The tea party is breaking records, but not in a good way

There's some bad news for the tea party in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just 26 percent of Americans say they hold a favorable view of the movement -- a record low.

It doesn't end there.

Roughly one in three Republicans (34 percent) hold an unfavorable view of the tea party. So do 62 percent of independents.


Two thirds of Americans (67 percent) disapprove of the way tea party-aligned GOP members of Congress have handled budget negotiations, including about half of all Republicans (49 percent).

Finally, a majority of Americans (54 percent) say they oppose the tea party movement, including nearly three in 10 Republicans (28 percent) and more than half of independents (54 percent).

It's bad news all around for the tea party's image. And the data come just days after a Pew Research Center poll taken just before the shutdown and debt ceiling standoff was resolved in Congress also showed record low favorability for the tea party.

The findings reveal a couple of things.

One, it's clear that opposition to the tea party isn't just driven by Democrats. The GOP's divide over the movement is pretty striking. And it suggests more discord is in store for a party that has been struggling to find its footing after two straight presidential defeats.

Two, as bad as the numbers look for the tea party, they are not that far off the Republican Party as a whole. Twenty-six percent is a lousy, lousy favorable rating. But so is 32 percent, the number the GOP as a whole is sporting, which is near a record low. The GOP's current unfavorable rating of 63 percent is a record high.

One more thing worth noting: While it's clear that the budget and debt ceiling standoff took its toll on the tea party's broad image, the movement has shown it doesn't need mass support to leave a mark inside the halls of Congress.

A handful of insurgents -- chief among them Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) -- proved that a noisy minority can make an impact. They lost, but not before forcing leaders to agree to take up their fight against the Affordable Care Act.

The big question moving forward is if and how the wing of the GOP that doesn't agree with the tea party will take steps to blunt its influence.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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Sean Sullivan · October 22, 2013

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