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Tea party agenda may be ascendant on Hill, but not on Main Street

Support for the tea party among Americans has slipped to 22 percent, a Gallup poll shows. Even as tea party politics (and a possible government shutdown) are center stage in Congress, the survey reflects public dissatisfaction with the tea party's push for conflict over compromise.

By Correspondent / September 26, 2013

People stand for the national anthem at the Tea Party Patriots 'Exempt America from Obamacare' rally on the west lawn of the US Capitol in Washington, Sept. 10, 2013. A new gallup poll released Thursday indicates that 22 percent of Americans support the tea party.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Washington

If a new Gallup poll is to be trusted, tea party fatigue has firmly set in among the American public. 

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Correspondent

Jennifer Skalka Tulumello is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder, and has written cover stories on the abortion debate and political polling for the Monitor's weekly magazine.

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The survey, released Thursday, indicates that 22 percent of Americans support the tea party, which anchors the conservative wing of the GOP. The number marks a 10 percentage point drop from the movement’s peak in the wake of the Republican Party’s 2010 takeover of the House of Representatives.

Whether it is tea party loyalists’ relentless drive to upend President Obama’s health-care initiative, or, more generally, the near-constant intraparty bickering that has divided the Republican Party, the numbers reflect relatively high public dissatisfaction with the tea party's push for conflict over compromise.

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Of course, Congress is not scoring much better in polls these days, and its reviews provide a view of lawmakers’ performances across the political spectrum.

But it appears there’s something to this latest Gallup poll, conducted Sept. 5-8.

“The poll suggests that the partnership between the Tea Party and the Republican Party may be waning,” writes Lydia Saad, a senior editor at Gallup. “Although some of the Tea Party’s most visible representatives in politics today are associated with the Republican Party, and while rank-and-file Republicans are more likely to call themselves supporters than opponents of the Tea Party movement – a far greater number identify as neither.”

For so long, Washington has been plagued by gridlock, delay, and distraction. Liberals blame the tea party for its role. So, apparently, do many Republican Party stalwarts, including Arizona Sen. John McCain (R). Just this week Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, the tea party darling, occupied 21 hours of uninterrupted floor time in a faux filibuster of the president’s health-care plan, known as the Affordable Care Act. He did so even though his stand had no legislative ramifications and was against the wishes of his Republican colleagues. Senator McCain and others took him to task publicly for the display.

Score one, perhaps, for Senator Cruz as he raises his national profile and woos members of the conservative base – think of his "filibuster" as a grand gesture to caucus and primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire in advance of a likely 2016 presidential run. But Cruz might gain personal points at the expense of his party’s public review, and with the latest survey, it appears the public, too, has begun to tire of this confrontational approach, a tea party hallmark.

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