5-8, 2013, April 24-30, 2014, June 5-8, 2014, and Sept. 4-7, 2014, with a total random sample of 6,098 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.
For results based on the Sept. 4-7, 2014, sample of 1,017 national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.