A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that support for the Tea Party — and with it the Republican Party — has dropped precipitously in the last year. Now just 20% say they agree with the Tea Party, less than the 27% who disagree. But the news gets worse for Republicans: their favorability has dropped even further in Tea Party districts.
This is part of an ongoing trend, with polls this year consistently showing a narrowing of support for the Tea Party movement. In April, Pew found that as recognition of the Tea Party grew, their favorability declined. Specifically, disapproval rose 15 points between March 2010 and April 2011. And as TPM reported in September, according to a CBS/ORC Poll, fully 53% of the public had an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party compared to a meager 28% with a favorable view. By October, the Occupy Wall Street movement had eked out a higher approval rating than the Tea Party.
Despite this trend, the new numbers represent a new low not only for the Tea Party but for the Republican Party. Whereas before, the growing disapproval of the Tea Party came from Democrats, moderates, and even moderate Republicans, these numbers show that Republican favorability has fallen steeply in Tea Party districts, 41% favorable to 48% unfavorable. Just a few months ago in March, GOP approval in these districts was a much higher 55%.
Last November, when Republicans swept up dozens of seats to take the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, the Tea Party’s favorability was way up, meaning today’s numbers do not bode well for Republicans trying to hold the House in 2012. Moreover, during the last election cycle, approval of the Tea Party in these 60 districts — including 17 freshmen elected in 2010 — had outstripped disapproval, now approval is about the same as disapproval, 25% to 23%. And while Tea Party disapproval has steadily increased across the board, the debt-ceiling debacle this summer seems to have been a turning point in public opinion both of the Tea Party and the Republican Party. This fall, Republican intransigence against Obama’s jobs plan didn’t help them either. As all eyes turn towards 2012, Republicans need to shake off what appears to be buyers’ remorse in these key districts.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.