Not exactly a ‘mainstream’ force

NOT EXACTLY A ‘MAINSTREAM’ FORCE…. One of the day’s biggest stories among conservative bloggers is some new survey data that suggests the right-wing Tea Party “movement” is in line with the new American “mainstream.” There’s ample reason for skepticism about this. Indeed, the closer one looks at the data, the more it seems Andrew Malcolm and other reflexive partisans are pushing a bogus spin.

There are actually two polls getting attention today. The first is from the Winston Group, a Republican firm, which published a survey that generated this write-up from The Hill.

Four in 10 Tea Party members are either Democrats or Independents, according to a new national survey. […]

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

At first blush, reading that “four in 10” Teabaggers are Dems or Independents makes it sound as if the unhinged, misguided movement has broad support. It doesn’t. Even if we accept a Republican firm’s results at face value, the Tea Party is dominated by Republicans and Republican-friendly independents (remember, thinking on Indys as a coherent, self-contained group is completely wrong).

If an analysis is going to lump Tea Party-friendly Independents with one of the major parties, it makes far more sense to say 85% of movement members are Republicans or Independents.

While about a third of the nation at large approves of the Republican Party, with the Tea Party crowd, GOP approval is a whopping 71%.

That’s not especially “mainstream.” On the contrary, it sounds like a pretty conservative group of folks.

And then there’s the Gallup poll.

Gallup goes ahead and gives the right the headline it wants to see: “Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics.”

But it’s difficult to review Gallup’s results and reach that conclusion. The pollster found that 28% of Americans identify themselves as part of the right-wing group. Greg Sargent took a closer look at that 28%.

* Forty-nine percent of Tea Party supporters are Republicans, 43% are independents, and only eight percent are Dems. That means a huge majority — 92% — are Republicans or indys, and again, many of those indys could be former Republicans or lean GOP anyway.

* Seventy percent of Tea Party supporters say they’re conservative, and only 22% say they’re moderate. And who knows what they even mean by that word to begin with.

* A whopping 79% of Tea Party supporters are non-hispanic whites. Only 65% of Americans were non-hispanic whites as of 2008.

Marc Ambinder summarized the findings this way: “Tea Partiers Are Conservative. Moving Along…”

Andrew Malcolm characterized the data as “myth-busting.” But Malcolm, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney White House, has it backwards — the results reinforce exactly what most reasonable observers perceive about this so-called movement.

We’re talking about a group of overwhelmingly white, conservative, middle-class voters who tend to like Republicans an awful lot. A lot of labels come to mind when describing the Tea Party crowd — confused, misled, easily manipulated — but “mainstream” isn’t one of them.