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Tea Party’s Economic Gloom Fuels Republican Election Momentum, Poll Shows

Four of Five Tea Party Supporters Plan to Back Republican Candidate in November

Thirty-One Percent of Likely Voters Say They Support the Tea Party

Eighty-Three Percent of Tea Party Voters Want the Government to Repeal the Health Care Bill

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Tea Party activists, once on the fringe of the Republican mainstream, are fueling the party’s momentum in the midterm elections, a Bloomberg National poll shows.

Four of five Tea Party supporters (78%) who say they plan to vote in the November congressional elections will back Republicans, even though one-third of them (36%) describe themselves as independents. Eighty-five percent of these respondents say the economy will improve with Republicans in control of Congress.

These Super Republicans are more energized than other likely voters and more apt to view this election as exceptionally important. Tea Party backers who plan to vote put a higher priority than other voters on cutting spending and lowering taxes. They also favor making people wait longer to receive full Social Security benefits and slashing money for research of Alzheimer’s and other diseases as a way to narrow the deficit.

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The members of this fiscally conservative movement take a darker view of the economy than most voters in the poll. Half (50%) say they have no confidence they will have sufficient funds to live on in retirement and more than half (54%) worry their children’s quality of life will be worse than their own.

Overall, about one-third of all likely voters in the poll (31%) conducted Oct. 7-10 by Selzer & Co. say they support the Tea Party.

These respondents are almost unanimous in saying the movement means lower taxes (90%), smaller government (91%) and personal responsibility (90%). More than six in 10 (64%) say it stands for government based on Christian principles. They are more intense than other voters in seeking a rollback of the changes passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

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Eight of 10 Tea Party voters (82%) back the “Pledge to America,” the Republican Party’s road map for governing if it gains a majority in the Nov. 2 elections. An overwhelming majority (83%) say they want a repeal of the health-care law championed by President Barack Obama. That compares with about half of all likely voters who say they support repeal (47%) and the Republican agenda (48%).

Tea Party supporters are more likely than other voters to be white (85% v. 71% of all likely voters), married (70% v. 62% of all likely voters), 55 and older (39% v. 34% of all likely voters), and call themselves born-again Christians (42% v. 29% of all likely voters).

“The Tea Party is positioning itself as unaligned,” says Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines, Iowa-based company that conducted the poll. “But in every way we’ve looked at it, they look like Republicans.”

They also are more likely to be suspicious of the Federal Reserve, which sets monetary policy. Six out of 10 Tea Party supporters who plan to vote (59%) say they want to overhaul or abolish the Fed, compared with 45 percent of all likely voters. A similar 63 percent of Tea Party supporters say they believe the 2008 rescue package for the financial sector -- known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- has made the economy weaker.

Tea Party supporters also have more negative sentiments about incumbents who voted for TARP or the government program to rescue the automobile industry. Almost seven in 10 Tea Party advocates say they would be less likely to support a candidate who voted for the bank rescue (67%) or the auto bailout (69%). Half of all likely voters (51%) said the same about the financial rescue and a plurality (45%) said so about the plan for automakers.

Half of the Tea Party voters (50%) consider the federal debt -- estimated at $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2010 by the Congressional Budget Office -- to be the most important issue facing the country, compared with 27 percent of all likely voters. And they are willing to make hard choices to cut the costs.

Fifty-three percent would consider raising the age for Medicare benefits and 58 percent would consider raising the age for Social Security benefits. That compares with 47 percent of all likely voters who would consider Medicare changes and 49 percent who would change Social Security law.

Two-thirds of Tea Party supporters (67%) also would consider cutting spending on roads and bridges; 63 percent say they would be willing to reduce research funds for Alzheimer’s and other diseases to narrow the deficit. One exception: Few want to abandon the Bush-era tax cuts, due to expire in December, that give breaks to high and middle-income Americans.

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Still, there are inconsistencies in Tea Party responses. Eight of 10 (83%) want the government to repeal the health-care bill, though majorities still say they would keep elements of the enhanced coverage it provides. Most (57%) want insurance companies to be prohibited from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and they (52%) want more drug benefits for Medicare patients. They (53%) also want states to provide special plans to cover people with major health problems.

The electorate is almost evenly split when asked about the influence of the movement. Twenty-eight percent of likely voters say the election of Tea Party candidates would have no impact on the country, 29 percent say the country would be in a worse position and 33 percent say it would improve.

As Obama tries to drum up voter enthusiasm for Democratic candidates, he is likely to have little appeal for Tea Party supporters. In the poll, almost nine of 10 of the movement’s backers (88%) disapprove of the job the president is doing. They are particularly negative about his approach to the business community: Three-quarters of Tea Party supporters (74%) say Obama is too anti-business compared with one third (36%) of all likely voters.

The poll of 721 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Jessica Turtletaub, +1 212-617-8476
[email protected]

Source: Bloomberg


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