The individuals who make up the Tea Party movement are largely conservative and get their news from Fox; they're generally old and of moderate to low income; and they're fairly convinced that their taxes are going to rise in the next few years, even though they likely won't.
Those conclusions are part of a new study put together by The Winston Group, a conservative-leaning polling and strategy firm run by the former director of planning for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. And they provide a telling new window on the political force that has revamped the Republican Party and altered the landscape of the 2010 elections.
In the course of conducting three national surveys of 1,000 registered voters, Winston was able to peg the percentage of the public that identifies itself with the Tea Party at roughly 17 percent. The group pledges that it is independent of any particular party (indeed 28 percent of Tea Party respondents in the Winston survey labeled their affiliation as such). But on pretty much every defining political or demographic issue, the movement lines up with the GOP or conservative alternatives.
Sixty-five percent of Tea Party respondents called themselves "conservative" compared to the 33 percent of all respondents who did the same. Just eight percent of Tea Party respondents said they were "liberal."
Forty-seven percent of Tea Party respondents said that Fox News was either the top or second source of news they turn to, compared with 19 percent of the overall public who said the same thing.
More than 80 percent (81 percent) of Tea Party respondents expressed very little approval of Barack Obama's job as president, which exceeded disapproval levels held even by Republicans (77%) and conservatives (79%).
All these data points suggest that the Tea Party crowd is comprised predominantly of conservatives. And, not surprisingly, the demographics of the movement seemingly align with those who traditionally vote for the conservative candidate as well. Fifty-six percent of Tea Party respondents are male; 22 percent are over the age of 65 (compared with just 14 percent who are between the ages of 18 and 34); and 23 percent fall in the income range of $50,000 and $75,000.
It's the type of group that would likely benefit the most from Democratic governance, with commitments to Social Security, Medicare, and middle-class job creation. But the Tea Party crowd is decidedly sour on the Democratic agenda. Fifty-six percent of Tea Party respondents said they believe cutting spending will create jobs. And while a huge chunk won't see their taxes affected if the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000, 82 percent think they will, in fact, go up.
These type of surveys, as usual, should be take with a grain of salt as the numbers seem drawn from interviews with roughly 500 Tea Party members (hardly a full sampling of the movement). Still, the results seem reflective of the politics of the movement and illustrate the absurdity of the argument that the Tea Party vote is truly "up-for-grabs."
Here is the survey: