NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jersey registered voters have a less favorable impression of the Tea Party movement than other states as shown in recent national polls, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While CNN recently reported that more than one-third of American voters support the Tea Party movement, only 27 percent of New Jersey voters have a favorable impression of the group. While it is no surprise that Democrats do not view the movement favorably, New Jersey independent voters are not very supportive as well, with 29 percent expressing a favorable opinion, compared to 49 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats.
The poll of 953 New Jersey adults was conducted February 19-22, 2010 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. The registered voter sample of 886 has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.
“The Tea Party movement has become somewhat of a force in American politics over the last year,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Our polling shows that in New Jersey, this force is primarily coming from Republicans, with independents significantly less favorable toward it.”
Not surprisingly, given its origins in opposition to President Barack Obama and the Democratic health care plan, the poll shows that 50 percent of voters who view the Tea Party favorably are Republicans even though Republicans make up only 27 percent of the registered voter sample. Independents comprise 35 percent of tea party supporters, while 15 percent are Democrats.
Many Tea Party supporters not active
A favorable impression of the Tea Party does not necessarily mean that voters plan to be active in the movement. Only 19 percent of those with a favorable impression say they are very likely to volunteer or attend a rally, with another 33 percent saying they are somewhat likely to do so. But nearly half say they are not at all likely to be active in the movement.
“The effect of Tea Party supporters on the political system will be at least partly dependent on how active individual voters are,” said Redlawsk. “Our results suggest that while organizers of Tea Party events can count on some very dedicated supporters, many who say they support the Tea Party do so in name only.”
Concerns about Republican Party
While Tea Party support is strongly related to support for the Republican Party, Tea Party supporters also have their concerns with Republicans. Only 45 percent of those who view the Tea Party favorably also have a favorable view of Republicans in Congress, 53 percent say they mostly trust Republicans generally and 34 percent say Republican actions have made them angry. Even so, this is a much more positive view than those who do not support the Tea Party have of Republicans, with only 17 percent holding a favorable view, 25 percent expressing trust and 50 percent expressing anger.
“The Tea Party movement in New Jersey is primarily Republican, but not in lockstep with establishment Republicans,” said Redlawsk. “It’s significant that more than one-third express anger at Republicans generally, and less than half view Republicans in Congress favorably. This suggests that Tea Party supporters are more of a risk to incumbent Republicans in a primary than to Democrats, who they would be unlikely to support in a general election whether or not there was a Tea Party movement.”
Tea Party supporters more favorable toward two-party system
Reinforcing the idea that Tea Party supporters are not necessarily looking outside the two-party system, these voters are more likely to favor the existing two-party system than are those who do not view the Tea Party favorably. While about 38 percent of both groups of voters say they would like nonpartisan elections, 39 percent of Tea Party supporters think the current two-party system works reasonably well, compared to only 26 percent of nonsupporters. Only 23 percent of those viewing the Tea Party favorably see a need for more than two political parties.
“The fact that voters who like the Tea Party movement are even more supportive of the two-party system than those who do not should give the media pause in how they represent this group, at least in New Jersey” said Redlawsk. “This is not a breakaway movement as much as it seems like an effort to define the direction of the Republican Party.”
Demographics of New Jersey Tea Party supporters
The Tea Party movement in New Jersey is viewed most favorably in the exurban northwest of the state and much less likely to come from urban New Jersey. While 27 percent of all New Jersey voters have a favorable impression of the Tea Party, this rises to 31 percent of exurban residents, compared to only 21 percent of urban dwellers. Very few blacks (only 5 percent) have a favorable impression of the Tea Party movement, but more than half (54 percent) of the very small sample of Asian voters express a favorable view, compared to 29 percent of all whites and 24 percent of Latino voters. Tea Party supporters are more likely to be male, with 31 percent of men favorable, compared to 24 percent of women. Higher income also defines those who view the Tea Party movement favorably. While only 18 percent of voters making less than $50,000 have a favorable view, 30 percent of those making more than $50,000 do.
Rutgers-Eagleton Poll February 19-22, 2010
The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted from February 19-22, 2010 with a scientifically selected random sample of 953 New Jersey adults yielding 886 registered voters. Data are weighted to represent known parameters in the New Jersey population, including gender, age, race, education, and Hispanic ethnicity. All results are reported with these weighted data.
All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. The sampling error for a sample of 953 adults is +/-3.2 points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 50 percent of New Jersey adults favored a particular position, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 45.9 and 54.1 percent (50 + 3.3) had all New Jersey adults been interviewed, rather than just a sample. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. Sampling error does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording or context effects.
Weighted Sample Characteristics
40% Dem 48% Male 16% 18-29 69% White
34% Independent 52% Female 43% 30-49 13% Black
26% Republican 22% 55-64 10% Hispanic
19% 65+ 5% Asian
Media Contact: David Redlawsk
732-932-9384, ext. 285