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Tea Party Goes Mainstream, At Least In Unfavorable Views

The upstart Tea Party movement has gotten a seat at the table, so to say, and lately become as unpopular in Americans' eyes as the Republican and Democratic parties, according to a new survey by CNN and Opinion Research Corporation. What's the saying? "Be careful what you wish for." Welcome to the big time.

Survey respondents holding an unfavorable view of the Tea Party numbered 47 percent, up four points from December and an increase of 21 points from January 2010. CNN reports:

That number is virtually identical to the 48% unfavorable ratings for both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the same poll.
"This is the first time that a CNN poll has shown the Tea Party's unfavorable ratings as high as those of the two major parties," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "It looks like the rise in the movement's unfavorable rating has come mostly among people who make less than $50,000."
The Tea Party movement's unfavorable rating rose 15 points since October among lower-income Americans, compared to only five points among those making more than $50,000. Roughly half of all American households have incomes under $50,000.
I can't find all the details of the survey, but to be complete: The Tea Party gets favorable ratings of 32 percent currently, versus 46 percent for the Democratic party and 44 percent for Republicans. Sampling error was three percent.

These results aren't the last word on the Tea Party, however. The Washington Post and ABC commissioned a recent poll that asked all sorts of questions about many dimensions of U.S. politics, leaving the Tea Party questions to the end, and arriving at a more moderate conclusion. (Of course, the structure of a poll can influence the outcomes, such as whether the subject is still awake after 30 questions.)

In that survey, 41 percent of people hold favorable impression of the Tea Party, versus 39 percent unfavorable. That represents a swing in the Tea Party's favor of six percentage points since a survey in early February. In both camps, about half of people hold strong opinions and half "somewhat."

Siding with the Tea Party's positions gained strength on both sides in the Washington Post/ABC poll: 46 percent agree with their policies while 40 percent don't, both up a few points from the February survey.

For perspective, here is what the same survey reports on other topics. President Obama's rankings are falling, although 53 percent still approve of his overall job. As for Congress, 72 percent disapprove of what they're doing. Democrats are given slightly more credit for their handling of most issues, with the exception of the campaign against terrorism.

Which survey is right? Who knows?