WASHINGTON, D.C. May 16, 2019 – A decade after the tea party emerged as a political force, its former supporters are some of Donald Trump’s most stalwart Republican supporters, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center panel surveys from 2014 through 2018.
Republicans who had a positive view of the tea party movement in 2014 and 2015 were some of Trump’s most enthusiastic backers during the 2016 campaign. And, unlike Republicans who had mixed or negative opinions of the tea party, they continued to have very positive feelings about Trump through his first year as president.
Leveraging the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel (ATP), this analysis explores the relationship between individual Republicans’ attitudes about the tea party several years ago – from surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 – and their views about the GOP and Donald Trump through 2018, the last time this series of questions was asked of the same respondents. An expanded version is being presented at the 2019 conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research in Toronto later today.
In February 2018, those who had been Republican tea party supporters gave Trump an average rating of 78 on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” while Trump’s rating averaged 59 degrees among those Republicans who had no opinion of the tea party and was a much chillier 53 degrees among those who disagreed with the tea party. (Across all Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015, 34% of Republicans and Republican leaners agreed with the tea party, just 11% disagreed, while the largest share – 53% – expressed no opinion.)
A gap in views of Trump between tea party supporters and those who disagreed with the movement was evident throughout 2016, both during the primaries and following the general election. That gap widened over the first year of Trump’s presidency. Although views of Trump moved more positive in each of these groups following his victory, there was no change in former tea party supporters’ views of Trump between November 2016 and early 2018. Meanwhile, Trump’s ratings among those who disagreed with the tea party or had no opinion moved in a more negative direction over this period.
Among the other key findings:
While it’s relatively rare for partisans to switch parties at all, this was more common among the subset of Republicans who had disagreed with the tea party or had no opinion. By comparison, virtually all Republicans and Republican leaners in 2015 who supported the tea party in 2014 or 2015 continued to align with the party as of 2018.
Though Trump enjoyed more support in the 2016 primaries than other candidates across Republican groups, those who had agreed with the tea party were more likely than other Republicans to say they wanted to see Trump get the 2016 GOP nomination, both in December 2015 and in April 2016.
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on our Fact Tank blog.