The Tea Party — if organized as a separate entity — would be the third-biggest political party in Texas, but it’s big enough to exert a strong influence on conservative policies and positions, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Asked which party they identify with, 47 percent of the registered voters in the poll chose the GOP and 42 percent chose the Democrats. But if there were three parties with candidates on a congressional ballot, 17 percent said they would vote for the Tea Party candidate, 22 percent for the Republican, and 37 percent for the Democrat.
That Tea Party contingent includes 23 percent of the voters who otherwise said they are independent and 29 percent of those who otherwise identify as Republican. On issues like immigration, guns, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings, and what to do with federal health care, those Tea Party voters usually represent the most conservative contingent in Texas politics.
A third of Texans said the Tea Party has too much influence on the Republican Party, while 26 percent said it has too little, and 15 percent said that contingent’s influence is about right.
The room for another point of view is somewhat evident when voters assess the two major parties. Two of five voters said they feel the Republican Party is welcoming to people like them; the identical number — 41 percent — said the same about the Democrats.
A quarter of the voters who said they would vote for a Tea Party candidate said they didn’t feel welcome in the GOP; 10 percent of Republicans said the same. And 9 percent of Democrats said they do feel the GOP is welcoming to them.
On the other side of the aisle, 9 percent of Democrats said they don’t feel welcomed by their own party, a view shared by 70 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Tea Party identifiers. But 17 percent of Republican voters said they feel the Texas Democratic Party is welcoming to people like them.
Most voters don’t think the state’s elected officials are too extreme — most said their leaders were ideologically about right or not ideological enough. Asked about Republican officeholders, 49 percent of self-identified Republican voters said those officials are conservative enough and another 31 percent said they’re not conservative enough; only 11 percent said those GOP officials are too conservative. Asked about Democrats in office, 7 percent of self-identified Democratic voters said those officeholders are too liberal, 36 percent said they are liberal enough and 35 percent said those Democrats aren’t liberal enough.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.
This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, including: The mood of the state; Texas voters on Confederate memorials, guns, immigration and other issues; grading President Trump, his qualities and his response to top issues; rating the top figures and institutions in state politics; and their impressions from Hurricane Harvey.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.