Two in Five Americans Support the Tea Party, But Just One in Ten Consider Themselves Members

NEW YORK, N.Y. – May 25, 2010 – Congress typically enters the summertime of an election year with one thing in mind – the recess – when Members can go home to their districts and hit the campaign trail. This year is no different, but it is an atypical political environment in which these candidates are playing. More than four in five Americans (85%) disapprove of the overall job Congress is doing with almost half (48%) saying they are doing a poor job, the lowest rating.

There is also a clear feeling of anti-incumbency among the public as half of Americans (49%) say almost everyone in Congress, including their representative should be thrown out, compared to 23% of U.S. adults who say there are a lot of problems in Washington and with the system, but their member of Congress has done a pretty good job and deserves re-election. Over one-quarter (28%) are not sure as to which way they fall on this issue.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,503 adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010.

The Tea Party

One thing that is potentially feeding into this sense of frustration with Congress is listening to and watching the emerging Tea Party supporters around the country. More than four in five Americans (85%) say they are familiar with the Tea Party, up from three-quarters (75%) who said this in March. Among all U.S. adults, almost two in five (38%) say they support the Tea Party Movement while 30% oppose it and 17% are not at all sure. The Tea Party is getting their support from more Republicans than Democrats (70% vs. 14%) but almost half of Independents (45%) say they support the Tea Party.

However, looking at this a different way tells a whole other story. When asked if they would describe themselves as a member of the Tea Party, just 10% of Americans say yes while 75% say no. One in five Republicans (20%) say they describe themselves as a member of the Tea Party compared to 3% of Democrats and 13% of Independents.

November Elections

If the election for Congress were to be held today, just over one-third of Americans (35%) would vote for the Democratic candidate while 28% would vote for the Republican and 10% would vote for someone else. Over one-quarter (27%) are not at all sure for whom they would vote. For the most part, Democrats and Republicans stay loyal to their candidates with 78% saying they would vote for the Democrat and 80% voting for the Republican candidate, respectively.

If there was a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, the election outcome would be different. While the same number would vote for the Democratic candidate (35%), 19% would vote for the Republican candidate, 12% would vote for the Tea Party candidate and over one-third (35%) are not at all sure. Democrats stay loyal, with 76% voting for their candidate, 2% each to the Republican and Tea Party candidate and 19% not sure who they would vote for. Republicans are a bit more divided. While half (54%) would still vote for the Republican candidate, 18% would vote for the Tea Party candidate and 26% are not at all sure who they would vote for. Half of Independents (49%) are not sure for whom they would vote, while 20% would vote for the Tea Party candidate, 19% would vote for the Democratic candidate and 12% for the Republican.

Among Tea Party supporters, in the two party-race, over half (57%) will vote for the Republican candidate, while 10% would vote Democratic,14% would vote for another candidate and 18% are not at all sure. When a Tea Party candidate is added, one-third of Tea Party supporters (32%) would vote Republican, 30% would vote for the Tea Party candidate, 10% for the Democrat and 28% are not at all sure.

Those who consider themselves Tea Party members are a little different. In the two-party race, almost two-thirds (64%) would vote for the Republican candidate while 9% would vote Democratic, 13% for another candidate and 14% are not at all sure. When their candidate is thrown in the race, almost half (48%) would vote for that candidate, three in ten (29%) would vote for the Republican, 9% would still vote Democratic and 13% are not sure for whom they would vote.

So What?

November is a lifetime away in political days and anything could happen between now and when voters actually go to the polls. Democrats should not get too confident that they are ahead at this point as there are a large number of undecideds out there who can go either way… including to the Tea Party. What should worry both parties is how the Independents are leaning. Right now, regardless of whether it is a two party or three party race, at least two in five of them are not sure where their vote will go. Combine that with the fact that over three in five (63%) Independents believe almost everyone in Congress should be thrown out, including their representative, means both parties have a lot of work to do between now and November.

