Tea partiers are likelier to be white, male, older and more affluent than everyone else, the polls show — groups that tend to be more conservative. Yet even compared with the 47 percent of conservatives who don't back the tea party, the views of conservatives who do support the movement stand out.
Among conservatives who are tea party backers, 74 percent are glad Republicans will run the House next year while Democrats retain control of the Senate and White House. Just 36 percent of conservatives who don't back the tea party agree that divided government will be good for the country, likely because of concern over gridlock. Tea party backers are also far likelier than other conservatives to like Palin, the former Alaska governor.
Democrats say the gap between the tea party and others will let them cast the GOP as extreme.
"The House and Senate Republican leadership are playing a very dangerous game by appearing to embrace proposals that many Americans consider outside the mainstream," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who was narrowly re-elected over tea party favorite Sharron Angle.
Republicans say the hazard the tea party poses is not its views but some of the controversial candidates it backed, such as Angle and defeated GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who had tea party backing, said this month's GOP victory showed wide support for controlling spending and taxes and creating private sector jobs.
"That is the mandate that's been given across the country, that's the voice of the American people," he said.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Nov. 3-8 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and involved cell and landline telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly chosen adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. It included interviews with 299 tea party supporters, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 7.5 points.
The exit poll involved interviews with 17,504 voters, including Election Day voters and phone interviews with people who voted early or absentee. It had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1 point.
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