A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

The Republican Party is losing its foothold in the tea party movement, according to a recent survey done about the national movement. The survey was done by the Sam Adams Alliance, a free-market nonprofit research group based in Chicago.

It found that 81 percent of the early tea party members identified themselves as Republicans before joining the tea party movement, but that dropped to 51 percent afterward. And 74 percent of the newer tea party members said they were affiliated with the GOP before tea partying and that dropped to 50 percent after joining the movement.

Part of that drop may be disillusionment with the Republican Party, a spokeswoman for the Sam Adams Alliance said.

"They don't feel they are being represented by that party," said Anne Sorock, director of marketing for the Sam Adams Alliance. "Being a tea partier doesn't mean you are a Republican. It's not a synonym anymore."

Sorock said the national survey was based upon interviews with 222 self-described tea party members. Because the tea party movement is so decentralized, the authors said it was difficult to determine how big it is. So the study claims to represent a large sample of the movement but not the entire tea party.

Tina Dupont, founder of the Tea Party of West Michigan, said the Michigan tea partiers want to change the Republican Party, not leave it.

"Most of the people who were Republicans are still Republicans," Dupont said. "They are mad at the Republicans and want to fix the party. One of our main goals is to fix that party. It's really a mess. We really got a taste of that at the (GOP) convention."

Dupont said she felt the GOP convention this past weekend "didn't feel fair. It didn't feel transparent."

The delegates from the Tea Party of West Michigan put up Bill Cooper as an alternative to Brian Calley for lieutenant governor, Dupont said. She said in a press release that to not have the GOP reach out for input from tea party operatives on the choice of lieutenant governor was "disrespectful."

"I think if the (Republican) party keeps playing this way, they are asking for a real third party," Dupont said. "And it won't be a fake tea party. It will be a real one."

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