To my mind, there are two widely believed myths about the Tea Party. The first is that they care about debt. I don't believe this, because a movement that actually cared about debt would have run a campaign specifically designed to propose ways to reduce it. They produced no such plan. Immediately after the election, moreover, they did a deal borrowing a huge amount more and adding $700 billion to the debt by refusing to let the Bush tax cuts sunset - the condition for the cuts' original passage, remember? The Tea Party is not an anti-debt movement; they are an anti-tax movement, that came about during a period in which taxes were lowered, while debt soared.
The second myth is that they are somehow unlike the Christianist right, and more tolerant and easy-going on social issues.
Again, I think this is wishful thinking. My own view is that they are hard-line Christianists in a different outfit - powdered wigs, muskets and red cheeks - and are outliers on issues of modernity - racial integration, women's rights, gay equality.
I mention this because PPP has just done a poll on marriage equality, something they are going to repeat to test trendlines. There is almost no difference between Tea Party views and regular Republicans. 52 percent of TPers and 52 percent of GOPers want no rights whatever for gay couples, either in civil unions or civil marriage. Only self-described "conservative" Republicans have a higher opposition at 57 percent. Moreover, on civil marriage for gays, TP support is at 17 percent, compared with 42 percent support for non-TPers.
Tea Partiers and Republicans are more anti-gay than all the over-65s.
Bonus poll points: minorities come out strongly in favor of legal gay relationships with 79 percent of Latinos and 62 percent of African-Americans in favor of either civil marriage or civil unions. And yes, TNC, a greater proportion of whites oppose recognition for gay relationships than blacks.