A majority of Republicans who agree with the tea party movement give House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) positive reviews for his role in debt negotiations in a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. The speaker's high marks represent a crucial link between the highly energized political movement and the Republican establishment as attention pivots back to the 2012 election cycle.
Exit polls in 2010 had more than four in 10 voters supporting the nascent political movement, but until now, it had been an open question whether tea party-affiliated office holders could transfer the enthusiasm that fueled an electoral breakthrough into legislative power. Many of the congressional Republicans elected under the tea party banner are now freshmen legislators, with few leadership posts and even fewer established Washington connections.
After Republicans cut a deal on Sunday reducing the deficit with spending cuts alone - a key GOP and tea party priority - there is little doubt that the tea party movement has emerged as a powerful and sustained force in national politics. In January, the prospects for sustained influence didn’t look good. In a Pew survey at the start of the year, roughly a quarter of all Americans predicted that tea party-affiliated members of Congress would have a positive effect on the legislative body, but more, 39 percent, said they would have little effect at all. And an April Pew survey found slipping support and rising opposition to the tea party among the general public, including a 13-point rise in the percentage of independents who disagreed with the movement.
Tea party Republicans are significantly more tuned in than others to the 2012 presidential contest, according to another survey. Overall, more than eight in 10 are closely following the campaign, said the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Some 42 percent of Republicans who strongly support the tea party said they’re following it “very closely,” roughly twice the number of Democrats (17 percent), independents (19 percent) and Republicans overall (21 percent) who say so.
Tea party Republicans make up nearly one-quarter of registered voters in swing states. While tea party Republicans make up 17 percent of registered voters in states that favored Obama by 10 points or more according to June and July Post-ABC polls, they make up 23 percent of voters in states decided by single digit margins. That’s identical to the 23 percent of voters in heavily McCain states who identify as tea party Republicans.
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