Matthew Yglesias had a fine post up today about popular things in America.
It is not surprising that 3-4 out of every 10 Americans believe crazy things, but what is surprising is when these fringe beliefs are inflated by the press into a “movement” of some kind. The TeaBagger movement is a case in point. If one is generous you could cite evidence that 3 out of ten Americans are TeaBaggers (maybe 4 out of ten if you define most Republicans as TeaBaggers as well). Of course if you give a crazy idea free media it will infect more folks who believe things because they heard it on the teevee.
Yglesias points to this National dynamic with a poll out of Iowa that claims a third of Iowans say they “support the Tea Party Movement”:
55 percent of Americans say they’re personally protected by a guardian angel. 38 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Cuba and 36 percent are favorably disposed toward socialism, but I don’t see anyone writing newspaper articles about how a populist wave of socialism is sweeping the country. The number of Iowans who like the tea party movement is smaller than the number of Americans who want marijuana legalized or the number of Americans who believe the government has had secret contact with extra-terrestrials.
Polls register largish minorities of the population as saying all kinds of things. It’s very hard to know what to make of any of those polls as snapshots without some kind of context and duration over time. Do people even know what the “tea party” movement is?
As the beltway gasbags gas on about the Tea Parties and the TeaBaggers fluffed at these events by professional Republicans/Wing-nut activists like Dick Armey, Grover Norquist and the gang, I wait for somebody to put their fringe movement in some perspective. So thanks to Yglesias, I now know that they are more popular than folks who believe in Reincarnation but less popular than folks who believe in UFOs.
Somehow, I’m sure that this is all very good news for John McCain.
…and yes, feel free to use this as an open thread. I’m going to go outside and measure the snow.