Poll: Tea Partyism in Major Decline as America Simmers Down

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The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reports that people aren't nearly as angry as they once were, according to its latest survey:

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The buried lede here is that only 28 percent say they "agree with...the Tea Party movement," whereas 43 percent said they agreed with the movement at this time last year, and 47 percent said they agreed with it in September, as the midterm elections approached.

Tea party polling has been an inexact science, and data like these have been used to count (inaccurately) how many people are involved in the movement. Pollsters have gotten more specific at times, asking whether people are members of tea parties, and then asking those people what they think of things, but even self-identification doesn't seem too reliable to me.

What this suggests, however, is that the movement has lost some of its draw. I'm not one to overblow the sampled responses of 1,504 adults reached by phone between Feb. 22 and March 1 (which is what these numbers reflect), even if Pew is one of the more respected polling entities around. But agreement with the movement--and whatever it signifies to each individual respondent--has dropped by more than a third since September, according to Pew...and that seems to be saying something.

Other polls don't back this up. Last week, CBS and The New York Times found that tea party support has actually increased from September, from 19 percent to 27 percent. In Mid-February, CBS did find the movement's favorability numbers to have dropped by one fourth since late October, from 24 percent to 18 percent, but NBC News and The Wall Street Journal concluded in late January that positive views of the movement have remained virtually unchanged since November. (For a wealth of tea party polling, see this page at PollingReport.com.)

But the diminishing figures on those who are riled should be troubling to tea partiers. So much of the movement has centered on being "fed up" with the federal government, in one form or another. Beyond very broad strokes about spending and taxes, there's a lot that tea parties disagree about, but many seem angry about the course the nation is on. At public events, speakers cultivate tones of revenge and disbelief.

When you take that anger away, what is there?

A contented group of people who have gotten what they wanted at the polls, perhaps. And that strikes me as very un-tea-partyish, in style at least.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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