Home / Opinion / Poll participants sharply split in their views of Tea Party

Poll participants sharply split in their views of Tea Party

Respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll were closely divided on the Tea Party movement, with a strong correlation between viewpoint and political affiliation apparent in the results.

Overall, respondents support the Tea Party movement by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. But when broken down by political party, the numbers show a significant majority of Republicans—some 82 percent—support the movement, with an even larger portion of Democrats—87 percent—opposed to it.

Those who identify themselves as non-affiliated or affiliated with a party other than Democrat or Republican are split 50-50 on support of the Tea Party movement.

In a CBS News poll conducted last week, 29 percent of Americans said they support the Tea Party movement.

A grass-roots effort that grew out of last year’s protests against the federal stimulus legislation, the movement is loosely defined by the Contract from America, a statement of principles determined by an online voting process. The contract lists 10 agenda items such as require a balanced budget, adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system, and permanently repeal all tax hikes scheduled to begin in 2011. Roughly a dozen House and Senate hopefuls in New York have signed the Contract from America.

Political analysts say the Tea Party movement could play a significant role in the outcome of this fall’s elections. Among some high-profile races nationwide, Tea Partier Sharron Angle will challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rand Paul is the GOP candidate for a Senate seat from Kentucky. In Alaska, Tea Party-backed Senate candidate Joe Miller upset incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans taking part in the Snap Poll said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate backed by the Tea Party, while 81 percent of Democrats said it would make them less likely.

More than 1,050 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug. 30 and 31.

Among the overall respondents:
Are you a supporter of the Tea Party political movement?
Yes: 51%
No: 49%

Would you be more likely or less likely this November to vote for a candidate with Tea Party backing?
More likely: 45%
Less likely: 44%
Neither more nor less likely: 11% 

What is your political affiliation?
Democrat: 27%
Republican: 35%
Non-affiliated: 33%
Other: 5%

Among just Republicans:

Are you a supporter of the Tea Party political movement?
Yes: 82%
No: 18%

Would you be more likely or less likely this November to vote for a candidate with Tea Party backing?
More likely: 73%
Less likely: 12%
Neither more nor less likely: 15%

Among just Democrats:
Are you a supporter of the Tea Party political movement?
Yes: 13%
No: 87%

Would you be more likely or less likely this November to vote for a candidate with Tea Party backing?
Less likely: 81%
More likely: 12%
Neither more nor less likely: 6%

Among those who are non-affiliated or who are members of another party:
Are you a supporter of the Tea Party political movement?
Yes: 50%
No: 50%

Would you be more likely or less likely this November to vote for a candidate with Tea Party backing?
Less likely: 47%
More likely: 44%
Neither more nor less likely: 10%

Here are some comments from readers:

Tea Party? Are you serious? Many of them collect Social Security and are covered by Medicare but want government out of their lives. Can’t have it both ways.
—Pete Bonenfant, Fairport

The Tea Party message is that we are heading in the wrong direction. I agree. Government needs to be what it was intended to be: small and limited in scope. It’s time to get back to the basics. This is true of all levels of government. The Founding Fathers of this country would be saddened, sickened and appalled at how government has crept into so many aspects of our lives. In the last few years, the creeping has now become a full-fledged run under Obama and his henchmen. People are finally seeing it for what it is and waking up. Ever expanding entitlements, bailouts, government takeover of industries, banking and now healthcare, limitless printing and spending of money, more taxes and fees on everything! Today we have one person in seven who is a government employee of some kind! I will be voting for people who share the Tea Party vision, and against those who have gotten us into the mess we are in.
—George Thomas, Ogden

While some Tea Party ideas reflect the general antipathy toward what government has become, it is run by the very interests many seek to remove from power, and it thrives on ignorance, fear, hatred and anger. It has few practical solutions and too many platitudes.
—Carlos Mercado

It is refreshing to witness a movement that takes into account the concerns of the taxpayers. It seems that other movements have centered on virtually every other group’s concerns and needs (some real, some exaggerated), always at the expense of the taxpayers, who have been largely ignored. Huge government spending has become a distasteful political reality, and is a significant contributor to the sorry state of the economy and the jobs crisis. Big government needs to step back and shrink itself and its crushing influence.
—Joe Cameron

