Tea Party Supporters Overlap Republican Base

by Frank Newport

Eight out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans

PRINCETON, NJ -- There is significant overlap between Americans who identify as supporters of the Tea Party movement and those who identify as conservative Republicans. Their similar ideological makeup and views suggest that the Tea Party movement is more a rebranding of core Republicanism than a new or distinct entity on the American political scene.

Partisan and Ideological Makeup of Tea Party Supporters, Compared With All Americans

Conservative Republicans outnumber moderate/liberal Republicans in the general population by about a 2-to-1 margin; among Tea Party supporters, the ratio is well more than 3 to 1. More generally, almost 8 out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans, compared with 44% of all national adults.

These findings are based on three surveys Gallup conducted in March, May, and June of this year. Thirty percent of Americans, on average, identify as Tea Party supporters -- a percentage remarkably consistent across the three surveys.

The Tea Party and the 2010 Vote

One reason for interest in the burgeoning Tea Party movement this year has been its potential impact on the midterm elections in November. Already the Tea Party is viewed as affecting Republican primaries, with its chosen candidates prevailing or poised to do so in several contests, including the withdrawal or defeat of well-funded "establishment" Republican candidates in the Florida and Kentucky Senate races.

This potential impact is clear from data showing that Tea Party supporters are more enthusiastic about voting this year than are Americans overall, and more likely to say they are certain to vote. At the same time, Tea Party supporters are no more enthusiastic or certain to vote than the traditional Republican base -- conservative Republicans.

Midterm Election Voting Enthusiasm and Certainty to Vote, Among Tea Party Supporters, Conservative Republicans, and All Americans

While Tea Party supporters are not universal in their backing of Republican candidates, they skew heavily in that direction. About 80% of Tea Party supporters say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their district, slightly lower than the projected 95% Republican vote among conservative Republicans.

This suggests that the potential impact of the Tea Party on Republican chances of winning in congressional and senatorial races this fall -- even if supporters turn out in record numbers -- may be slightly less than would be expected.

If the Elections for Congress Were Being Held Today, Which Party's Canddiate Would You Vote for in Your Congressional District?

Both Tea Party supporters and conservative Republicans are highly likely to hold unfavorable views of President Barack Obama and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Images of President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Among Tea Party Supporters, Conservative Republicans, and All Americans

Same Cup of Tea?

The Tea Party movement has received considerable news coverage this year, in large part because it appears to represent a new and potentially powerful force on the American political scene. Whether Tea Party supporters are a voting segment that is unique and distinct from the more traditional Republican conservative base, however, appears questionable. There is significant overlap between Tea Party supporters and conservative Republicans, both groups are highly enthusiastic about voting, and both are heavily skewed toward Republican candidates -- although the latter somewhat more so than the former.

Republican leaders who worry about the Tea Party's impact on their races may in fact (and more simply) be defined as largely worrying about their party's core base. Additionally, GOP leaders eager to maximize turnout this fall may do just as well by targeting the more traditional voting category of conservative Republicans as by expending energy and effort to target those who identify with the Tea Party movement.

Further Gallup analysis of the Tea Party movement, including a particular emphasis on supporters' positions on specific issues, will be published at Gallup.com on Monday, July 5.

Survey Methods

Results are based on combined telephone interviews from USA Today/Gallup polls conducted March 26-28, May 24-25, and June 11-13, 2010, with a random sample of 3,095 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 ±2 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of 1,008 Tea Party supporters, 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 (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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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