The tea party's become too socially conservative

According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tea Party members are now farther to the right on social issues than Americans as a whole or even the Republican party. For example, while the public now narrowly approves of gay marriage, Tea Party members disapprove by nearly two to one. The public is largely split on abortion, but 60 percent of tea partiers believe it should be illegal in all or most cases. Tea Party members are roughly 20 percentage points more likely than the general public to oppose a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. A majority of Tea Party supporters now say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on issues.

As a result, economic conservatives, libertarians, and anti-tax moderates are leaving the movement. Fewer than a quarter of tea partiers now describe themselves as libertarian-leaning. In last fall’s Virginia gubernatorial election, socially moderate suburbanites overwhelmingly backed Democrat Terry McAuliffe over tea-party favorite and arch-social-conservative Ken Cuccinelli.

The tea party has begun to look not like a broad-based coalition of economic conservatives but simply the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. The tent is getting smaller. As Steve Billet, professor of political management at George Washington University, noted, “The polls suggest that where the Tea Party has failed is when they tried to expand their agenda beyond the explicit budgetary issues, and got much more involved in some other social issues.”