Poll: GOP more conservative but not because of the ‘tea party’


A majority of Americans believe the Republican Party has become more conservative, but few say the shift is due to the “tea party” movement, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.

The poll also found that three of every 10 Americans identified themselves as supporters of the movement, and 27% said they were opponents — results that were consistent with what Gallup found in four other polls this year.

Taken before the latest tea-party movement victories in Republican primaries in Delaware and New York, but after successes in other states during the nominating season of this midterm election cycle, the latest poll tracks how Americans see the protest movement, which has energized Republicans while frightening established GOP leaders. The movement has also provided an easy target for Democrats, fighting to continue their control of Congress, who argue that the new crop of movement candidates are outside the political mainstream.

According to the poll, 54% said they believed the Republican Party had become more conservative since President Obama took office. Of that group, 19% said the shift was mainly due to the tea-party movement, and 35% cited other factors.

About 59% of Democrats, 55% of Republicans and 50% of independents said they believed the GOP had become more conservative since Obama took office. Those who believed the GOP had become more conservative split 50% to 48% over whether that was a good thing.

About 40% of those responding said the GOP had not become more conservative.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,021 adults in the continental United States. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Those who identify themselves as tea-party supporters split about evenly 49% to 47% on whether they thought the GOP had become more conservative. Opponents, by 68% to 30%, said the Republican Party had become more conservative.