Tea Party Influence: A Story of Activists and Elites
Understanding how the Tea Party has affected congressional elections and roll call voting helps us understand not only an important political movement, but how movements affect politics more generally. We investigate four channels for the movement to influence political outcomes: activists, constituent opinion, group endorsement activity and elite-level self-identification. We find consistent evidence that activists mattered both electorally and for roll call voting on issues of importance to the movement. Constituent opinion had virtually no impact on either political outcome. Group endorsement activity had possible effects on elections, but mostly no effect on congressional voting. Self-identification among elites did not enhance—or harm—Republican electoral fortunes, but did affect congressional votes important to the movement. These divergent results illustrate how movement politics can influence outcomes through multiple channels and call into question the usefulness of the “Tea Party’’ moniker without important qualifiers.