As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning
The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress — just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.
Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.
While the Tea Party helped Republicans win power in last year’s elections, nearly half of all Americans now have an unfavorable view of it, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Wednesday.
The Tea Party’s 47 percent unfavorablity rating is up four points since December, and represents an increase of 21 points since January 2010, the poll said.
That drops the Tea Party into the same disapproval range as the Democratic and Republican parties, whose unfavorable ratings are each 48 percent. The Tea Party’s favorable rating of 32 percent is down five points since December.
“This is the first time that a CNN poll has shown the Tea Party’s unfavorable ratings as high as those of the two major parties,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor, said voters have lost patience with Washington’s inability to reinvigorate the weak U.S. economy.
“Why has the Tea Party gone down so fast? They seemed fresh and, just maybe, added a needed ingredient in the process last year. But so far, what’s happened? Not much except the usual bickering and gridlock,” Sabato said.
Democrats charge that Republicans have been reluctant to compromise because of the Tea Party, which has pushed for far deeper cuts than Congress is considering.
While House Republican leaders have favored $61 billion in cuts this fiscal year, members of the Tea Party have demanded at least $100 billion and Democrats have offered $30 billion.
Republican Representative Michele Bachmann, chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, is among those who plans to speak at Thursday’s rally.
Bachmann said her message will be: “Stand firm, hang tough,” and that she believes the Tea Party retains plenty of clout on Capitol Hill.
“It’s very strong, and I think it will continue to be because that’s where the vibrancy of the Republican Party is right now,” Bachmann told Reuters.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey was conducted March 11-13, with 1,023 people questioned by telephone. It has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
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Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Tea bags hang from the hat of Tea Party activist Martha Stamp at a conservative gathering in Washington in February)