My favorite part is when Frank says that the difference between the percentage of blacks in the Tea Party and the percentage of blacks in the general population is "not huge." Breaking out the super high tech calculator that I reserve for such advanced and complex calculations, I see that 6% is about half of 11%. I'm not sure how this qualifies as "not huge." Seems to me a 46-point gap can be described as a pretty huge gap. If you won an election by that percentage, it'd be an unprecedented landslide.
Another problem with Gallup's poll was that it asked about party affiliation, but not voting patterns. Here in Wisconsin, we have an open primary system, where you don't have to register a party to vote. You just go in and vote on whatever party's ballot suits you in the primary. As a result, I can claim with 100%, absolute, lie-detector-proof honesty that I'm an Independent. I don't belong to either party. That said, I've never voted outside the Democratic primary in my life. Am I a Democrat? Am I an Independent? Given the situation in my state -- along with that of 16 other states -- the question is actually meaningless. Or, at least, not very informative. And, in any state, you could honestly claim to be Independent if you've only voted in the general election.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll gives us a better look at who tea partiers are politically:
Not quite middle of the road, is it? 66% are reliably Republican voters, 91% have voted Republican, only 30% vote Democrat even half the time, and a mere 5% are reliably dem. Keep in mind, this isn't how they plan to vote in November, this is how they have voted. In an America where a Democratic President won the last election by a pretty healthy margin -- an election where the party also expanded its majority in the House and the Senate -- this is in no way reflective of the population at large. A mainstream, nonpartisan movement? My ass.
And CBS's demographic numbers are wildly different from Gallup's; this poll has them 89% white and 1% black. I don't think that either poll is necessarily wrong, I think the movement itself is in flux, with people identifying or not identifying with them based on the news of the day. I have yet to see two polls in general agreement on the teabaggers' demographics.
There are some big surprises that back up my theory buried in CBS's numbers. For example, this tidbit gleaned from the findings by Raw Story:
If Sarah Palin still had any plans to run for president, now might be an ideal time to call them off.
A large majority of Americans already consider her unqualified. But now even a considerable plurality of Tea Partiers, her political epicenter, deem her unfit for the job, according to a national New York Times/CBS poll [PDF] released Thursday.
47% of self-identified teabaggers think she's unqualified, while only 40% say the opposite. Not quite what we've been told or would even expect. This is definitely not the FOX News-driven narrative we've been getting from most of the media.
And the Tea Party is holding a big tax day rally today, which makes this tidbit from CBS itself more than a little interesting:
As Tea Partiers gather for today's rally in Boston, home of the original Tea Party protest in 1773, 42 percent of Tea Party supporters think the amount of income taxes they'll pay this year is unfair, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.
Yet while some say the Tea Party stands for "Taxed Enough Already," most Tea Party supporters - 52 percent - say their taxes are fair, the poll shows. Just under one in five Americans say they support the Tea Party movement.
OK, now things are just getting strange. The majority are OK with their taxes, most think Sarah Palin isn't qualified to be president... Are we sure these people are really teabaggers? I'm kind of starting to think "no" -- right wing demographics aside. I think a lot of conservative people say they support the movement, without really having all that clear an idea what it stands for. As people do with a presidential candidate, these self-described Tea Party supporters are projecting what they want to stand for onto the movement -- regardless of whether or not this is actually true.
Further, people don't vote for things, they vote against things. If the Tea Party had a slogan, that slogan would be "We're against things! Grrrr!!" Got something about government you don't like? Welcome to the Tea Party. They aren't actually for anything. They offer no ideas, have no alternative solutions... In short, the leadership very carefully avoids going out on a limb on anything. Once you start offering concrete solutions, you start losing people through disagreement on specifics. Keep it all up in the air and concentrate on what you're against and you can keep people on your side until they get bored with the whole outrage thing.
My guess is that the reason pollsters are having such a hard time tracking who is and isn't a Tea Party member is because even the supporters don't actually know.
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