The Tea Party is a lot of fluff and no substance. Anyone who backs Sarah Palin is just following a lot of hot air—absolutely no intellect with her. The Tea Party offers no ideas to correct the problems, just more of the same with the regular parties—not working together to come up with solutions and employing tactics that just create turmoil. My party affiliation means I get to vote in a primary. I will vote for anyone who is capable of real change that benefits America and the world.
—Leslie Apetz

Tea Party members are uninformed at best, but typically misinformed by right-winged lunatics (e.g.; “President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”). Any candidate supported by the Tea Party would automatically be disqualified in my mind.
—Margaret Coleman

The Tea Party started out in the right direction by demanding that big banks not be bailed out and that politicians pay more attention to the people instead of the corporation, but has now turned into a far-right Republican Party that is now banking on wedge issues like opposing abortion and gay marriage to carry the day. There is no demographic diversity and their platforms range from ending Social Security to ending immigration. It’s a narrow-focused almost evangelical movement that is supported by large corporate donations from the Koch brothers, Dick Armey and other entities that are demanding lesser taxes for the wealthy while giving fewer services to the poor and middle class. While the Republicans are the “Party of No,” the Tea Party is the “Party of the Failed Past.” They actually make George W. Bush look like a liberal. While fresh faces, fresh ideas and new pertinent political parties are needed, the Tea Party falls short of all but the fresh faces.
—Michael Thornton, Rochester

Anything that would get rid of the band of thieves in Albany and Washington and gets us closer to the intent of Constitution is a good option. Maybe we need a little bit of 1773 in our lives. Back to the basics.
—Karl Schuler

It is time to throw out the political establishment. The old-timers’ claim to fame is that they know how the system “works.” That is precisely the issue. The system doesn’t work, and I don’t want our government to continue the way it has been. We need fiscal, social, moral and Constitutional conservatives in office at all levels that will lead America back to her Godly roots! The Republican Party shoulders blame as well. They have not taken a stand against corruption within the party. The highest Republican leadership must take a zero-tolerance policy toward corruption. This must include a stand against immorality by candidates and office holders!
—Ted Miller, president, AVIK Technologies Inc.

The Tea Party movement is a simplistic mythology of smaller, cheaper government. I believe few in the movement would support actual legislation to further their goals because it would mean reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. They have no idea of how the government and the economy actually work.
—Ed Cloos, consultant

To the extent the Tea Party movement is about anger over government spending, I support it. To the extent it is about Glenn Beck’s spiritual demagoguery, I strongly oppose it.
—Michael Sealander

At least Beck and his devoted Tea Party exponents are upfront and loud about their racism. For now, I trust, they’re keeping the white robes and cone headgear in the closet—but all clean, pressed and ready for action.
—Bruce Alexander, Henrietta

If Sarah Palin is the headliner and spokesman for the Tea Party, now way would I associate with that.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

The Tea Party movement didn’t grow from the stimulus, it grew before that as a voice against overbloated government and high spending—whilst Bush/Cheney and the spend-happy GOP were still in power. Since then it seems that it has been effectively hijacked by Republicans, now masquerading still as a grassroots vehicle, but so subtly against the Democrats. The Republicans ran this country into debt; they effectively wiped out the middle class—so why on earth would anyone attend Sarah Palin’s Tea Party?
—Richard Stevenson, co-founder and CEO, CobbleSoft International

The Tea Party is about restoring America back to its roots—the U.S. constitution, the writings of George Washington, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln; all good men. It not about following a political leader (most are corrupt, self-absorbed), or one party, or Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. It is about "we the people." There IS no argument about who or which party is right. Which is wrong. It is simple—good men and women are always right.
— R. Matina

Individual independence and liberty are very good principles and so is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. The balance is very difficult and in very difficult times, the balance shifts to more government involvement. Also, over the past 30 years, less government fostered the richer getting much richer than the vast majority of citizens. Federal, state and local governments need to foster and empower all citizens to rise up individually AND together in community.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

The Tea Party movement is a refreshing display of citizens seeking to counter the reckless incontinence currently on display by this administration and complicit Congress in Washington, D.C. Tea Partiers have been mocked and derided by politicians and the left as a collection of ignorant militia types. These decisions are borne of ignorance and offered by those who treat the truth and our Constitution as an inconvenience. There is also an element of fear, felt by those currently in power, of the impact the Tea Party movement has created. No riots, no violence, but a simple message: We are taxed enough already. Stop the irresponsible spending and monstrous taxes to follow, and return to governing by the consent of the governed—not the other way around as practiced by this tone-deaf administration.
—Bill Simpson, Gleason Corp.

