Gomez: No tea for me, thanks.

Polling suggests that openly courting the Tea Party in Massachusetts would come with a heavier political price this year than it did when Scott Brown first ran in 2010.

In the 2010 special US Senate election, enthusiasm from the nascent Tea Party movement helped propel Scott Brown past Martha Coakley. In the 2013 special election, the Tea Party is nowhere to be found, and Gabriel Gomez isn’t exactly turning over rocks looking for it. To be sure, there is a whiff of Tea Party-style anti-establishmentarianism in Gomez’s plan to “Reboot Congress,” his digs at Markey’s decades-long tenure in Washington, and his Chevy Chase address. But Gomez’s rhetoric about compromise is a far cry from Brown’s defiant promise to be the deciding vote against Obamacare in 2010.

Is Gomez missing an opportunity to rally the conservative base?  Perhaps, but our polling suggests openly courting the Tea Party in Massachusetts would come with a heavier political price this year than in 2010. The political dynamic has fundamentally shifted from 2010, when Brown was able to tap into Tea Party support without risking significant blowback from the unenrolled voters he needed to secure victory. Today, the Tea Party is a known (and largely disliked) quantity in Massachusetts, and by pursuing Tea Party support Gomez risks alienating the unenrolled voters and conservative Democrats he needs to catch Markey.

While not at its nadir (recorded in October 2012, during the presidential race), the Tea Party is far less popular in Massachusetts than it once was. The Tea Party is now seen favorably by just 22 percent of likely voters in the upcoming election, less than half the number who see the group favorably. This represents a sharp downturn from late 2010, when the movement was relatively new and less clearly defined as exclusively conservative.  At that time, slightly more Bay Staters held a favorable view (37 percent) of the Tea Party than unfavorable (35 percent). Among the all-important unenrolled voters, the ratio was 45 percent favorable to 33 percent favorable. In our new poll released this week, just a quarter of unenrolled voters view the Tea Party favorably, a 20 percent drop in just under 3 years.

National polls on the question show a similar trend, and reach back a bit further. The earliest Tea Party poll on pollingreport.com was fielded the week before the Brown-Coakley election. It found a majority of registered voters nationally (58 percent) said they hadn’t heard enough about the Tea Party to form an opinion. With numbers like those, one could make the case that Scott Brown thrust the Tea Party into the national spotlight as much as the other way around.

Meet the Author

Steve Koczela

President, MassINC Polling Group

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

Meet the Author

Rich Parr

Research Director, The MassINC Polling Group

About Rich Parr

Richard Parr is Research Director with The MassINC Polling Group. Rich contributes a deep familiarity with Massachusetts policies, politics and media, as well as a background in public policy and media.

Since joining MPG in 2013, Rich has taken primary responsibility for data processing and contributes to survey and sample design. He uses his background in policy and media to craft and edit analysis memos and reports attuned to the political context and salient issues. Rich oversaw data visualization and mapping for WBUR’s Poll Vault during the 2014 election cycle, and co-authored and edited several piece for the site.

Prior to joining MPG, Rich was Policy Director at A Better City, a nonprofit representing Boston-area businesses and institutions on transportation, land development and the environment. In that role Rich became a recognized expert on transportation finance and helped organize a statewide coalition which succeeded in elevating transportation to a top legislative priority. He launched and edited ABC’s blog and oversaw its social media presence. Rich continues to work on transportation projects in his spare time and for MassINC, MPG’s parent think-tank. He is a member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Legislative Committee and the Boston Bikes Advisory Group, for which MPG has conducted pro-bono analysis.

Before joining ABC, Rich produced web content for the award-winning PBS documentary series FRONTLINE. He has also worked in new media for political campaigns and in media operations for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Rich holds a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from Harvard College.

About Rich Parr

Richard Parr is Research Director with The MassINC Polling Group. Rich contributes a deep familiarity with Massachusetts policies, politics and media, as well as a background in public policy and media.

Since joining MPG in 2013, Rich has taken primary responsibility for data processing and contributes to survey and sample design. He uses his background in policy and media to craft and edit analysis memos and reports attuned to the political context and salient issues. Rich oversaw data visualization and mapping for WBUR’s Poll Vault during the 2014 election cycle, and co-authored and edited several piece for the site.

Prior to joining MPG, Rich was Policy Director at A Better City, a nonprofit representing Boston-area businesses and institutions on transportation, land development and the environment. In that role Rich became a recognized expert on transportation finance and helped organize a statewide coalition which succeeded in elevating transportation to a top legislative priority. He launched and edited ABC’s blog and oversaw its social media presence. Rich continues to work on transportation projects in his spare time and for MassINC, MPG’s parent think-tank. He is a member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Legislative Committee and the Boston Bikes Advisory Group, for which MPG has conducted pro-bono analysis.

Before joining ABC, Rich produced web content for the award-winning PBS documentary series FRONTLINE. He has also worked in new media for political campaigns and in media operations for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Rich holds a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from Harvard College.

Of course, ignoring the Tea Party and labeling oneself a new kind of Republican risks turning off other Republicans, and, according to our poll, Gomez may be doing just that. Only 80 percent of Republicans in our most recent poll plan to vote for him, on par with a series of other polls showing the same dynamic. By comparison, both Brown and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker carried 90 percent or more of the state’s Republicans in their respective elections.

If Gomez loses, he’ll be criticized by some in his party for failing to engage his base. But the polls suggest he may have little choice but to pursue his current strategy. The Tea Party in 2013 is simply not the Tea Party Scott Brown tapped into in 2010. And absent a groundswell of conservative enthusiasm and simultaneous support from unenrolled voters, it’s unclear how Gomez – or any Republican, including Brown – wins a statewide election in Massachusetts.