Washington (CNN) - Democrats will get a boost if the Tea Party movement fields its own candidates in this year's Congressional elections, according to a new national poll.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday morning also indicates that the 13 percent of American voters who say they are part of the Tea Party movement tend to be mainly white and Republican.
According to the poll, Americans say they'll vote for a Republican over a Democrat in the November elections by a 44 to 39 percent margin.
But the addition of a Tea Party candidate to the ballot changes the dynamic: The Republican candidate drops dramatically to 25 percent and the Democrat only slightly to 36 percent, while 15 percent would back the Tea Party candidate.
"The Tea Party could be a Republican dream - or a GOP nightmare. Members could be a boon to the GOP if they are energized to support Republican candidates," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But if the Tea Party were to run its own candidates for office, any votes its candidate received would to a very great extent be coming from the GOP column."
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last month also indicated that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress, and if they ran their own candidates it would hurt the Republican Party.
"Virtually every vote the Tea Party candidate gets in a hypothetical three-way race would be siphoned from the GOP candidate, potentially allowing the Democrats to win in districts that they might have otherwise lost," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "While the concept of an independent third party is extremely popular, most Americans, including most Tea Party supporters, don't favor a third party that would result in a winner who disagrees with them on most major issues."
According to the Quinnipiac University poll, nearly three-quarters of the voters who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement say they are Republicans or Independents who lean Republican, and just 16 percent say they are Democrats or Independents who lean Democratic. More than 75 percent who say they are part of the Tea Party movement say they voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, and 15 percent say they voted for Barack Obama. Nearly 9 in 10 are white.
Nearly half of those questioned say they don't know enough about the Tea Party movement to form an opinion, with 28 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party and 23 percent holding a negative opinion.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 16-21, with 1,907 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone, including 253 respondents who say they are part of the Tea Party movement. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points and plus or minus 6.2 percentage points for questions only of Tea Party movement members.