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Get Used to It: 28% of Americans Support the Tea Party

Tired of hearing about the hate-mongering Tea Partiers? Well, you're about to get more tired of it. An astounding Gallup poll released today shows that a whopping 28 percent of Americans support the Tea Party movement. Yep, that's right. More than 1 in 4 Americans thinks the Party of Sarah Palin is the way to go. It gets worse, though. Americans who consider themselves opponents of the Tea Party are less than those who support it, coming in at 26 percent. Of course, 38 percent said they neither opposed nor supported the Tea Party, but I can't say that political apathy makes me feel much better. And besides, even more people -- 37 percent -- said they view the Tea Party favorably. Most of the demographic breakdowns of Tea Party supporters were unsurprising. For example, Tea Partiers mostly identify as Republicans (49 percent), and they skew slightly male (55 percent). But here's the part I find most sad: Tea Partiers are really mainstream. In other words, their educational attainment, employment status, and racial background are pretty representative of the American population at large. And if they are representative of the American population at large, well, it tells a sad story about the American public. There are, however, two things that may indicate that the Tea Party isn't the ferocious force this poll suggests. One is that a conservative outfit released a poll last week which showed Tea Party support at only 17 percent, which deviates greatly from Gallup's 28 percent. The other one is to compare a similar poll about Americans' views on socialism. If you look at a Gallup poll from February, it shows that 36 percent of Americans viewed socialism favorably -- which is pretty close to the 37 percent who say they view the Tea Party favorably. As the folks at Think Progress put it: "You can find roughly 4 in 10 Americans who will give a positive rating to just about anything in politics that they know little about." I don't presume to compare apples to oranges here -- socialism is an actual ideology, while the Tea Party movement is a hodge-podge of hateful talking points -- but you get the bigger picture: most people don't really know or care about politics. Yet herein lies the problem. The Tea Party is what you get when a bunch of people who don't understand or care about politics decide to get into politics.
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