Friday, October 8, 2010

Poll: Tea Party Wins Approval, But Not Influence

Voters in battleground House districts held by freshman Democrats approve of the Tea Party more than they disapprove of it, but say it won’t influence their choice on Election Day.

The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll of 12 crucially competitive districts found a 45-34 favorable-unfavorable rating for the conservative grassroots movement. But 55 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans say Tea Party support for a candidate will not make any difference.

Democrats break 66-15 against the Tea Party, and half say Tea Party support makes them less likely to vote for a candidate. So a Tea Party endorsement would motivate Dems to vote against a candidate slightly more than it prompts Republicans or independents to vote for one. And only 19 percent of independents said a Tea Party affiliation made them more likely to vote for a candidate.

The Tea Party swayed several primaries, said pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the poll, “but I’m not sure it’s going to have a strong influence over the general election.”Men in the survey were much more likely to view the Tea Party favorably than women did, with 51 percent of men giving it high marks while only 40 percent of women did.
More men than women also said a candidate with Tea Party backing was likely to get their vote, but Tea Party affiliation doesn’t seem to be a determining factor with men.

Only 26 percent said it persuaded them to support a candidate, while 25 percent of women said Tea Party backing made them less likely to support a candidate.

Tea Party groups helped several Republican Senate candidates clinch their party’s nomination this cycle but were less successful tipping House primaries. Alabama Republican Martha Roby, who had the national party’s backing, was forced into a runoff against Tea Party-supported Rick Barber, but she nevertheless emerged with the GOP nomination to face Rep. Bobby Bright (D).

The Hill’s poll did find some races where the Tea Party could help Republican challengers over the finish line — in Arizona’s 1st District, for example, where Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) trails dentist Paul Gosar (R) by seven points.

Almost 60 percent of likely voters in the district said they have a favorable view of the Tea Party, while 56 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of independents said they would be more likely to support a Tea Party-backed candidate.

Gosar is a favorite of the Tea Party and got the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during the Republican primary. Gosar leads Kirkpatrick 2-to-1 among likely male voters. He also leads Kirkpatrick 43 percent to 37 among independents.

In Illinois’s 11th District, 52 percent of voters gave the Tea Party high marks. And 56 percent of independents thought highly of the conservative grassroots movement. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) badly trails her GOP opponent, Adam Kinzinger, getting 31 percent to his 49. In this historically Republican district, Kinzinger has played up his ties to the Tea Party.

Elsewhere, however, the group’s influence is more limited and could be a drawback.

In Virginia’s 2nd District, where Rep. Glenn Nye (D) is battling for reelection, 44 percent of independent voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party. Moreover, only 18 percent of independents said that having Tea Party support would make them more likely to vote for a candidate.

Over in Virginia’s 5th District, where Rep. Tom Perriello (D) is virtually tied with Republican Robert Hurt, the poll found the lowest support for the Tea Party, with only 41 percent viewing it favorably. When asked how it will affect their vote, more than a quarter of respondents said the group’s support would make them less likely to vote for a candidate.

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