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March 24, 2010

Poll yields new details about Tea Party movement

A new survey suggests that Americans drawn to the Tea Party movement are largely white, Republican voters who are in many ways similar to the overall voting population but disproportionately dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

Quinnipiac University’s nationwide poll of 1,907 registered voters, conducted March 16-21 in the days leading up to final passage of President Obama’s contentious health care overhaul, validates many assumptions about the budding small-government protest movement. It also reinforces uncertainties about what impact tea partiers may have in the November elections.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the university’s polling institute, said activists are a “potential boon . . . or a potential albatross” for the GOP depending on what sort of Republicans they help nominate and whether they turn out in November for Republicans or third-party candidates. “It really depends on how things unfold,” Brown said.

While the overall survey had a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, details about the smaller sample of the 253 voters who identify with the movement are less reliable, with a margin of error of +/- 6.2 percentage points.

The poll found:

*88 percent of those who identify with the movement are white; 15 percent of whites and 7 percent of blacks identified with the movement.

*92 percent who identify with the movement are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared with 70 percent overall; 83 percent in the movement feel the government is involved in too much.

*One in five white Evangelicals identifies with the movement, while 11 percent of college graduates do. Tea partiers appeared to be slightly older than most registered voters and have less formal education.

*82 percent of tea partiers say if their congressional election was today, they’d vote for the Republican candidate in their district over a Democratic candidate. Overall, registered voters were divided.

*However, 40 percent of tea partiers said they’d vote for a generic Tea Party candidate over a Republican or Democrat if that third choice existed on the ballot.

*72 percent of tea partiers have a favorable impression of Sarah Palin, higher than Republican voters and more than twice as high as all registered voters. In the 2008 presidential election, only 15 percent of tea partiers voted for President Obama.

*The movement attracts voters about evenly whether they are working class, middle class or upper middle class.

*Tea partiers are spread out among cities, suburbs and rural areas about the same as overall voters, with 35 percent living in urban areas and 64 percent in non-urban areas.

About half of U.S. voters don't know enough about the Tea Party movement to say whether they like it. Those who do have an opinion give the movement a slightly favorable edge.

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