Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 5, 2010

NOT EXACTLY A 'MAINSTREAM' FORCE.... One of the day's biggest stories among conservative bloggers is some new survey data that suggests the right-wing Tea Party "movement" is in line with the new American "mainstream." There's ample reason for skepticism about this. Indeed, the closer one looks at the data, the more it seems Andrew Malcolm and other reflexive partisans are pushing a bogus spin.

There are actually two polls getting attention today. The first is from the Winston Group, a Republican firm, which published a survey that generated this write-up from The Hill.

Four in 10 Tea Party members are either Democrats or Independents, according to a new national survey. [...]

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.

At first blush, reading that "four in 10" Teabaggers are Dems or Independents makes it sound as if the unhinged, misguided movement has broad support. It doesn't. Even if we accept a Republican firm's results at face value, the Tea Party is dominated by Republicans and Republican-friendly independents (remember, thinking on Indys as a coherent, self-contained group is completely wrong).

If an analysis is going to lump Tea Party-friendly Independents with one of the major parties, it makes far more sense to say 85% of movement members are Republicans or Independents.

While about a third of the nation at large approves of the Republican Party, with the Tea Party crowd, GOP approval is a whopping 71%.

That's not especially "mainstream." On the contrary, it sounds like a pretty conservative group of folks.

And then there's the Gallup poll.

Gallup goes ahead and gives the right the headline it wants to see: "Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics."

But it's difficult to review Gallup's results and reach that conclusion. The pollster found that 28% of Americans identify themselves as part of the right-wing group. Greg Sargent took a closer look at that 28%.

* Forty-nine percent of Tea Party supporters are Republicans, 43% are independents, and only eight percent are Dems. That means a huge majority -- 92% -- are Republicans or indys, and again, many of those indys could be former Republicans or lean GOP anyway.

* Seventy percent of Tea Party supporters say they're conservative, and only 22% say they're moderate. And who knows what they even mean by that word to begin with.

* A whopping 79% of Tea Party supporters are non-hispanic whites. Only 65% of Americans were non-hispanic whites as of 2008.

Marc Ambinder summarized the findings this way: "Tea Partiers Are Conservative. Moving Along..."

Andrew Malcolm characterized the data as "myth-busting." But Malcolm, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney White House, has it backwards -- the results reinforce exactly what most reasonable observers perceive about this so-called movement.

We're talking about a group of overwhelmingly white, conservative, middle-class voters who tend to like Republicans an awful lot. A lot of labels come to mind when describing the Tea Party crowd -- confused, misled, easily manipulated -- but "mainstream" isn't one of them.

Steve Benen 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

Bookmark and Share

Republicans have pretty much lost any support from minority voters for a generation.

Notice anything strange in all of this? African Americans, hispanic Americans, are virtually silent. What does the GOP think will happen on election day when they vote? Let's face it, the Tea Party is a rump fringe of a fading political party. It's astounding that they're getting such devoted coverage (but why does that not surprise me?).

Posted by: SaintZak on April 5, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

A Tea Party poll is going to be horrifically slanted in favor of the Tea Party, when the poll is conducted within Tea Party favored zones of occupation---and it would be wise to consider that these "Dems" who favor the Tea Party are in all likelihood rotten-to-the-core BlueDog enablers, DINOs, and Republican poseurs who get their kicks by pretending to be DemI actually know someone who might fit the mold for this subtype: He's been registered as a Democrat for years on end; always votes the straight GOP line in the generals and specials, and votes Dem in the primaries to "support the candidate most likely to lose in the general."

Something to think about....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 5, 2010 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Tea Baggers engage in auto-eroticism. Film at 11."

Posted by: JPS on April 5, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Teabaggers have broad support among Americans.

Why? Because:

Independent polls show that 99.9 % of Teabaggers are Americans. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 5, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Tea Party is composed of a buncha hard core racist right wing monsters who cobble together a language that draws other more benign racists into their tribe using phraseology like "I want my country back..."

The Tea Party is a dangerous launching pad for a throw-back right wing racist phenomenon that can cause terrible destruction in this society -- much as it did in the first half of the twentieth century, only, you know, different...

This is not yer daddy's or yer granddaddy's KKK. These are the little boys who learned hate at their knees... the stoopid nose-cuttin' crackers...

Posted by: neill on April 5, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Silent Majority, anyone? The more it changes, the more it is the same thing.