I believe that most people who associate themselves with the Tea Party are well meaning Americans who are suffering under the current state of the economy and are frustrated with the way our government is operating. Unfortunately they have been overshadowed by the extreme elements of the party who demonize those with whom they disagree. What started out as a grassroots effort has been hijacked by the likes of Glen Beck, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, who are using the party for their own benefit and are not acting in the interest of the people who identify themselves as Tea Party members.
—David Belcher, LeRoy

The Tea Party appears to be of many colors, many backgrounds and many party affiliations. If the Democrats and Republicans won’t give us a real choice, somebody else will. Most people are sick of left versus right and the negative messages they both send. Their combined smear tactics against anyone with independent thought is more proof that they think they can hold us hostage. Our society will only support two dominant parties. Which one will fall when the Tea Party gets established? Have we forgotten Federalists and Whigs? Apparently.
—Bill Lanigan, Chamberlin Rubber

Any movement threatening the establishment and giving more power to the people is a welcome breath of fresh air in our recent political debate. Generally the USA is a center-right country, and the Tea Party Movement is a grass-roots effort to bring the general tone of political discourse back to the middle. If Sarah Palin is such a loser, why is the left so afraid of her? If Sarah Palin is on the Republican ticket in 2012, she’s so terrible, she should be so easy to beat, shouldn’t she?
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com

I am completely fed up with the career politicians.
—Gerard Fischette, CEO TechNet Global Services

It’s fairly easy to tip from simple answers to simplistic ones.
—Carolyn Phinney Rankin, president, Phinney Rankin Inc.

The so-called Tea Party has become overrun with disaffected ultra-conservatives and "Moral Majority" types—they reject the GOP for not being conservative enough, and call the Democrats socialist. These people are sheep.
—Scott Ireland

The overall condition of the country is such that more and more Americans are running out of patience waiting for the positive change. The current leadership of the country has failed to deliver. The most significant accomplishment they can stake claim to is bringing the country closer to bankruptcy. I am reminded daily of this administrations arrogance. To have a movement exist, such as the Tea Party, should be sending a clear message to the current politicians in office that many Americans are dissatisfied with their politics and direction. But it appears the current office holders believe this is just a few disgruntled Americans blowing off steam. The Tea Party brings to light many of the ideals that Americans stand proud to support. The ideals that the country was founded under. The current administration has their own set of ideals and the rest of us are expected to accept them. Whether or not the Tea Party can deliver remains an unknown. But it allows opponents of the current administration to focus on a different set of values, values Tea Party supporters believe will strengthen the country and its people.
—William Nash, Ultrafab Inc.

Politicians don’t get it. You shouldn’t spend what you don’t have.
—Tom Walpole

A negative and divisive "movement" with little of a positive note to add a realistic assessment of where we are and where we ought to be headed.
—Thomas C. Burke, Osborn, Reed & Burke, LLP

I do not support the Tea Party as a political party, but as a movement to influence the existing two major parties. I support its concept of bringing back common sense to the federal government and to unwind our momentum toward European style socialism. If we don’t change direction the USA will become the largest example of what a failed state looks like.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield

Let’s face it, ANYTHING that can be an effective agent for change (for the better) is worth listening to. I applaud the efforts and motivation of some of the "members" but I do question whether some of the rhetoric is really productive. We DO need candidates that will make a difference. We DO need to change many of the policies and regulations that are strangling our businesses and we DO need to cut spending and (maybe) form a competent plan to reduce the deficit. Can the Tea Partiers do that? If they are really serious about the issues and not just about themselves and their newfound popularity, then we just may have a chance. Anything better out there?
—Rick Bradley

