County Fair

Would Tea Party movement exist without Fox News?

October 27, 2010 10:06 am ET by Eric Boehlert

To get a sense of just how important Fox News' relentlessly free promotion and marketing has been to Tea Party groups, and how if it weren't for national, partisan outside sources of funding the movement would barely exist, take a look at some of the data from a new Washington Post canvass poll.

About the survey: 

The results come from a months-long effort by The Post to contact every tea party group in the nation, an unprecedented attempt to understand the network of individuals and organizations at the heart of a movement that sprang up shortly after Obama's inauguration in 2009 and that has captured the attention of the country with its passionate rallies and stunning victories in primaries from Delaware to Alaska. 

In all, The Post identified more than 1,400 possible groups and was able to verify and reach 647 of them. Each answered a lengthy questionnaire about his or her beliefs, members and goals.

Three findings really jumped out. Take a look at these Tea Party group averages: 

1. Attendance at last public event: 200 people. 

2. Amount of money raised in 2010: $800.

2. Amount of money on hand right now: $500.

I believe the word I'm looking for here is "underwhelming." I mean, you could probably find several hundred PTA groups across the country that were more robust than the average Tea Party group.

But you know what? If a cable news channel suddenly decided to devote huge chunks of its air-time to covering PTA's, to having PTA members on all the time, to helping raise money for PTA's, pretty soon you'd start to think that PTA's were really, really important and influential. 

I'm not suggesting that the Tea Party movement is a 100% creation of Fox News. But I do think it's a lot less grassroots than its cheerleaders would like to admit. The findings of the Washington Post survey highlight how bare bones the groups really are and how, without the exaggerated (and free) megaphone of Fox News, the Tea Party groups wouldn't be getting nearly as much attention, or enjoying as much political success, as they do now. 

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    • Author by MiniTru (October 27, 2010 10:27 am ET)
      And the Post believed the Tea Partiers were telling the truth when they filled out their response forms?

      Be serious.
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      • Author by epkklk851 (October 27, 2010 10:43 am ET)
        The survey isn't that flattering if they're lying about it, and it isn't that damning if they aren't. I might double the amount who list prejudice as a concern, but it is still only 1 in 4. A lot of them just hate Government, they've been told by Republicans for an entire generation that Liberals are bad and dangerous, that Government is bad, and Liberals want to make it worse.
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    • Author by cst (October 27, 2010 10:29 am ET)
      Would Tea Party movement exist without Fox News?
      Considering thatall of the "causes" it esposes are just Fox-news talking points, it's safe to say it wouldn't.
      Really, in terms of numbers and coherence, it's like one of those campaigns to save a cancelled tv show-- and most of those fail, don't they?
      Of course, if it succeeds, I'll humbly be the first to start calling the Tea Party "The FAMILY GUY of American politics"- but that's not exactly a compliment, is it?
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      • Author by mattcable250650 (October 27, 2010 11:11 am ET)
        I think if you look at the right-wing reaction to Clinton, it's clear that there would be something around that would fit that description. Would it be anywhere near as large and as organized without Fox News? Very clearly not.
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      • Author by ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© (October 27, 2010 12:11 pm ET)
        I'm not suggesting that the Tea Party movement is a 100% creation of Fox News.

        Well sure, there's the Koch-funded astroturfers Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

        Without them and FAUX, the people known as "The Tea Party" would be the bitter Republican base...same as they always were, except now with more crazy.
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    • Author by epkklk851 (October 27, 2010 10:45 am ET)
      The Tea Party isn't new, it's been around for more than a generation now. It has been a rising theme since the late 1970s, remember Prop 13 and all the tax rebellions of the 1970s? Our chickens have come home to roost, unfortunately, they've been programmed by the Republicans to support things that are directly against the best interests of this group. Race does have some role, of course, because many of these older people have deep-seated, but often unacknowledged, suspicions or resentments against immigrants and minorities. They are fed up with the more open lifestyle that resulted from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, more divorce, more "non-denominational" churches, less religion, more open lifestyles for Gays and others. They feel threatened, we also have the 24 hours news cycle, and increased international terrorism. They are scared. And then there is the loss of higher paying jobs in the economy, the huge debt and the budget and trade deficits. Things are not very good, you would be a fool not to see that. Their response is to think that ordinary people have a better knowledge and understanding of the world and government. It really isn't true, but it is easy to see how it might be true, because the people who are supposed to know what they are doing have made a royal mess of it. The problem is, when these "Common Sense" folks get their way, things get even more screwed up. Sometimes, I think we're dooomed, doomed by our own good intentions, but doomed.
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    • Author by classicliberal2 (October 27, 2010 11:04 am ET)
      5 1
      The teabagger "movement" is treated, in the press and in punditry, as a major force in American politics, when, actually, it's nothing more than it ever was--a microscopic astroturf project. If you could remove from the equation FreedomWorks, Americans For Prosperity, Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and the other Big Money front-groups, you wouldn't have anything. You barely have anything now, in spite of the fortune spent to create the impression of a "movement." I've been complaining about the polling with regard to the teabaggers for quite some time, now. The polling makes it appear to be a significant group, but hidden between the lines of that polling is the truth--it barely even registers. Fox News didn't start it, but it definitely built it, and its de facto free advertising (which, by this point, would probably amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, at regular rates--there's your "grassroots") is the glue that holds it together.

      Left Hook!
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    • Author by Russ139 (October 27, 2010 3:00 pm ET)
      Fox News is the Tea Party.
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    • Author by danthedanimal (October 28, 2010 2:44 am ET)
      Umm since that is the only group the Teapartiers won't run away from for an interview... that answers that question.
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