One of the problems with analyzing the so-called tea party movement (TPM) is separating the views of its hard-core members, who go to demonstrations and are the voice of the movement, from those that may sympathize in a general sort of way and may identify themselves as TPM supporters to public opinion pollsters. Lumping the two groups together in polls does two things: it tends to overstate the political influence of the TPM and understate the extremism of its most fanatic members.
A new University of Washington poll sheds light on these observations by separating TPM agnostics, who may somewhat approve or disapprove of the TPM, from those that strongly approve of it. Released on Tuesday, it sampled 1,695 Washington State voters—a large sample—and asked them to define themselves as strong TPM supporters (19% of the sample), those that somewhat approve or disapprove of it (26% of the sample), and those that strongly disapprove (27% of the sample; not included below).
What I think this poll shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define TPM members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the TPM is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that TPM members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it’s in support of their agenda.
Source: University of Washington