ANNAPOLIS – Despite national polls showing tea party support at record lows as a result of the government shutdown, Maryland’s largest tea party organization said it has drawn new members.
Sam Hale, a Linthicum resident who founded the Maryland Society of Patriots, said, “I wasn’t doing any advertising for my group, we didn’t have a meeting, and I picked up 80 members on Facebook.”
The group currently has nearly 1,700 Facebook members and more than 3,000 people subscribe to its email list, Hale said.
Hale attributes the increase in support to media attention the tea party received as a result of the 16-day government shutdown.
Despite the increase Hale said he doesn’t believe it will affect the political landscape in Maryland.
“There hasn’t been a really big impact at the statewide level,” Hale said of tea party influence on Maryland politics.
According to Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College, Republicans comprise about 30 percent of voters in the state and the tea party is a small subsection of that group.
Eberly said because there are so many public sector jobs and Maryland’s economy is tied to the federal government, it’s unlikely that the tea party will gain much support.
Brian Murphy, a business investor and tea party supporter from Easton, said he thinks the Republican party is stronger now, despite polls that say otherwise.
Murphy, who was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when he ran for governor in 2010, was defeated by Bob Ehrlich in the Republican primary.
Murphy doesn’t see the tea party as a third party, but instead as part of the GOP.
“I think the Republican Party is stronger after the shutdown. I think that obviously the media is never gonna report accurately on public sentiment. We’ve just kind of gotten used to that,” Murphy said.
According to Murphy, a national survey taken after the shutdown asked questions in an unfair way and as a result doesn’t reflect American views accurately.
“It’s very disingenuous for people to quote these polls as if the Republican party is within extinction when the polls were skewed,” he said, calling the pollsters’ questions “misleading.”
Several recent polls indicate views of the tea party movement and the Republican Party at historic lows.
A Pew Research Center poll published Oct. 16, showed a decrease in tea party favorability across party lines. Nearly 45 percent of the public has an unfavorable opinion of the tea party, an increase of 4 percent since June, with a 3 percent margin of error.
Among liberal and moderate Republicans, those with a favorable view of the tea party dropped 19 percent since June, to 27 percent, with a margin of error of 6 percent, according to the Pew report. Meanwhile, the amount of conservative Republicans with a favorable view of the party decreased 9 percentage points, to 65 percent, with a 6 percent margin of error.
Capital News Service’s Colleen Wilson contributed to this report.