It was described by some of its grass-roots organizers as a movement driven by principle whose members swore no allegiance to either party. That, too, has been shown to be wrong as its roots in the Republican Party have become more evident.

It was given credit for the Republican takeover of the House in November and for the gains the party made in other races in the midterms. There is truth in that, particularly in the movement’s success in nationalizing the election.

But evidence of the tea party’s ability to sway individual House races is far more questionable. A tea party endorsement appears to have had no special impact on a candidate’s success in 2010. (In some high-profile Senate races, tea party support probably cost the Republicans victories.)

Those conclusions are drawn from the work of a number of scholars whose findings were presented at the American Political Science Association’s recent annual conference in Seattle. The papers illuminate a debate about the significance of the tea party’s place in today’s politics while providing a clearer picture of its followers and what they believe.