2008 record      


Neither the mainstream media nor the political class has apparently learned much from Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. Both have cast the Tea Party as a fringe phenomenon and refuse to recognize its potency. But Americans simply don't buy their portrayal and see the movement much more favorably.

And their denial may cost Democrats control of Congress in November.

These are some of the key findings of the latest IBD/TIPP poll of 908 Americans completed on Sunday.

On a 10-point favorability scale, 26% of Americans give the Tea Party a high rating (7 or higher); 18% give it a moderate rating (5 or 6); 41% give it a low rating (4 or lower). The average for the Tea Party is 4.50.

On the same scale, the Democratic Party gets 28% high favorability, 27% moderate favorability and 43% low favorability, with an average of 4.78.

The Republican Party gets 26% high favorability; 28% moderate favorability and 43% low favorability, with an average of 4.66.

The Tea Party percentages are pretty respectable for a grass-roots movement that, unlike the major political parties, does not have a registered membership and only shares small government as a common ethos.

Since registration is not a requisite, the Tea Party must be analyzed on how favorably an American relates to it and what it stands for.

We see two key segments of people who approve of the movement: "Enthusiasts" (26% of all Americans) and "Closet Admirers" (18% of all Americans). Another 41% are "Non-believers."

The bond with the movement is evident from our litmus test — willingness to join the Tea Party movement or attend a rally or event. Seventy percent of Enthusiasts would consider joining the movement or attend a rally. Only 35% of Closet Admirers say they would consider attending a rally, and 61% would not attend.

Dismissing the Tea Party as composed mainly of Republicans is a disingenuous denial that could cost Democrats control of Congress. Among independents, 28% are Enthusiasts and another 18% are Closet Admirers. Even the Democratic Party has 5% Enthusiasts and 12% Closet Admirers.

Republicans, of course, share Tea Partyers' small-government values, so naturally 75% of those attracted to the movement are Republicans.

Here are some results from our poll that echo sentiments of the two segments of Americans who see the Tea Party favorably:

1. The country is headed in the wrong direction. Nearly all Enthusiasts (94%) and over three-fourths (79%) of Closet Admirers share this feeling. For all Americans, the percentage is 65%.

2. Opposition to health care reform is high. Eighty-seven percent of Enthusiasts and 65% of Closet Admirers "strongly" oppose the overhaul pushed by the Obama administration and approved by Congress. Americans overall oppose it 49% to 38%.

3. The opposition leads to support for repealing ObamaCare. Eighty-five percent of Enthusiasts and 58% of Closet Admirers back the idea, much higher than the 44% of all Americans.

4. The president is not doing a good job. While 42% of all Americans give Obama a thumbs-up, only 4% of Enthusiasts and 25% of Closet Admirers of the Tea Party see him in a favorable light. An overwhelming 90% of Enthusiasts and 55% of Closet Admirers disapprove of the job he's doing.

5. Another economic recession is around the corner. A majority of Enthusiasts (61%) and a near-majority of Closet Admirers (49%) believe that the likelihood of a second recession is high. Forty-two percent of all Americans agree.

6. The job situation will remain grim. Seventy-one percent of Enthusiasts and 56% of Closet Admirers have very low confidence that the job market will improve in the next six months.

7. Support for extending the Bush tax cuts is high. Going hand-in-hand with the Tea Party's desire for smaller government and lower taxes, movement supporters don't want the tax rates established during the Bush years to expire as scheduled at year-end. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of Enthusiasts and a majority (52%) of closet Admirers want to extend the Bush cuts vs. 48% for all Americans.

8. The first economic stimulus has been a failure. Compared with the 67% of all Americans who believe the Democrats' $787 billion stimulus package has failed to create jobs, 86% of Enthusiasts and 70% of Closet Admirers see it this way.

9. A second stimulus is a non-starter. Seventy-seven percent of Enthusiasts and 48% of Closet Admirers oppose another stimulus, compared with 40% for all Americans.

10. Enthusiasts overwhelmingly favor the Republican Party gaining control of Congress over Democrats retaining control by a margin of 87% to 7%. Closet Admirers favor the GOP by a 70%-to-19% margin. With Americans, Republicans have a 10-point advantage (50% to 40%) in so-called generic polling.

A few final questions raised by our polling results: Will the big media and disconnected political class stop insulting the intelligence of Americans? What would it take to make them treat the Tea Party movement with some semblance of respect? Do they prefer political suicide over denial?

• Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP poll, the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.

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