The decline of the tea party — in 5 charts

December 12, 2013

The tea party continues to wield some influence on the campaign trail and in Congress. But it's not winning any popularity contests.

A new Gallup poll shows that roughly half of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of the tea party movement. And the negativity is not just driven by Democrats. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservatives hold an unfavorable view of the movement.

It's a new low for the tea party in Gallup polling.

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Meanwhile, Pew Research Center data released in October spoke volumes about the long-term drop in favorability for the tea party. There's been a decline in tea party favorability from 2010 among Democrats, Independents and Republicans.

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Bad as the new Gallup numbers are for the tea party, they are actually a little better than what we saw in an October Washington Post-ABC News poll in which the movement's overall favorable/unfavorable split was an even worse 26/59 percent. (The 26 percent who said they held a favorable view was a record low.) That poll was conducted in the wake of the government shutdown driven heavily by tea party conservatives' insistence on using the budget debate to shred Obamacare.


A November Washington Post-ABC News poll showed opposition to the tea party was more intense than support for the movement. Thirty-one percent of Americans said they strongly opposed the tea party, compared to just 9 percent who said they strongly supported it.

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The latest Gallup poll gave respondents the option of "neither" in a question about whether they support or oppose the tea party. In that context, a plurality say they don't feel strongly either way, opting with the "neither" option. But as the following chart shows, support for the tea party has declined more than opposition.

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It's important to bear in mind that overall popularity does not necessarily translate to influence. As we wrote earlier this week, more than half of the Republican senators running for reelection in 2014 are facing primary challengers running to their right. And the recent government shutdown showdown revealed the power of hard-right conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to have a voice in congressional debates.

But what's clear is that if the tea party wants to broaden its appeal, it's not doing itself any favors.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza | December 12, 2013