Of all the data points from the recent mega-poll of tea party members, one stands supreme to Nate Silver: They really like Glenn Beck. "Do the math, and you'll find that 59% of those who do think highly of Beck consider themselves a part of the tea party. This is, in fact, the single biggest differentiator of any of the items that the NYT asked about: not ideology, not any particular political belief, but whom they watch on television."
It's too simplistic to say the tea party is an "offshoot of Fox News," Silver writes for FiveThirtyEight, but the network—and Beck in particular—are "intimately intertwined" with it. That he's become one of the movement's "prominent voices may help to explain why the tea parties have become so influential, and why public opinion appears to have shifted so dramatically within the past 18 months. Fox may, or may not, have a role in directly promoting the tea parties. But its opinion programming has become the water-cooler around which the tea partiers gather."