The Tea Party is regularly ridiculed and declared “dead” by the mainstream press and their elitist allies in Washington and Hollywood. Not surprisingly, when Tea Partiers show up and rally by the thousands, they get all but ignored, while 30 Occupy Wall Street crazies in masks will always get wall-to-wall coverage and admiration. TV shows and movies take cheap shots at Tea Party conservatives, often linking them to murder-of-the-week cases on insipid crime procedurals or dismissing them as “birthers.” But a new Associated Press poll shows tea party supporters may have the last laugh in November.
The AP/GFK poll shows that 31% of likely voters consider themselves Tea Party supporters. With 131 million votes cast in the 2008 elections, that translates into an incredible voting bloc of 41 million Tea Party supporters waiting to cast ballots. These voters have already made their voices heard in Wisconsin earlier this year, as well as in Republican primaries in Texas and Nebraska.
That 31% of likely voters figure is greater than the 19% who described themselves as either strongly or somewhat liberal. Surprisingly, liberals have escaped media characterization as being a small, fringe-like group with little power or influence. At 19% of likely voters, self-described liberals would have a turnout of 25 million voters, some 16 million fewer voters than the Tea Party.
The good news for Mitt Romney and other Republican hopefuls is that the Tea Party supporters also appear ready to turn out in much higher numbers than all other voters. For instance, while they only made up 23% of the initial polling sample, which was a sample of all adults, their numbers improve as unlikely voters were removed by the AP from the data. When unregistered and unlikely voters were taken out of the poll, their share of the vote increased by 35%, to nearly one-third of the voting population.
Meanwhile, self-described liberals fell 11% from the initial sample to the likely voter sample, while moderates increased by 3% and conservatives increased by 8%. This enthusiasm gap could make the difference in November. Once unregistered and unlikely voters were removed from the AP poll sample, Obama’s share of the vote plummeted by 10%, while Romney’s share of the vote increased by 28%. That support is driven, of course, by a supposedly dead movement. Overall, the poll shows a statistical tie with Obama at 47%, and Romney at 46%.