Posted by: Carol on April 5, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, no. Andrew Malcolm is entirely correct in characterizing this as myth-bustingit's busting the myth he's been trying to construct since November 2008.

Posted by: Jim on April 5, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I would say 'easily manipulated' is a good description for the tea baggers. The leaders of the group want to do away with social security and medicare, but the followers who say 'no government takeover of healthcare' also say 'keep your hands off my medicare', do they even know that medicare is a social program, do they know their leaders and the republicans in the senate want to give cash vouchers to replace medicare? Do they know the repubs want to abolish social security?
I wonder how many teabaggers are on social security, medicare, disability or unemployment benefits (which all give them lots of time to be manipulated. They must think the folks who are bussing them around are their friends - how stupid is that???

Posted by: Joan on April 5, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

They will really be insufferable when the Repugs are back in the majority next year.

Posted by: par4 on April 5, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

and, as i point out (while lifting heavily from you, steve), even if we accept the poll findings as accurate, the headline itself is wildly misleading, weighting the democratic representation heavier than the indy represenation simply by placement in the sentence.

Posted by: skippy on April 5, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

The pollster found that 28% of Americans identify themselves as part of the right-wing group.

Twenty-something percent, that magic number that keeps re-appearing in American politics the last decade or so.

The percent who supported Bush to the very end.

The percent who still believe Saddam was behind 9/11.

The percent who aren't sure or definitely believe Obama wasn't born in the U.S.

On and on and on.

Seems like recent years have put a pretty definite number to Lincoln's famous formulation about "You can fool some of the people all of the time . . ."

Almost thirty percent, give or take.

Posted by: Jon on April 5, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Silent Majority, anyone? The more it changes, the more it is the same thing.

Exactly. Search for "angry white male" and (in addition to the militia articles) you'll find that in nearly every election in the past twenty years, the political press has found some way to declare that this is the group that is the key to the election. This time Dick Armey & Co. just figured out a way to pre-package it, so our lazy political press doesn't even have to come up with a name for "phenomenon" they magically "discover" every few years.

Posted by: Redshift on April 5, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Check out this independent poll that show that the Tea Party is overwhelmingly Republican and that its positive views on Sarah Palin are way out of the mainstream.


"March 24, 2010 - Tea Party Could Hurt GOP In Congressional Races, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Dems Trail 2-Way Races, But Win If Tea Party Runs"

Posted by: Betsy on April 5, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think "silent majority" or "teabagger" is just a short-hand for "some of the people all of the time," in Lincoln's famous line about being fooled.

So the measure of "some of the people all of the time" is 27-28%, plus or minus 3%.


Posted by: Ed Drone on April 5, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

from a liberal/left perspective isn't it wise to allow these obviously "spun" news stories and polls to get all the exposure they want?

that would build a false sense of security among the tea partiers and republicans,

forcing them to think that the tea party is their salvation,

and then there will be electoral defeats.

the tea partiers remind me of the netroots circa 2002-2003. they were loud and boisterous but not yet throwing any weight around (and eventually most of them were co-opted).

Posted by: curious dog on April 5, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't Lou Dobbs identify as a democrat?

And Lyndon LaRouche for that matter?

I'm not sure 15% of Tea Party participants self-identifying democrat actually means those people are democrats in any recognizable sense. I wish they'd asked "who did you vote for for president in 2008" or "who did you vote for for president in 2004" maybe.

Posted by: mcc on April 5, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK


I guess I'll just put on my dashiki and Black Panther medallion and head on out to a Teabagger rally.

After all, I hate taxes too.

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 5, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

There *is* a stream that comes out of the Tea Potty. But it ain't "main" stream...

Posted by: exlibra on April 5, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

And how many of those self-indentified Democrats are over 70 and effectively left the party in early 60s following the passage of the Civil Rights Act. They still consider themselves Democrats, the party abandoned them, they didn't abandon the party. My Grandfather considered himself a Democrat registered as Democrat for decades while still voting Republican.

Posted by: thorin-1 on April 5, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Data that suggests the right-wing Tea Party "movement" is in line with the new American mainstream is another bit of propoganda.

Imagine a person of conservative bent who hears this and thinks: O, my point of view is in line with the American mainstream. End of thought.

This affirmation propoganda allows conservatives to feel they match the status quo and gives them permission make no effort to validate their opinions with anything like corroboration or source checking or listening to other people who may actually be in the majority. They're being told their opinions are the correct ones and in my experience, being right in both definitions of the word is what the conservative platform is really about.

