PRINCETON, NJ -- About half of Americans, 47%, now have an unfavorable image of the Tea Party movement, the highest since it emerged on the national scene.
Gallup began tracking Americans' views of the Tea Party in March 2010, when 37% had a favorable and 40% an unfavorable view. Those views stayed roughly the same through January of this year, but have now turned somewhat more negative. The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven't heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.
Republicans, Conservatives Most Positive About Tea Party
The Tea Party movement has no official status as an organization or association. It is not officially connected with the Republican Party. Still, Tea Party candidates who ran for the House and Senate in last fall's midterm elections for the most part ran as Republicans. And Tea Party candidates who were elected to the House are now making their voices heard in Congress as they pressure House Republican leadership to take strong conservative positions on such issues as cutting government spending and reducing the deficit.
While Americans who identify as Republicans and conservatives clearly tend to be favorably predisposed toward the Tea Party, these attitudes are by no means universal, underscoring the challenges House GOP leaders face as they try to reflect the interests of their constituencies.
The views of Republicans split 60% positively to 24% negatively toward the Tea Party; conservatives' views split 56% to 29%. Substantial majorities of Democrats and liberals view the Tea Party unfavorably. Views of the Tea Party became more negative between January and April among both Republicans and independents; there was very little change in Democrats' already negative views.
Americans who approve of the job President Obama is doing tilt strongly negative toward the Tea Party. Those who view possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump favorably are substantially more positive about the Tea Party than those who view him unfavorably.
Older Men More Favorable Toward Tea Party
The Tea Party has a relatively strong appeal to men aged 50 and older, 49% of whom have favorable opinions of the movement. By contrast, women aged 50 and older are the most negative, with more than half holding a negative opinion.
Southerners are most positive about the Tea Party across regions, with essentially equal favorable and unfavorable opinions. Americans living on either coast are the most negative.
Percentage of Americans Who Are Tea Party Supporters Holds Constant
A separate Gallup trend question asks Americans if they are "supporters" of the Tea Party movement, "opponents," or neither. The percentage of Americans who call themselves supporters of the movement (30%) roughly matches the percentage calling themselves opponents (28%). Support for the Tea Party has held steady over the last year at about 30%.
A little more than half of Republicans, 54%, say they are supporters of the Tea Party movement.
This is considerably higher than the 29% of independents and 8% of Democrats who are Tea Party supporters but, as was the case for basic attitudes toward the Tea Party, is by no means monolithic. Republicans who are not Tea Party supporters for the most part say they are neither supporters nor opponents.
The precise influence of the Tea Party movement on U.S. politics is difficult to pinpoint, given its vague shape and lack of any type of official organization. The Tea Party, however, did have a significant influence on last year's midterm elections. Candidates who were supported by voters who identified with the Tea Party made a significant impact on primary outcomes, and in a number of instances won election to the House and Senate.
Now observers continue to ponder the impact of those elections on the Republican Party, as these newly elected members attempt to follow through on their campaign promises and pressure House leadership to take stronger conservative positions on key issues.
The data reviewed here demonstrate the nature of the political challenges Republican congressional leadership faces in responding to Tea Party-supported members. A majority of rank-and-file Republicans nationwide give the Tea Party favorable ratings, but a sizable minority say their opinion is unfavorable or do not classify themselves as supporters.
Further, the overall image of the Tea Party among all Americans has become substantially more negative than positive over the last several months, which could weaken its perceived clout among GOP congressional leaders. Americans' negative views of the Tea Party contrast with their much more balanced views of the Republican Party, measured at 44% favorable and 47% unfavorable in the same April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 20-23, 2011, with a random sample of 1,013 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, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
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 includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone 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 by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in 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.