PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans believe that the Tea Party movement has had both positive and negative influences on the U.S. political process. They credit the movement with getting people more involved in the political process and making the parties more responsive to the views of ordinary citizens. At the same time, a majority believe the Tea Party has created deeper political divisions in the U.S.
These results are based on the USA Today/Gallup final pre-election poll, conducted Oct. 28-31, and reflect Americans' views of the Tea Party before Tuesday's election results were known. The election saw Republicans make gains in both houses of Congress, including a gain of more than 60 seats in the House of Representatives to take partisan control of that institution.
Twenty-six percent of Americans describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement, and 27% as opponents, with the remainder neutral. These percentages were quite stable throughout the election year.
Tea Party supporters and opponents have differing views of the impact of the Tea Party on American politics.
Majorities of supporters and opponents agree that the movement caused people to get more involved in the political process, though supporters are much more likely to believe this.
Supporters and opponents diverge on the questions of whether the movement made the parties more responsive to the people and whether it created deeper political divisions.
Tea Party supporters are nearly unanimous in thinking the movement made the parties more responsive. Meanwhile more than 8 in 10 opponents think it made the country more divided politically, though even 44% of Tea Party supporters agree.
Because Tea Party supporters are overwhelmingly Republican and opponents Democratic, the views of Republicans and Democrats on these issues largely mirror those of movement supporters and opponents, respectively.
In politics, 2010 may best be remembered for the impact of the Tea Party movement on the year's midterm elections. Tea Party-backed candidates had a significant say in determining which Republican candidates were nominated, upsetting GOP establishment candidates in many races. Some of the Tea Party-favored candidates eventually prevailed in the general election.
In its short existence, Americans acknowledge that the Tea Party movement has had a measurable impact, most notably in terms of getting people more involved in the political process. Now that the 2010 elections are over, one of the key stories in the coming political year is whether the Tea Party will gain or lose influence in American politics. This will be evident in the effectiveness in Congress of its favored candidates who won election, as well as its influence over who is nominated as the Republican presidential candidate for the 2012 election.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 28-31, 2010, with a random sample of 2,240 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.