The tea party has emerged as a potent force in American politics and a center of gravity within the Republican Party, with a large majority of Republicans showing an affinity for the movement that has repeatedly bucked the GOP leadership this year, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.
In the survey, 71% of Republicans described themselves as tea-party supporters, saying they had a favorable image of the movement or hoped tea- party candidates would do well in the Nov. 2 elections.
Already, the tea-party movement has helped to oust a number of incumbents and candidates backed by party leaders in this year's GOP primaries amid complaints that they lacked commitment to small-government principles. The poll findings suggest that the rising influence of the movement, with its push to cut spending and oppose the Democratic agenda, will drive the GOP to become more conservative and less willing to seek common ground on policy.
"These are essentially conservative Republicans who are very ticked-off people," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.