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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tea Party Not Hung Up on Supporting or Accommodating Republicans, or Winning Elections

Abby Rapoport’s “Three New Facts About the Tea Party” at The American Prospect reports on the first large-scale political-science survey of Tea Party activists. The survey of more than 11,000 members of Freedom Works, the largest tea party organization, was conducted by the College of William and Mary political scientists. Among the findings:

the Tea Party activists doing work for the Republicans are surprisingly negative about the party they’re helping. While 70 percent of FreedomWorks activists identify as Republican, another 23 percent reject the Republican label entirely and instead, when asked which political party they identify with, choose “other.” Asked if they considered themselves more Republican or more a Tea Party member, more than three-quarters chose Tea Party.
…The survey asked whether they would prefer a candidate with whom they agree on most important issues but who polls far behind the probable Democratic nominee or a candidate with whom they agree “on some of the most important issues” but who’s likely to win. More than three-fourths of respondents preferred the candidate who was more likely to lose but shared their positions.
…In the YouGov survey the study uses, more than two-thirds of Tea Partiers put themselves in the two most conservative categories on economic policy, social policy, and overall policy. Only 23 percent of non-Tea Partiers place themselves in the most conservative categories on all three issues; nearly 40 percent don’t locate themselves in the most conservative categories for any of the three policy areas.

As Rappaport concludes, “Tea Party activists dominate the Republican Party, and they’re no less willing to compromise with the GOP than they are with Democrats…Simply put, the GOP is too reliant on the Tea Party–and based on these survey results, the Tea Party doesn’t care about the GOP’s fate. It cares about moving the political conversation increasingly rightward.”
All of which is good for Democrats, but horrible news for Karl Rove and other Republicans, who hope to get the GOP back on something resembling a moderate conservative track that can actually, you know, win elections

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