Does the Tea Party movement matter? The answer to that question lies in another: will the movement's self-identified members actually turn out to vote this November?
According to a new poll from Gallup, the answer is yes: 82% of Tea Party "supporters" say they are "certain" to vote this year. Compare that to 66% of all Americans.
How will they vote? Gallup shows 80% voting Republican if congressional elections were held today, with 15% voting Democratic.
The size of the Tea Party movement is difficult to pin down. We've seen thousands turn out for rallies (with an estimated 60,000 - 70,000 showing up for the 9/12 rally in DC last fall), and the movement's largest membership group, Tea Party Patriots, has claimed an estimated 15 million members in its ranks, counted through local groups that affiliate with TPP. But it's likely that the Tea Party exists more densely in already-conservative areas, and any impact on legislative majorities could be tough to predict.
A caveat about Gallup's Tea Party polling: the firm asks people whether they "support" the Tea Party movement, not whether they participate in it or count themselves as members. So this poll is a reflection of the opinions and voting likelihood of people (out of 3,095 polled June 11-13 by phone) say they "support" the movement (a sample of 1,008). That methodology, one would guess, might inflate the percent of Tea Partiers who say they play to vote Democratic.