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10 Reasons Why the Tea Party is So Unpopular

One-quarter of Republicans don’t think like them, Pew finds.

Photo Credit: R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com


Now that the federal government has reopened and its debt limit raised, the Tea Party is more unpopular with Americans than ever—including among moderate Republicans—polls are finding, with analysts asking if the Tea Party is part of the GOP at all.  

“The Tea Party is less popular than ever, with even many Republicans now viewing the movement negatively. Overall, nearly half of the public (49 percent) has an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party, while 30 percent have a favorable opinion,” the Pew Research Center For People And The Press said in its latest poll and report.

“For Republicans, the decline is steepest among those who describe themselves as moderate or liberal. Today, only about a quarter (27 percent) of moderate and liberal Republicans have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, down 19 points from June,” Pew said, after surveying 1,500 adults over 18 across the country between Oct. 9 and 13. “Yet the Tea Party’s ratings have also declined among conservative Republicans, from 74 percent favorable in June to 65 percent now.”

Since the standoff ended, there’s been no shortage of media reports about the Republican Party tearing itself apart—with rightwingers accusing leaders in Congress of “surrender” and finger pointing at usual targets such as the media's supposedly liberal bias. Tea Party leaders such as former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, vowed in a Wall Street Journal column Friday that the fight to destroy the Affordable Care Act will continue. Meanwhile, another Tea Party darling, Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul, is AWOL in this fracas, perhaps nursing his 2016 presidential bid.

But no one should think that the Tea Party’s latest failures will make them go away. This faction, as epitomized by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz declaring that the shutdown was a victory, is unapologetic, arrogant and proud of it. As Pew notes, Tea Partiers share 10 beliefs and causes that make most Americans cringe—not just Democrats but millions of moderate and liberal Republicans. Let’s look at those views and values, according to Pew.

1. They really don’t care about America as a nation. For the past 25 years, Pew said that polls routinely find that about 55 percent of American voters want representatives in Congress to put local concerns ahead of “what they think is best for the country.” Tea Partiers disproportionately take that view. “Among Tea Party Republicans, fully 76 percent say members should vote against a bill their constituents oppose, even if he or she thinks it is in the best interest of the country,” Pew said. “Just 22 percent say the lawmaker should prioritize the national interest.”

2. Forget national solutions to national problems. Since three-quarters of Tea Partiers value a confederacy of GOP-run provinces more than an effective national government, it’s not surprising that they are always talking about making government smaller. But, as Pew found, that rhetoric means dismantling big public programs and overlooking public needs that were behind their creation in the first place.

“A driving attitude of the Tea Party is a belief in smaller government,” Pew said. “Fully 92 percent of Tea Party Republicans prefer a smaller government with fewer services, just 5 percent want a bigger government. Among non-Tea Party Republicans, a smaller government is preferred by a less one-sided 67 percent to 28 percent margin.” Tea Partiers tend to be older, whiter and wealthier than other Republicans—and other Americans, Pew said, which fits their self-centered, gated-community mindset.

3. They don’t believe in new government debt. Despite all the warnings by economists and even foreign leaders, such as Italy’s prime minister speaking at the White House on Thursday—who feared a default would raise global interest rates and spark a downward spiral—69 percent of Tea Parties said it was “not essential” to raise the U.S. debt limit, Pew said. That was 25 percent higher than “non-Tea Party” Republicans, Pew said.