The Republicans cannot take the anger of the American people for granted, they have to change also. The reality of the spending spree is costing us billions/trillions. I can cut them a break after 9-11 and two wars that are and will be debated for years to come, but in those necessary programs they all pile high their little pet projects that have absolutely nothing to do with the bill they pass. Entitlements; the formulas just don’t work, and unfortunately too many people depend on them instead of protecting themselves with their own cash. That has to change, and some of these politicians will pay a political price but it should be the honest thing to do.
—Nigel Heaton

Taxes are killing this state and this country. We desperately need to reduce the size of government because the costs are unsustainable already. I will vote for anyone that will reduce government spending, reduce taxes and abide by the Constitution.
—David Wagner

I’m not an official member of a specific Tea Party but have attended at least five events in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany over the past one to two years. Much of the focus seems to be on New York State issues especially in Buffalo and Albany. Much of the media tries to paint Tea Party members as uneducated right wing extremists. What I have personally observed are concerned citizens who are disgusted with the tax-and-spend policies of local, state and federal governments along with the hijacking of the political system by special interest groups. The "Tea Partiers" represent a vast cross-section of people with diverse backgrounds who have never been politically active before. It’s refreshing to see. Studies have shown that "Tea Partiers" are above the norm in education and economic success.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates, Inc.

Why does it have to be an either/or choice. Many movements and organizations have at least some sound ideas. The challenge for well informed people is to choose not by the name of the movement but by the potential in the ideals. It’s my feeling that the folks who denigrate, as with the so-called Tea Party Movement, are afraid for the loss of power from their own structure to any other structure. Presently, there is an imbalance of power and some group needs to step up and provide new weight. This time it’s the Tea Party during the previous national political season it was the progressives.
—Bob Miglioratti

The Contract from America vows to defend the Constitution but seems to forget that the Constitution arose from the need for a stronger federal government. Despite its imperfections, that government has benefitted the citizens of the U.S. in more ways than anyone can count. The Tea Party argument for "less government" has no details. How can I trust a lawmaker who would commit him or herself to the defense of generalities? All trade is not bad; all pork is not bad; all taxes are not bad. The most successful leaders have been able to see past the rhetoric, and have been able to make significant compromises based on specific needs. It is mostly likely that a balanced budget will need to come from reducing some specific programs and raising some specific taxes. I want a representative who listens and pays attention to details, not one who’s on the bandwagon.
—Cheryl Breitenbuecher

Our politicians need to be creative, less greedy and understand the value of a dollar. Our national debt is outrageous and needs to be reined in. Our focus should be on jobs, exports and curbing imports. And we need to stay one step ahead of our enemies with the best military in the world.
—Rich Mileo

I am for anything that represents anti-socialism.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

The Tea Party movement is one more example of what makes our country great. People can get out and express their dissatisfaction with the government without being shot or thrown in jail.
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management

The Tea Party movement is a "populist" movement based on the agenda of the ultra-rich. It will make the ultra-rich richer, and everyone else poorer. It offers no solutions—it just taps into people’s frustration with our current economic situation without offering a way out of it. The movement has been taken over by thinly disguised attacks on people for their race, sexual preference, religion and concern for their fellow citizen, and the fact that it has let itself be taken over by these demagogues proves that it is a weak and unprincipled organization.
—Lee Drake

I’ve actually attended a Rochester Tea Party Rally, and found it to be a grass-root patriotic gathering, with many prominent local figures and people of diverse ethnicities, families and universities in attendance.
—Jim Stevens

I admire people getting involved in politics, especially at the grass roots level. At the same time I think that if people do not approve of present government policies and programs, they should not just say "No," but come up with alternatives. Too often the disorganized efforts of those encouraging or participating in the Tea Party approach generate more heat than light.
—Nathan J. Robfogel

Sure seems a lot better than the alternative: Inflate our currency, devalue our possessions, take our money through an archaic system of taxation full of loopholes, favors and special interest benefits, dole our money out to whom you (said politician) think will give you the best chance of being re-elected. All this while spending more than we or our posterity has a reasonable chance of ever repaying (at least in the foreseeable future). Or return to fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, provide a system of taxation in which people are taxed based on what they consume and NOTHING else and the government is kept as far away from our personal liberties, freedoms and lives as possible. Seems pretty clear to me.
—Devon Michaels, Chili 

