–updated–

Polling is a powerful tool, so it’s important to let the experts do the job. However, when you have The Hill trumpeting the latest polling by the Winston Group, as well as Gallup labeling a group of Tea Party activists “fairly mainstream” when they tilt over 20 percentage points hard right, which I’ll explain in a minute, you’ll pardon me if I demure. It’s not exactly exhuming the Pumas, it’s worse. But first the rhetorical data from The Hill:

Four in 10 Tea Party members are either Democrats or Independents, according to a new national survey.

The findings provide one of the most detailed portraits to date of the grassroots movement that started last year.

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal. [...] (emphasis added)

It’s classic that The Hill calls the Winston Group “Republican-leaning.” They go on to quote David Winston: “It’s a good sample size. … It will certainly give us an initial base to follow where these folks are.”

Who is David Winston?

President, The Winston Group

Career Background

Director, Strategic Information–Republican National Committee; Senior Fellow for Statistical Policy Analysis–The Heritage Foundation; Director of Planning, Speaker’s Office, U.S. House of Representatives; Polling Editor–PollTrack of PolitcsNow–former political Web site of ABC, Washington Post, and National Journal; President, The Winston Group, a GOP polling firm.

Know your source.

Unfortunately, people rarely look further than the numbers or the political tale being spun.

Gallup has been caught notoriously over-sampling Republicans in the past. Considering that, it’s still interesting to look at some of the data compiled. Tea Party members mostly have no college or some college, though one should consider all of the blue collar workers with trades and craft talents without whom this country would fall apart. Most Tea Party members are employed and also white, which we’ve seen in other polling. The one number that is extraordinary and should be a wake up for both parties is that 34% are in the 30-49 years-old age group. Meaning they’re going to be in the voting pool for a very long time and they’re disaffected with politicians of both big parties.

All in the Gallup poll, Tea Party members are 87% against the Obama-Pelosi health care bill, 37% above the national average; with 65% also being “pro (selective) life,” which is close to 20% higher than the national average.

Gallup calls this overwhelmingly rightward tilt “fairly mainstream.” That conclusion comes with very powerful spin, which certainly isn’t neutral by anyone’s objective standard.

To add a word about the Rasmussen poll, one part of it seems clear, while other parts reveal a general lack of understanding about Tea Party views. For instance, even with people who are not focused on women’s issues, Americans across the spectrum support Roe v. Wade, which Tea Party members do not, something that isn’t fully understood, because the media is squeamish on this issue, forever tilting against women’s rights issues. With the LA Times also falling for today’s spin on the Winston Group and Gallop’s polling, it’s no wonder people are confused, even uninformed about the rightward tilt of Tea Party members. However, the Tea Party PR about taking on the current political power in Washington clearly resonates. There is damning information that the Obama White House I’m sure is finding very hard to digest.

Among voters not affiliated with either major political party, 50% say they’re closer to the Tea Party while 38% side with the President.

If you look at other polling since the health care bill passed, it’s safe to posit that the health care process, as well as the legislation itself, is where these numbers likely originate.