They’re baaaa-aaack, as Carol Anne said in Poltergeist II. No, not the cheesy ghosts from the cemetery under their house, but the ghosts of the previous midterm election, and they’re about to haunt Democrats. Gallup’s survey from the end of last month shows that the most enthusiastic voters in this cycle are Tea Party supporters — and it’s not even close:
Although the Tea Party has not been as visible in this year’s midterm elections as it was in 2010, Tea Party Republicans have given more thought to this year’s elections and are much more motivated to vote than are non-Tea Party Republicans or other Americans. About one in four Americans continue to say they support the Tea Party.
These results, from a Sept. 25-30 Gallup poll, demonstrate that despite what appears to be a lower profile this year, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party — about 18% of all national adults — remains a powerful force, given their higher interest in the election and higher motivation to vote. This is not a new phenomenon; Republican Tea Party supporters gave the 2010 midterm elections more thought and were more motivated to vote than other Republicans, although all voters in general were paying more attention that year.
Lower profile, indeed. The results of the primary elections had been seen as a rebuke to Tea Party activists, as challengers to Republican Senate incumbents failed to net a single win. Only David Perdue’s defeat of Jack Kingston for the US Senate nomination appeared to fit the profile of a Tea Party victory, but Kingston was well regarded by conservative activists as a member of the House. That outcome looked more like populist rejection of a Washington figure, and at any rate Perdue performed relatively the same against Michelle Nunn in pre-runoff polling. The only real surprise of this cycle was Eric Cantor’s loss to a neophyte in the Virginia-07 primary, but Tea Party organizations didn’t get involved in that race until after the primary.
Just how big of a difference is there? Among self-identifying Tea Party supporters, 73% are very or extremely motivated to vote in the midterms. A smaller majority of Republicans who do not identify with the Tea Party (57%) say the same. Among non-Republicans, enthusiasm drops to 42%, a little more than half that of Tea Party supporters. That’s a wide gap, and a very large sign that the primary season did not discourage Tea Party supporters as presumed. Instead, it appears more that these voters became circumspect about primary choices and are ready to come out strong regardless of whether their preferred candidate prevailed over the summer.
On issues they see as “extremely important” in the midterms, a majority of Tea Party supporters choose ISIS (57%) and the federal budget deficit (55%), while the operation of the federal government (48%) and the economy (47%) get near-majorities. For other Republicans, ISIS gets a majority (51%), but only 34% of non-Republicans consider it “extremely important” for the elections.
Among non-Republicans, the top two issues ate the availability of good jobs (47%) and a tie between the economy and equal pay for women at 43%, with government operation narrowly trailing at 42%. Needless to say, three of those four topics are not exactly good news for Democrats. The equal-pay issue only gets 15% among Tea Party supporters and 22% among other Republicans, so it’s not going to have wide traction — while economic and competence problems will dog Democrats in every race. The lowest-ranked issue on the list is climate change, which only resonates with 26% of non-Republicans in 2014.
Gallup concludes that this will impact the GOTV situation and the model for likely voting in the midterms:
Still, although the Tea Party has been less visible in the election campaigning that has taken place this year in both the primaries and the lead-up to the general election, Tea Party supporters’ stronger motivation to vote underscores the group’s importance to the election outcome. Because most Tea Party supporters are Republicans or Republican leaners, and because it is unlikely that they will be voting for anyone other than a Republican candidate, the main effect of Tea Party supporters in the general election will be to provide a motivated base for the GOP to build on as it focuses on getting out the vote.
It also demonstrates how the Democrats’ “war on women” demagoguery and the emphasis on climate change by Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer is likely to backfire in a big way on November 4th. Those choices may haunt Democrats for a lot longer than a fortnight.