Some good ideas, bad approach.
—Ed McDonnell

The "Tea Party" is technically undefined. I guess we know the gist of what the media tells us they stand for. For myself, I envision patriots tossing tea overboard in the Boston Harbor in protest of overtaxation. If lower taxes and less government intervention is truly what the Tea Partiers stand for, then I am one. If they advocate for the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and recognize that those documents are not subject to debate or modern interpretation and should be adhered to as the intent written, then I am one. If they think taxing me to distribute my hard-earned income to others is wrong, then I am one. It is time to break the cycle of failure and elect fiscally responsible people to office that carry out the will of the taxpayers. I really don’t care what name is given to that party. Do your research and vote this November!
—Lou Romano

What appeals to me about the Tea Party is that the movement is based on raw principles and constitutionality rather than highly specific political stances. I hope they don’t go overboard in establishing too many specific policy stances, because they would lose what makes the movement so unique and effective. The press actually has the power to neutralize the Tea Party movement simply by fairly covering the current Congress and administration. Where is the scrutiny and criticism that was applied to every action taken by the Bush administration? There is a huge population in America that does not feel "heard," and the Tea Party grew right out of that frustration. Ironically, the media attempts to dismiss the Tea Party as racist or violent, instead of fairly covering what the Tea Party is about. They are marked as "anti-government" and "anti-tax" and that is about as far as the analysis goes in mainstream coverage—neither of which is accurate. They are not anti-government; they love our government as it was designed by the constitution. They are anti-"this government," which is bloated, arrogant, irresponsible, short-sighted, overgrown and out of control—whether Republican- or Democrat-led. The more the media fails to "hear" the Tea Party subscribers, the stronger their passion and cause will grow.
—Todd VanHouten

Just, exactly what IS the Tea Party, anyway? Most of what I have read is quite confusing. It is not just conservative, after all!
—Hutch Hutchison, In T’Hutch Ltd.

I feel that the Tea Party is an assembly of narrow minded discontents, and of a far-out fringe group of the Republican Party. Its proponents have no positive agenda on how to solve the problems of the country which their ‘mother party’ created. Their ‘proposals’ are standard empty utterances. No taxes paid mean more deficit and greater debts for all of us. More tax-reductions to businesses from the tax kitty (into which they don’t want to pay) mean more taxes for the rest of us. Tax ‘relief’ for businesses has thus far only resulted in fewer jobs and more profits to be handed to their top management. It also resulted in more suffering for those who are the victims of the recent business-induced financial disasters. The Tea party’s intent to remove the safety net for the needy and aged is a recipe for general misery and disaster. This is totally dumb for many of its followers who depend on Social Security and other tax-provided benefits. In addition, I feel strongly that they have an underlying racial, anti-black agenda, with their primary goal to replace Obama with ‘white folks’. Nothing of this will help our Country. I don’t see any silver lining coming from the Tea Party which would promise a stronger, better place for the majority of Americans. The Tea party’s only good side is to give the malcontents a focus to blow off their malcontent emotional steam. Certain politicians, who give a darn about the Country, of course see them as a very productive “milk-cow” to milk for their own financial gains. Do we need those?
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

(c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

One comment

  1. One comment calls the Tea Partiers narrow minded, another calls them racist. Ignorance, fear, hatred, anger these seem to be the themes running through all of the posts denigrating the Tea Party. And there are a lot of calls for solutions. The trouble is, these same people have obviously never attended a Tea Party rally, because, if they had, they would see that everything they are saying is patently false. No racists, no ignorance, no fear and plenty of solutions which take us back to, not away from, our Constitution. You don”t have to be an economist to know that government is hurting us you just have to look in your wallet. Anger? You betcha! The same anger that caused those Boston Tea Partiers to throw tea overboard into the Boston Harbor is the same anger most of the country feels today. But I guess they were right wing extremists too despite the fact that without them, the Revolution that freed us and brought us this great country might never have happened. Thank God for them!

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