The Washington Post

Is the tea party part of the GOP? Most Republicans say no.

The latest Pew Research Center poll is chock full of data revealing an emerging rift between tea party-aligned Republicans and the rest of the party. But if there is one area of relative agreement, it's this: a belief that tea party is independent from the  GOP.

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More than half of all Republicans (51 percent) say the the tea party is separate. Only about three in 10 say it is part of the Republican Party. Nearly equal shares of tea party Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (52 percent) and non-tea party Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (55 percent) say the movement is separate from the GOP.

Interestingly, tea party Republicans and GOP leaners increasingly see their movement as part of the GOP. Back in 2011, nearly seven in 10 said it was a separate entity. And now, they are more likely than non-tea party Republicans to say the movement is part of the GOP.

Still, the fact that more than half of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents aligned with the tea party now see the movement as distinct from the GOP suggests the link isn't that strong, in their view.

In one sense, it's not so surprising how widely the tea party is seen as a separate entity, considering how sharply the views of those aligned with the movement clash with other Republicans. Take Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), for example. Among tea party Republicans and GOP leaners, Cruz's favorable rating has jumped from 47 percent  in June to 74 percent now. Among non-tea party Republicans, his unfavorable rating has nearly doubled from 16 percent to 31 percent.

In another sense, it is a bit unexpected. It's clear there is a link between tea party Republicans and the GOP. Just ask yourself how many tea party members of Congress caucus with the Democrats.

The question is how strong that link is and where it's headed in the future. It's clearly eroded in recent months: The poll shows a drop in tea party favorability among conservative, moderate and liberal Republicans since June.

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

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