Date of Thesis



The recent rise of the Tea Party movement has added a new dimension to our discussion of domestic politics. The main question is: what effect will the Tea Party have on the political landscape? The best way to answer this question is to place the Tea Party in historical and theoretical context, in order to discuss what type of social movement the Tea Party is and what impact it might have. To this end, I will define and discuss the two major literatures in socialmovement theory: Issue Evolution and Political Process theory. This theoretical framework will provide the basis for a more concrete definition of the Tea Party movement itself. I will attemptto define the Tea Party movement based on its demographics, goals and political successes and will discuss it within the context of this theoretical framework. In addition, I will discuss four landmark social movements within our country’s history through the lens of the theoretical framework. I have found that successful movements rely on a combination of internal organizations and networks and external political opportunities to achieve and maintain nationalrelevance. In the end, I will come to the conclusion that the Tea Party will not likely have a major lasting impact on the political arena. It lacks key parts of the internal structure that makes some movements, such as the Civil Rights movement, so influential. But in the short term it will succeed in pushing the Republican Party towards a more fiscally conservative position.


Tea Party, American Politics, Social Movements, Public Opinion

Access Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Chris Ellis