25 February 2011

The Tea Party splits Republicans

One of the intriguing aspects of the Tea Party phenomenon in the United States is not how Tea Partiers' views depart from those of most Americans but how they depart from those of most Republicans. A recent survey by the Pew Research Centre showed that on a wide range of federal spending issues, including education, the environment, health care and energy, non-Tea Party Republicans agreed much more closely with Democrats than with their Tea Party colleagues.

On the environment, for example, 68 per cent of Tea Party Republicans felt the federal government should spend less whereas only 23 per cent of non-Tea Party Republicans felt that way as did only 12 per cent of Democrats. There was a particularly sharp divergence on education, with only 26 per cent of Tea Partiers believing the feds should spend more compared to 64 per cent of non-Tea Party Republicans and 78 per cent of Democrats. On Social Security and Medicare, Tea Partiers favoured less spending rather than more by a ratio of two to one while non-Tea Partiers, like Democrats, strongly favour more spending.

The Tea Partiers are loud, greatly aided and abetted by the shouters on Fox News of course, but not all that convincing apparently with only 43 per cent of Republicans supporting them. Perhaps because their tale, to quote Macbeth, is one "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

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