Political and cultural dimensions of Tea Party support, 2009–2012


The Tea Party Movement (TPM) burst onto the political scene following the 2008 elections. Early on, the movement attracted broad public support and seemed to tap into a variety of cultural concerns rooted in the changing demographic, political, and economic face of the nation. However, some observers questioned whether the Tea Party represented anything more than routine partisan backlash. And what had started as a seemingly grassroots movement that changed the face of American politics in the 2010 election was reduced to being mainly a caucus within Congress by 2012. In this article, we examine the cultural and political dimensions of Tea Party support over time. Using polling data from North Carolina and Tennessee and quantitative media analysis, we provide new evidence that cultural dispositions in addition to conservative identification were associated with TPM favorability in 2010; that these dispositions crystallized into shared political positions in 2011; and that by 2012 little distinguished TPM adherents from other conservatives.

The Sociological Quarterly