Nearly one out of four Arizonans consider themselves part of the “tea party’’ movement.
And they love Jan Brewer.
Scott Rasmussen, who runs Rasmussen Reports, said Thursday the 23 percent figure for tea party members in Arizona is about the highest of anywhere in the country.
In fact, he said, the national average is only about 16 percent.
Less clear, he said, is what that means for Arizona politics, now and in the future.
“Part of what has been driving the tea party movement has been a sense that no politicians are listening,’’ Rasmussen said.
Fred Solop, who chairs the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, said some of what makes it hard to calculate is that there is no clear, defined idea of what the tea party is — and what it takes to be a part of it.
“There is no formal membership,’’ Solop noted. “Anybody can say they’re a member of the movement.’’
What the figure from the Rasmussen Reports likely tracks, he said, is the heart of the anti-tax movement, people who will not support any increase. He noted that about 35 percent of people who went to the polls last month voted against Proposition 100, which had Brewer’s support and hiked the state sales tax by a penny for the next three years to help balance the budget.
What is clearer is that Republican candidates in particular cannot ignore such a large segment of the Arizona electorate.
Despite the tea party’s anti-tax stance, Brewer appears to have locked up their support. Rasmussen said 89 percent of those who identified themselves as members of the tea party support the incumbent’s re-election, with Terry Goddard picking up just 9 percent.
And while 61 percent of Arizonans say they’re not a part of the movement, that doesn’t necessarily help the Democratic challenger.
He is favored over Brewer in that group by a margin of just 47-42 percent, a figure that, with the survey’s 4.5 percent margin of error, makes it a statistical dead heat.
Rasmussen said politicians should watch the remaining 16 percent of Arizonans.
“We’ve found all across the country there’s a sizeable number of people who tell us they’re not sure they’re part of the tea party movement,’’ he said.
“A lot of those people like some of the ideas of what they hear of the tea party,’’ Rasmussen explained.
“But they’re a little concerned about some of what they see going on.’’
Rasmussen would not spell out exactly what he thinks those voters see that makes them a bit queasy about the movement.
“I’m just telling you what the numbers say,’’ he said.
The telephone survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Tuesday.