Poll Suggests Support for Tea Party Collapsing among Swing Voters


Four months after swing voters, in a fit of pique over the slow recovery from the Bush recession, sent nearly 90 Tea Partyists to Congress — and two months after Republicans took control of the House — a new Wall St. Journal/NBC poll finds concrete signs that the swingsters are experiencing buyers’ remorse.

The media often shorthands results of the 2010 midterms by saying that the tea party “won” the election, which implies that a majority of voters are tea party supporters. What actually happened in November is that roughly 95 percent of Democrats voted for Democratic candidates while about the same ratio of Republicans voted for GOPers. However, swing voters — who’d just voted resoundingly for the president and Democrats two years earlier — switched in 2010 and voted 60/40 in favor of GOP-tea party candidates.

The question now is will the swing voters swing again in 2012 and reelect Pres. Obama and possibly even hand Democrats the 25 seat shift they need to regain the majority in the House.

If this poll — which includes several dramatically high percentages in favor of Democratic positions — turns out to be a leading indicator, it’s just possible that they could.

Although a resounding 80 percent or so of respondents in the new poll expressed concern about the federal deficit, around 60 percent — including a majority of swing voters — are more worried about the devastating effect of the tea party’s proposed budget cuts.

When asked to identify their top priorities, most people (37 percent) said job creation and economic growth, while just 22 percent said deficits and deficit reduction. The problem for Republicans is that swing voters strongly favored job growth but hardly anyone other than their tea party base favored cutting programs:

For instance: 33 percent of Tea Party supporters, 34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of voters backing John McCain in the last presidential election, list deficit/spending as the top issue the federal government should address — compared with 23 percent of independents, 24 percent of suburban women, 19 percent of seniors and 19 percent of those aged 18 to 34.

By contrast, 35 percent of seniors, 39 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds, 40 percent of independents and 41 percent of suburban women believe job creation/economic growth is the nation’s top issue.

And two-thirds of independents, seniors, 18- to 34-year-olds and suburban women say they are concerned that major cuts to government spending could impact them and their families. Roughly half of Republicans, McCain voters and Tea Party supporters express the same concern.

In the spending showdown between congressional Democrats and Republicans, only 25 percent believe the disagreement over the budget will lead to a shutdown of the federal government. A whopping 71 percent believe that lawmakers will reach an agreement to avert a shutdown.

CNBC analysis susses out the potential political trouble for Republicans in the poll:

Congressional Republicans face a serious risk of political backlash from pressing their budget-cutting agenda at a time when Americans are more concerned about jobs…

To the peril of Republican politicians, their priorities collide squarely with the concerns of younger voters, senior citizens, independents and suburban women whom the GOP needs to win elections. Mr. McInturff called that “a huge flashing yellow sign for Republicans” in their pending showdown with the White House and Congressional Democrats, but wasn’t sure his party would heed it…

And by 51 percent to 46 percent, a majority says government should do more rather than that government is doing too many things. That’s the first time since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s term that a majority said government should do more. House Republicans have made spending less their top priority, and have vowed that their forthcoming budget will curb the costly federal entitlement programs, which include Medicare and Social Security.

The survey shows how hazardous that pledge could be. By 54 percent to 18 percent, Americans say cuts in Medicare are not necessary to curb the deficit. By 49 percent to 22 percent, they say cuts in Social Security are not needed.

The poll shows Democrats on solid ground on other budget hot-buttons. Some 56 percent call cuts in the Head Start programs “mostly” or “totally unacceptable”; 77 percent say that of cuts to primary and secondary education. Majorities also call cuts unacceptable in national defense, unemployment insurance, college loans, and heating assistance to low-income families.

At the same, 81 percent call it “totally” or “mostly acceptable” to place a surtax on incomes over one million dollars, while 68 percent say the same of ending the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year.

One poll does not constitute a trend but in the context of polls showing strong majorities favoring union members and their supporters in the battle over collective bargaining with Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, this WSJ/NBC poll could be the first sign that the political balance is shifting back to the Democrats.


  • March 3, 2011 - 9:38 am | Permalink

    As well it should.

  • Jeff
    March 3, 2011 - 11:09 am | Permalink

    Consider that what motivates the Tea Party is the same as that motivating Economic Populists: Working Americans are getting a very poor ROI on their tax dollars while Corporations are getting a huge ROI on monies spent on electioneering and lobbying efforts. It’s all about the need for a radical transformation in the way we do governance in this country. And, in the larger perspective, the same need for transformation throughout the world…

  • cokids
    March 4, 2011 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    Why did it take this kind of cutting to wake them up? Why didn’t they see the writing on the wall BEFORE it came to this? What is wrong with some people’s vision? What gives?

    Should such shortsighted people be issued driver’s licenses? After all, they can’t SEE!

  • Thomas Paine
    March 10, 2011 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Keep … dreaming.

  • James jameson
    March 26, 2011 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow!! Obama is the worse the President since Jimmy Carter and will easily take the spot as the most radical leftist Communist Marxist loving President that has ever come so close to destroying the United States.

    • Madison
      March 27, 2011 - 12:10 pm | Permalink

      George W. Bush is the worst president since James Buchanan, at least. He was also the most unpopular president in the history of presidential polling.

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