Political Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 471–491 | Cite as

Blame, Responsibility, and the Tea Party in the 2010 Midterm Elections

  • John H. Aldrich
  • Bradford H. Bishop
  • Rebecca S. HatchEmail author
  • D. Sunshine Hillygus
  • David W. Rohde
Original Paper


There is a general consensus both in the news media and scholarly research that 2010 was a highly nationalized election year. Reports have indicated that anti-Obama sentiment, the Democrats’ legislative agenda, the economy, and the Tea Party were all factors contributing to Democratic losses in the congressional elections. In this paper, we use data from 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to examine the individual-level dynamics that contributed to the heightened nationalization of the 2010 congressional elections. Our analysis shows that Tea Party support and the attribution of blame and responsibility by voters are essential to understanding the 2010 election outcome, beyond what we would expect from a simple referendum model of midterm elections. Not surprisingly, Tea Party supporters blamed Democrats for the state of national affairs, disapproved of the Democrats’ policy agenda, and overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates in the congressional elections. However, our analysis shows that not all voters who supported Republican candidates were driven by high levels of opposition to President Obama and the Democrats. Another key group of voters blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the nation’s problems but ultimately held Democrats responsible in the voting booth by supporting Republican congressional candidates.


2010 Congressional elections Midterm elections Voting behavior Tea Party movement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Aldrich
    • 1
  • Bradford H. Bishop
    • 2
  • Rebecca S. Hatch
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Sunshine Hillygus
    • 1
  • David W. Rohde
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political Science and the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and EnergyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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