Tea Party: Changing votes but not outcomes

The Tea Party didn't just help get more conservative Republicans elected: It also helped influence key votes in Congress, according to a new article in American Politics Research.

The study found that the more Tea Party activists there were in a politician's district, the more likely he or she was to vote based on the movement's preferences. By contrast, the authors write that constituent opinion of the Tea Party "had virtually no impact" on these key votes.

tea party (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The researchers looked specifically at 2011 votes on the March continuing resolution — the budget extension to keep the government from shutting down — the August vote on the debt-ceiling deal, the February vote to extend the Patriot Act, and a February vote to fund a big-ticket jet fighter engine, all of which Tea Party activists generally opposed. They then used three different models to examine whether the level of tea-party activism in members' home districts made them more likely to vote in accordance with the movement:

But while Tea Party activists did help to move votes, they didn't manage to turn around the ultimate outcome: The March CR, the debt-ceiling deal and the Patriot Act extension all ended up passing the House. The one bill the House did kill was the jet fighter engine. But it's the one change that Obama and many Democrats also supported.

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Ezra Klein · June 26, 2012