It’s official: The tea party movement is a substantial player on the political scene.
According to a recent poll commissioned by The O’Leary Report and conducted by Zogby International, 34 percent of voters (45 million Americans) say the tea party endorsement is important to their vote this year, and 31 percent (41 million voters) say the same about the National Rifle Association. The poll was conducted March 2-30 of 10,128 likely voters and has a margin-of-error of one percent.
Breaking down these numbers further, 16 percent of voters are fully committed to the tea party message and 18 percent support the message, but with some reservation.
Again, these numbers are strikingly similar to those of the NRA, whose membership has been extremely effective in exacting results at election time. Nearly 13 percent of all voters are completely committed to the NRA message, and 18 percent say they are committed most of the time.
It’s important to stress that these 45 million tea party supporters are strictly registered voters, and that the movement can add even more to its power and influence by registering like-minded voters between now and November.
With power and influence of this magnitude come tough decisions. The decision confronting the tea party is whether to become a third party, a la Ross Perot, or become a powerful political force, much like the NRA, which has been able to wield significant influence on both sides of the aisle.
Though the movement doesn’t have NRA’s sophisticated infrastructure, it can certainly borrow from NRA’s techniques. For example, the tea party could conduct massive voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, and possibly create an issues questionnaire for all political candidates to answer prior to Election Day.
To be sure, the tea party can be just as effective in Democratic circles as in Republican, as the Zogby poll shows it isn’t just red-meat conservatives who gravitate toward the tea party movement.
Among the nearly 38 million self-described independent voters in America, 32 percent will be listening for the voice of the tea party before they cast their vote this year.
Nearly 64 percent of the 31 million Republican voters will follow the tea party, and 11 percent of the roughly 52 million Democratic voters will do the same.
Moreover, in congressional districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, which consist of roughly 34 million voters, 35 percent of them will be listening for the tea party endorsement this year.
The tea party’s influence holds up well in key geographic regions as well.
Fully one-third (33 percent) of voters in the Pacific region (20 million voters) will be influenced by tea party endorsements. In the pivotal Midwest region (27 million voters) 31 percent of voters plan to listen to the tea party.
In the Southwest region (9 million voters) 32 percent of voters consider the tea party endorsement important to them, as do 34 percent of voters in the Mid-Atlantic region (27 million voters). In the Southern region (34 million voters) 36 percent of voters will look to the tea party this year, as will 35 percent of voters in the Central and North Plains region (8 million voters).
On the issues, the tea partyers are very definitive and unwavering in the positions they take. For example, 90 percent of the tea party movement disapprove of cap-and-trade global warming legislation, and 84 percent strongly disapprove.
On taxes, 61 percent of tea party activists support state legislation to stop retroactive tax bills from being passed.
Nearly 75 percent agree that there should be an appeals process for individuals who have been placed on the federal “No-Fly” list, in light of legislation making its way through Congress that would prohibit persons on the list from purchasing a firearm.
A 64 percent majority of tea partyers think that only the FBI should be able to add names to the No-Fly list, given the number of instances where people have been wrongly placed on the list.
Only 8 percent of tea party members think that the jobs bill being promoted by the Obama administration will help small businesses, and just 19 percent think the bill will help big and state businesses. However, 82 percent think the White House’s jobs bill will help federal employees.
Roughly 89 percent of tea partyers believe that the Second Amendment applies to all levels of government — federal, state and local.
And what should be of utmost concern to incumbent congressmen up for re-election this year: 94 percent of the tea party movement agree that “the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens” — and 82 percent strongly agree.
Democrats in Congress are afraid of the tea parties, alright. Though it’s not for reasons of public safety, as their paranoid ramblings would have us all believe. It’s because they know that these poll numbers are correct. Their diatribes about civil unrest are calculated tactics designed to delegitimize a movement that has significant ability to give legitimacy to its chosen candidates this November.
Brad O’Leary is publisher of The O’Leary Report, and a best-selling author, and former NBC Westwood One talk-radio host. The Zogby poll was commissioned by The O’Leary Report, conducted March 2-30, and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 1.0 percent. To see more, go to www.OLearyReport.com.
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