Perceptions of the Tea Party

The movement has been called partly conservative, partly libertarian, and partly populist. As stated before, opinions in terms of the U.S. major political parties plays a large role in terms of attitudes about the tea party movement, with one study finding that 20% of self-identified Republicans personally view themselves as part of the tea party..

The movement has sponsored protests and supported political candidates circa 2009. Since the movement's inception, in the late 00's, left wing groups have accused the party of racism and intolerance. Left leaning opponents have cited various incidents as evidence that the movement is, in their opinion, propelled by various forms of bigotry. Supporters say the incidents are isolated acts attributable to a small fringe that is not representative of the movement. Accusations that the news media are biased either for or against the movement are common, while polls and surveys have been faced with issues regarding the population surveyed, and the meaningfulness of poll results from disparate groups..

Although the Tea Party has a libertarian element in terms of some issue convictions, most American libertarians do not support the movement enough to identify with it. A 2013 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 61% of identified libertarians stated they did not consider themselves part of the tea party. This split exists due to the strong Christian right influence in the movement, which puts the majority of the tea party movement at direct odds against libertarians on issues such as the war on drugs (with the aforementioned survey finding that 71% of libertarians support legalizing marijuana). Some libertarian leaning supporters have grown increasingly annoyed by the influx of religious social issues into the movement. Many in the movement would prefer the complex social issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and religion to be left out of the discussion, while instead increasing the focus on limited government and states' rights.
According to a review in Publishers Weekly published in 2012, professor Ronald P. Formisano in The Tea Party: A Brief History provides an 'even-handed perspective on and clarifying misconceptions about America’s recent political phenomenon' since 'party supporters are not isolated zealots, and may, like other Americans, only want to gain control over their destinies'. Professor Formisano sees underlying social roots and draws a parallel between the tea party movement and past support for independent candidate Ross Perot,[269] a similar point to that made in Forbes as mentioned earlier..