Many pundits were quick to pronounce the Tea Party movement dead after failing to stop the passage of health care legislation. Conventional wisdom also held that the bigoted and violent behavior displayed by Tea Partiers over the weekend would negatively impact their growth. Let’s examine the data before we begin drafting a Tea Party obituary.
Instead of membership going flat or declining, online membership in each of the different national Tea Party factions has continued to rise. In fact, several factions experienced sharp increases in the last week.
In the five days since the House of Representatives passed the reconciliation bill, combined membership has steadily increased, up 6.8% from 179,032 to 191,320.
Each of the five national Tea Party factions continued to grow in the past five days. The Tea Party Patriots increased by 12.57% (while the number of Tea Party Patriots Facebook “fans” increased by 28.89% to 140,602). The 1776 Tea Party (also known as TeaParty.org) experienced a 7.74% increase in membership. The Tea Party Nation faction increased 6.53%. The FreedomWorks Tea Party faction membership numbers increased 4.09% over the same period. ResistNet Tea Party membership experienced the smallest increase, growing only 0.59% over the last five days.
This week’s online Tea Party membership growth was not an anomaly. It continues a period of steady growth. As the graph above illustrates, in the past month there’s been an increase of 15.36% from 165,844 to 191,320 of the combined faction total.
All five factions saw continued growth over the past month, though some grew more substantially than others. The Tea Party Patriots grew 23.53%. The FreedomWorks Tea Party group, the second smallest faction, grew a dramatic 57.83% in the period. The smallest of the factions, the 1776 Tea Party, grew 30.43% in the past 30 days. The Tea Party Patriots grew 23.53%, to remain the largest faction by online membership. The Tea Party Nation faction increased 15.05%. And ResistNet Tea Party membership increased 3.20% in the last 30 days.
The next test of Tea Party support will come tomorrow, as the Tea Party Express kicks off it’s much ballyhooed bus tour at an event in Searchlight, Nevada. Thousands are expected to attend. A real gauge of support levels will happen during the week of April 15, when many local Tea Party chapters hold tax day protests.
Devin Burghart is vice president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.