Am I right, why yes I am. There's a poll out there that told me I was. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: * on April 5, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

As a self described social liberal / economic conservative, I have absolutely no problem with Teabaggers.

As an Army veteran who never knew any openly homosexual persons during my 10+ years in the military, I support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy for Teabaggers.

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on April 5, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure why but I think of Tea-Baggers when i read William Gibsons quote...
"something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."

Posted by: Dale on April 5, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Think about this ---
100% of Democrats are made up of Democrats
100% of Republicans are made of Republicans

Sounds to me that ANY percentage of either Repubs/Dems, etc. that are part of the tea party (even if only 1%) would be MUCH larger than bipartison membership than either of the major parties.

Posted by: MeMe on April 5, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Given that teabaggers are often the type to list "American" as their race on the census, I'm curious as to how the other 21% breaks down, if their rallies are any indication, 79% non-hispanic white seems low.

I'm not surprised that the "Tea Party" polls fairly high. Are there any republicans or conservative leaning "independents" that don't consider themselves Tea Partiers? The label has the added advantage of not having any legislative or governing record that has disappointed its members. It's no secret that the "republican" label isn't all that popular, even among many that routinely vote for republican candidates.

It is likely there is a fair amount of soft Tea Party support among largely apolitical middle of the road Americans. What political junkies tend to forget is the vast majority of Americans don't watch any cable news or read any political blogs, and know little about the Tea Party movement beyond vague notions that it opposes raising taxes, expanding government power and the bailing out corporate America, or on a more positive note that it is favor of government being more responsive to the people and upholding the constitution (without defining what exactly that means - who wouldn't be in favor of responsive government that upholds the constitution?) If the more ardent teabaggers are unable to explain what exactly it is they object to without sounding confused, misinformed and cotradictory, we can hardly expect the soft support to be better able to articulate what the movement stands for.

Far more vague than what is meant by 'Tea Partier" is what constitutes the "mainstream". I imagine for the vast majority of Americans the "mainstream" is made up of people who more or less think the way they do, whatever their political ideology or lack thereof. For the media it's sort of like the term "heartland", which as far as I can tell means any part of the U.S. that is not Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles or San francisco, and is not heavily populated by non-whites. So, Hilldale, Utah is the hearltand and Gary Indiana is not.

Posted by: Rip on April 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

how did this 27-30% talk go by without a Crazification Factor link?

The term seems even more appropriate describing the Tea Party crowd.

Posted by: anonymous on April 5, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"We surround them." You all remember that meme correct? From Glenn Beck.

Here we have another attempt to make Teabaggers seem 'normal' or 'cool' even.

It's marketing 101. How do you convince consumers to buy clothing manufactured by Old Navy over Abercrombie and Finch...when both are simply cloths? You create a campaign where it appears everyone is participating, and if you're not, you're the oddball, you're the 'uncool' one.

Posted by: JWK on April 5, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I want to know how is the Tea Party any different than the other splinter conservative group known as the Constitution Party. In fact, the Constitution Party started out as the Taxpayer Party in 1992, the last time we had a popular Democratic President.

Is this a coincidence? I don't think so. Why hasn't anyone written about the relationship between the 1992 Taxpayer Party and the current Tea Party?

Posted by: DK on April 5, 2010 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

The author is very unpersuasive when he concludes that white, conservative, middle-class voters are not mainstream.

Posted by: Michael on April 5, 2010 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Independents" are what Libertarians call themselves, yet they have been very solidly in the Republican party for many years. I personally know some people who insist on calling themselves independents and they are militia sympathizers who are anti-government and think they are being open minded by claiming that they hate both parties equally, but have almost never voted Democratic.

13% of 27% are Democrats. Well the South has had Democrats that turned Republican after civil rights legislation got passed. They may still consider themselves as conservative Democrats out of habit or they may just be racist Democrats. There are a few of those out there. Those tend to think that the Democratic Party "left them" because they feel betrayed by civil rights. They almost always vote Republican, but like Libertarians, take some strange comfort in being their "own free-thinking" selves, while actually they are less and less free-thinking.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on April 5, 2010 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Well the South has had Democrats that turned Republican after civil rights legislation got passed. They may still consider themselves as conservative Democrats out of habit or they may just be racist Democrats. There are a few of those out there."

It's more than a few. The number of self-identified Democrats in Southern states is about equal to the number of self-identified Republicans.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on April 6, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly