A majority of Republicans said for the first time that a third party was needed in American politics, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.
Fifty-two percent of Republicans, and an even stronger number of Tea Party supporters, support the creation of a major, third political party, underscoring the occasional tensions between grassroots conservatives and the GOP establishment.
An overall majority of Americans, 52 percent, said that a third political party was needed; the most profound shift has come among Republicans.
The number of Republicans who said that a third political party was necessary was at an all-time high since Gallup first began tracking opinion on the issue in 2003. And while support for a third party has crept steadily upward in the GOP, for the first time, it represents a majority opinion.
Supporters of the Tea Party are even more likely to back a third party, the poll found. Sixty percent of Tea Party supporters back a third party, while 32 percent say the existing two parties are adequate. By contrast, 47 percent of Tea Party opponents said the bipartisan system is adequate, and 44 percent favored a third party.
The poll isn't the first time that the specter of a Tea Party-affiliated third party has emerged. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has asked "Why not?" of a third party if voters find themselves dissatisfied with Republicans. And Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who had considered running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said he sees a third party if Republicans stray from their principles.
The prospect of a third party has already wreaked havoc in some races. In the special election for the congressional seat in New York's 26th congressional district, the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, enjoys an advantage over the Republican, Jane Corwin, who is splitting votes with Tea Party candidate Jack Davis.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in the 26th district on Monday to support Corwin.
The Gallup poll, conducted April 20-23, has a 4 percent margin of error.