 

TABLE 1

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING

How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

Base: All U.S. adults

 

Total

Political Party

Tea Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Supporter

Member

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

15

4

28

8

6

8

Excellent

2

1

4

1

2

5

Pretty good

13

3

24

7

4

3

NEGATIVE

85

96

72

92

94

92

Only fair

37

24

49

32

19

10

Poor

48

72

23

60

75

82

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – TREND

How would you rate the overall job the Congress is doing?

Base: All U.S. adults

 

TREND

Positive

Negative

%

%

2010

May

15

85

 

April

16

84

March

10

90

Jan.

16

84

2009

Dec.

17

83

 

Nov.

17

83

Oct.

16

84

Sept.

19

81

Aug.

22

78

June

25

75

May

31

69

April

29

71

March

29

71

2008

October

10

86

 

September

16

81

August

18

77

June

13

83

February

20

76

2007

December

17

79

 

October

20

77

September

22

74

April

27

69

February

33

62

2006

September

24

73

 

May

18

80

February

25

71

January

25

72

Positive = excellent or pretty good. Negative = only fair or poor.

Note: Prior to March, 2009, this question was asked by telephone.

 

TABLE 3

VOTING THIS FALL

When you think about voting in the elections this fall, which one of the following comes closest to your feelings?

Base: All U.S. adults

 

May

2010

Political Party

Tea Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Supporter

Member

%

%

%

%

%

%

We should throw almost everyone in Congress out, including my representative.

49

62

30

63

71

73

There are a lot of problems in Washington and with the system but my member of Congress has done a pretty good job and deserves re-election.

23

21

36

14

18

23

Not sure

28

17

34

24

10

4

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4

TEA PARTY FAMILIARITY

How familiar are you with the Tea Party Movement?

Base: All U.S. adults

 

March 2010

May 2010

%

%

Familiar (NET)

76

85

Very familiar

15

22

Somewhat familiar

39

44

Not that familiar

22

19

Not familiar (NET)

24

15

Not at all familiar

16

10

Never heard of

8

5

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 5

TEA PARTY SUPPORT

Do you support or oppose the Tea Party Movement?

[Asked of all adults excluding those who are not at all familiar or have never heard of the Tea Party Movement]

Base: All U.S. adults

 

March 2010

May 2010

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

%

Support (NET)

33

38

70

14

45

Strongly support

14

18

40

3

19

Somewhat support

19

20

29

11

25

Oppose (NET)

23

30

7

51

26

Somewhat oppose

9

11

6

14

13

Strongly oppose

14

19

2

37

13

Not at all sure

20

17

14

18

18

Not asked/Not familiar at all/ Never heard of

24

15

10

18

11

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 6

TEA PARTY MEMBER

Would you describe yourself as a member of the Tea Party?

[Asked of all adults excluding those who are not at all familiar or have never heard of the Tea Party Movement]

Base: All U.S. adults

 

Total

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

Yes

10

20

3

13

No

75

70

79

77

Not asked/Not familiar at all/ Never heard of

15

10

18

11

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 7

MIDTERM ELECTIONS – TWO-PARTY RACE

If the election for Congress were being held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate?

Base: all adults

 

Total

Political Party

Tea Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Supporter

Member

%

%

%

%

%

%

Democratic candidate

35

1

78

17

10

9

Republican candidate

28

80

2

23

57

64

Other

10

4

1

21

14

13

Not at all sure

27

14

19

40

18

14

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 8

MIDTERM ELECTIONS – THREE-PARTY RACE

If the election for Congress were being held today and all three were an option, who would you vote for?

Base: all adults

 

Total

Political Party

Tea Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Supporter

Member

%

%

%

%

%

%

Democratic candidate

35

1

76

19

10

9

Republican candidate

19

54

2

12

32

29

Tea Party candidate

12

18

2

20

30

48

Not at all sure

35

26

19

49

28

13

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 to 17, 2010 among 2,503 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J38300

Q1225, 1230, 1235, 1240, 1245, 1250

The Harris Poll® #71, May 25, 2010

By Regina A. Corso, Director The Harris Poll