September 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

Poll: Tea party mostly GOP-based

More Republican men support group but influence is small

The tea party movement in Michigan appears to be primarily Republican and male and with limited influence on the state's voters, according to a Detroit News/Local 4 WDIV poll.

Nearly 59 percent of Republican voters support the tea party movement, while 8.7 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, nearly 54 percent oppose the movement, compared with 7 percent who back it.

The largest concentration of members who identify with the movement tend to live in west, southwest and northern Michigan, the poll shows.

"The tea party movement appears to be a submovement of the Republican Party," said Richard Czuba, president of Glengariff Group, which conducted the poll. "They are very much for smaller government, and socially conservative."

The prevalence of tea party supporters in the northern part of the state could help Dan Benishek, a Republican who's trying to succeed retiring Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Menominee. Backed by tea party supporters, Benishek narrowly won the Republican primary and faces state Rep. Gary McDowell in a race that's being watched nationally as a possible pick-up by Republicans.

Men support the tea party movement by a margin of 40.3 percent to 27.3 percent, while women oppose the tea party movement by a thin margin of 26.7 percent to 27 percent.

The movement has gained attention over accusations that Oakland County Democrats conspired to place candidates of a bogus Tea Party on the ballot to siphon votes from the GOP. But Czuba said there "doesn't seem to be some great outpouring amongst voters that they're going to vote for candidates the tea party backs."

The polling shows 28.6 percent of Republican voters are more likely to support a candidate with tea party backing, versus 41.5 percent of Democratic voters who say they are less likely to support such a candidate. For independents, 63.2 percent say it will make no difference.

"It seems to be largely Republican voters who are paying attention and following the tea party," Czuba said.

Tracy Wasko, who lives in Livonia and describes herself as a tea party member and registered Republican, said she's not surprised by the larger concentration of people in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula who identify with the movement.

Wasko said she's not sure how much influence the tea party movement will have on statewide races this fall but she isn't convinced it's primarily GOP-based.

"I would argue it's not a Republican movement. It's a public movement," Wasko said. "The people that are in there might more likely identify themselves with Republican ideals."