Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 7 > Issue 2

The Tea Party Movement and the Geography of Collective Action

Wendy K. Tam Cho, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wendycho@illinois.edu , James G. Gimpel, University of Maryland, jgimpel@gvpt.umd.edu , Daron R. Shaw, University of Texas–Austin, dshaw@austin.utexas.edu
Suggested Citation
Wendy K. Tam Cho, James G. Gimpel and Daron R. Shaw (2012), "The Tea Party Movement and the Geography of Collective Action", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 7: No. 2, pp 105-133. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00011051

Publication Date: 06 Apr 2012
© 2012 W. K. T. Cho, J. G. Gimpel and D. R. Shaw
Voting behavior,  Public opinion,  Social movements,  Interest groups


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In this article:
Origins of the Movement 
Geographic Imprints of Tea Party Activity 
Geographic Patterns of Strategically Coordinated Activity 
Geographic Patterns of Expressive Activity 
Expectations and Hypotheses 
The Events Data 
A Look at Mass Support in Early 2010 
Geographic Models of Tea Party Activity 
Results of Estimation 


We examine the geography of the Tea Party movement by drawing upon a unique data source that harvested thousands of events from the Meetup.org and Tea Party Patriots websites during the latter half of 2010. The spatial distribution of events strongly suggests that Tea Party activism was borne out of economic grievance, as it corresponds quite closely to the incidence of home foreclosures. The findings more generally reinforce the impression that Tea Party activists varied in the extent of their broader political vision and strategic acumen. On the one hand, many gathered together to express dissent and make their opposition identity known wherever they happened to live. But some did unite with like-minded groups to direct their activity toward defeating incumbents, capturing open seats, and electing their own candidates, possibly altering the outcome in a number of elections, primary and general. A geographic perspective on movement activism reveals that while not remarkably strategic with respect to the 2010 elections, Tea Party protest was not purely expressive either.