Great theater that it provides for Our President's cheerleaders on a few cable channels notwithstanding.
Highly informed and politically active individuals are a small subset of the American public, and they are much better educated and more wealthy than the general public. A minuscule percent of Americans has attended a political rally; it's sometime like 5%. If someone knows what the tea party movement is, even if they haven't even gone to one of their rallies, they represent a small, elite fraction of the American public.
The New York Times failed to compare Tea Party supporters with other politically involved Americans. So, their findings about the comparative wealth and education of the Tea Party supporters are meaningless.
SELF-SELECTION. Elites, not masses, rule America (apologies to Dye and Ziegler). That's no more and no less true of Tea Party adherents than it is of any other collection of politically active people.