Likely Voters Say Tea Partiers More Ethical, Understand Issues Better Than Members of Congress, Poll Finds

By Christopher Neefus | March 30, 2010 | 11:24 AM EDT

Protesters hold handmade signs at their march on Washington on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2009. ( Starr)

( – A new national poll indicates that the voting public thinks members of the Tea Party movement are more ethical and know the issues facing Americans better than members of Congress.
Rasmussen Reports, which administered the poll, found that while the media may treat the Tea Party movement as a fringe element in society, voters across the nation "feel closer to the Tea Party movement than they do to Congress.”
The pollster asked likely voters: “Who has a better understanding of the problems America faces today -- the average Tea Party member or the average member of Congress?”
Fifty-two (52) percent said the average Tea Party member would know better, while only 30 percent favored the average member of Congress.
The poll was conducted just a week after Congress passed the health-care reform bill in the face of consistent opposition from the public. During the debate, GOP members accused Democrats of not having read the bill on which they were prepared to vote in favor, and pointed out that Americans wanted more action on job creation instead.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) bellowed on the House floor ahead of its passage, “Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment? Hell, no, you haven’t!”
The poll results, though, seem to suggest Americans think members on both sides of the aisle do not understand the issues facing the country, but that the Tea Party is addressing them.
In the same survey, respondents were asked, “Who is more ethical -- the average Tea Party member or the average member of Congress?”
A surprising 46 percent said the average Tea Party member was more ethical, with 27 percent choosing instead the average member of Congress. Another 18 percent said they were unsure.
Those numbers came on the heels of a spate of ethical questions that emerged among members of Congress in recent months.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was admonished by the Ethics Committee in February for accepting trips to the Caribbean furnished by companies that employ lobbyists. The committee said it could not prove Rangel knew of the violation, but was also investigating other possible indiscretions including tax evasion.
The following week, it came to light that Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) was also under investigation for allegedly harassing male members of his staff. Massa admitted on the Glen Beck program that he did indeed “grope” male staffers.
The public’s belief that Tea Partiers are informed and ethical seems to contradict the suggestion that they are a group of fringe radicals resorting to threats of violence in the wake of the passage of health care reform.
In fact, the numbers hewed closely to the 47-26 plurality that finds the views of the average Tea Party member to be closer to their own than that of the average member of Congress. That includes a full 28 percent of Democrats.
The poll of likely voters carries a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points and was conducted on March 25 and 26.