The Tea Party, by the Numbers
Most Republicans are a normal shade of red; Tea Party Republicans are a deep burgundy.
A national poll conducted for Bloomberg News in September shows that Tea Party Republicans are, across the board, more conservative than their fellow party members, more likely to be male, less financially secure, more pessimistic about the direction of the country and more antagonistic to President Barack Obama. The results illustrate why the schism, which has become so evident in the recent battles in Washington, between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party will be difficult to reconcile.
The sense of anger and alienation by the party's rank-and-file energizes Tea Party Republicans in Washington and around the country. Seven out of 10 Republicans disapprove of Obama's job performance; 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans disapprove. Tea Party members are more negative on every issue regarding Obama including his handling of the economy, health care, foreign policy and the Federal Reserve.
On the economy, less than a quarter of non-Tea-Party Republicans expect job growth to worsen over the next year, while 55 percent of Tea Partiers expect job growth to slow. While a bare majority of other Republicans see America's economic standing in the world worsening, 79 percent of Tea Party types do.
Two-thirds of regular Republicans believe the federal budget deficit has grown this year and 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans agree. Both are wrong; the budget deficit is projected to fall this year from $1.1 trillion to $642 billion.
The Bloomberg poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer of Des Moines, Iowa, underscores the economic alienation of the Republican Party's grass roots movement. When asked if they may have to take money out of savings to cover everyday expenses, three out of eight Tea Party Republicans said they would while only 23 percent of other Republicans felt the same way. Compared to other Republicans, twice as many Tea Partiers feel they need to pay down debt but can't afford to. More Tea Party Republicans also say they are unable to put more money into retirement accounts and feel they are moving further away from their hopes for their career or finances.
When asked about the Affordable Care Act, which drove the recent fight over the government shutdown, a slight majority of regular Republicans said Congress ought to continue the fight until the law is eliminated, but 71 percent of Tea Party Republicans feel that way.
(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)