Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-m8s7h Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T20:36:39.970Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Reading the Tea Leaves: Understanding Tea Party Caucus Membership in the US House of Representatives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2012

Bryan T. Gervais
University of Maryland
Irwin L. Morris
University of Maryland


In the summer of 2010, 52 Republican members of the US House of Representatives joined the newly formed Tea Party Caucus, bringing the first institutional voice to the Tea Party movement. To understand both the policy orientations of the organized Tea Party (in its caucus manifestation) and the institutional strength of the caucus's membership, we assess the extent to which caucus members are distinctive from their fellow Republicans in the US House of Representatives. Our results suggest that membership in the caucus is primarily driven by ideology and economics. Specifically, we find that Tea Party Caucus members are Republicans who are ideologically oriented toward limited government and lower taxes and who hail from particularly prosperous congressional districts. We find no evidence that Tea Party Caucus members serve safer districts or have greater seniority or institutional stature than their Republican colleagues who are not members of the caucus. These findings, we believe, speak not only to the nature and orientations of the Tea Party Caucus, but to the wider Tea Party movement itself.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Achen, Christopher H. 1977. “Measuring Representation: Perils of the Correlation Coefficient.” American Journal of Political Science 21: 805–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Achen, Christopher H. 1978. “Measuring Representation.” American Journal of Political Science 22: 475510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ainsworth, Scott H., and Akins, F.. 1997. “The Informational Role of Caucuses in the U.S. Congress.” American Politics Research 25: 407–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, and Jones, Philip Edward. 2010. “Constituents' Responses to Congressional Roll-Call Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 54: 583–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bafumi, Joseph, and Herron, Michael C.. 2010. “Leapfrog Representation and Extremism: A Study of American Voters and Their Members of Congress.” American Political Science Review 104: 519–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carson, Jamie L., Lebo, Matthew J., and Young, Everett. 2010. “The Electoral Costs of Party Loyalty in Congress.” American Journal of Political Science 54: 598616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fenno, Richard E. Jr. 1978. Homestyle: House Members in Their Districts. New York: Scott Foresman & Company.Google Scholar
Hammond, Susan Webb. 1998. Congressional Caucuses in National Policy Making. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herzenhorn, David. 2010. “Congress Now Has a Tea Party Caucus.” The Caucus: The Politics and Government Blog of the Times, July 20. Scholar
Mayhew, David. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Menard, Scott. 2001. Applied Logistic Regression Analysis (Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences). 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Milbank, Dana. 2010. “ComPost: Mulligan: Bachmann and Scalia, Together at Last.” The Washington Post, January 16. Scholar
Miller, Arthur, and Stokes, Donald. 1963. “Constituency Influence in Congress.” American Political Science Review 57: 56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
The New York Times. 2011. “Times Topics: Tea Party Movement,” Last updated: January 4. [Accessed January 5, 2011].Google Scholar
Peltzman, Samuel. 1984. “Constituent Interest and Congressional Voting.” Journal of Law & Economics 27: 181210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 1991. “Patterns of Congressional Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 35: 228–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2001. “D-Nominate after 10 Years: A Comparative Update to Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll-Call Voting.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 26 (1): 529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Victor, Jennifer, and Ringe, Nils. 2009. “The Social Utility of Informal Institutions: Caucuses as Networks in the 110th United States House of Representatives.” American Politics Research 37 (5): 742–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zernike, Kate. 2010a. “Tea Party Disputes Take Toll on Convention.” The New York Times, January 25. Scholar
Zernike, Kate. 2010b. “Unlikely Activist Who Got to the Tea Party Early.” The New York Times, February 27. Scholar
Zernike, Kate. 2010c. “Tea Party Comes to Power on an Unclear Mandate.” The New York Times, November 2. Scholar
Zernike, Kate, and Thee-Brenan, Megan. 2010. “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.” The New York Times, April 14. Scholar