If there’s one thing the debt ceiling battle revealed, it’s that the Tea Party continues to enjoy outsized influence in Washington in general and over the GOP in particular.
So it’s interesting to note that according to the internals of today’s New York Times poll, the Tea Party is rapidly shrinking before our very eyes, and is hemorraging supporters at a surprising rate:
Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of the Tea Party movement, or not?
The 18 percent who self-identify as Tea Party supporters is at its lowest point, tying the 18 percent who supported it way back in April of 2010, when it was first gaining steam as the Congressional races of last cycle began heating up. The trajectory is interesting: The Times poll shows the Tea Party has had some ups and downs, but it steadily gained supporters as the 2010 campaigns wore on, and peaked with 31 percent of the electorate saying they supported the movement at around the time that the GOP won its massive 2010 victory.
Then its support began to decline, and it then dropped a precipitous eight points from June until today — a period that roughly coincided with the debt ceiling debate, which showcased Tea Party intransigence and self-delusion at its finest. Not only that, but right now, the 73 percent who say they are not supporters is at its highest point ever.
What’s more, as Steve Benen notes, the numbers who disaprove of the Tea Party and who think it has too much influence over the GOP are running as high as ever.
Interestingly, the Tea Party is declining in public support even as its influence in Washington has, if anything, peaked. Even if Tea Partyers didn’t get everything they wanted from the debt deal, Tea Party members of Congress yanked the debate way to the right and continue to receive media coverage that’s surprisingly respectful given that many of them were willing to allow the nation to slide into economic catastrophe for its own good.
The numbers suggest the Tea Party is rapidly sliding back into fringe status — yet its disproportionate influence over the political conversation is as strong as ever. It’s yet another way that the Congressional debate is way to the right of public opinion.