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Tea Party Is Much Like the Religious Right -- Only More So, Survey Finds

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The common view that the Tea Party movement is a rebellious, libertarian threat not only to the Republican establishment but also to traditional Christian conservatives is upended by a new survey that shows a broad overlap between the religious right and voters who identify with the Tea Party.

For example, nearly half (47 percent) of Americans who consider themselves members of the Tea Party movement also consider themselves part of the "Christian conservative movement," and among the more than 8 in 10 Tea Partiers who identify as Christian, nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) also consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement.

The biennial American Values Survey, released in Washington on Tuesday, was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and shows that two-thirds of Tea Partiers say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 45 percent say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships. That is hardly the profile of a libertarian fringe and more closely reflects the Republican base.

Tea Party, religious rightOn the other hand, just 11 percent of Americans identify with the Tea Party movement, as opposed to 22 percent who identify with the conservative Christian movement. So the Tea Party is perhaps not as large as it is vocal and visible in the media. Its political influence, however, is out of proportion to the raw numbers because Tea Partiers are angry and mobilizing for a November vote that many other groups are sitting out.

The survey was conducted on a random sample of 3,013 adults over 18 years old between Sept. 1 and Sept. 14.

Besides puncturing some myths, the research also confirms some assumptions about Tea Party followers: Notably, they tend to be white and male, Republicans and Southerners, and they watch Fox News and love Sarah Palin.

"On nearly all basic demographic characteristics, there are no significant differences between Americans who identify with the Tea Party and those who identify with the Christian conservative movement," write the authors, Robert P. Jones, head of PRRI and Daniel Cox, the institute's director of research.

Compared to the general population, for example, Tea Partiers more likely to be non-Hispanic whites (80 percent vs. 69 percent of Americans overall), and they are far more likely to be Republicans (76 percent are Republicans or lean Republican) and are planning to support GOP candidates (8 in 10).

They remain fans of Sarah Palin (80 percent favorable rating vs. mid-40s among the wider population), don't like President Obama (75 percent unfavorable) and find Fox News to be the most trusted name in news.

Indeed, 57 percent of Tea Partiers say they find Fox News to be the "most trusted source for news about politics and current events," significantly higher than Republicans overall (48 percent are Fox fans) or Christian conservatives (39 percent) or the wider population (23 percent, vs. 20 percent who favor CNN).

Some 43 percent of Tea Party followers come from the South, vs. 23 percent from the Midwest, 16 percent from the Northeast and 18 percent from the West.

In short, the profile of Tea Partiers can look much like that of some of their vocal leaders, such as Fox News personality Glenn Beck and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

Last Friday night, for instance, DeMint gave a rousing speech at a Southern Baptist church in Spartanburg, S.C., in which he managed to combine social and economic conservatism much as his base does.

The federal debt is "a moral issue," DeMint told pastors at the gathering, and "politics only works when we're realigned with our Savior." For good measure he added that homosexuals and unmarried women who sleep with their boyfriends shouldn't be classroom teachers, and he said he gets support around the country when he makes such controversial claims. "They don't want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion," DeMint said of his Tea Party backers.

One interesting difference between evangelical Protestants associated with the traditional religious right and conservatives associated with the Tea Party movement is that the Tea Partiers are somewhat less likely to attend church than white evangelicals and they are less likely to see the Bible as the literal word of God -- though they score higher on both measures than the overall U.S. population.

But though less devout, Tea Party supporters are more likely to say that "America has always been and is currently a Christian nation" -- a view held by 55 percent of Tea Partiers vs. 42 percent of the general population and 43 percent of white evangelicals. This embrace of civil religion points to a strong nationalist element that is often evident at Tea Party rallies. DeMint's vow to "take our country back," delivered to the Baptist congregation last Friday, was typical.

Tea Partiers are also far more likely than white evangelicals to believe that "minorities get too much government attention" (58 to 38 percent).

General findings from the survey also note that the economy remains the highest priority across all categories of voters, but the profile of the Tea Party movement suggests that moral conservatism and a Christian patriotism are also closely identified with the right kind of politician, one who will deliver on the movement's economic demands.

Among the general population, one finding that goes against the received wisdom is that 54 percent of voters say they are more likely to support a candidate who voted for health care reform. That includes 51 percent of independents and nearly 8 in 10 Democrats.

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westmifflin9

I am afraid for our country if Tea Partiers get anywhere near the Congress, Supreme Court, or the Executive Branch of our gov't. The evangelicals think that Mr. Obama is the anti-christ. WELL, they look like the anti-christ to normal citizens. Please God, keep them out of our government.

October 26 2010 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tnickerson08

Again the liberal media wants to label the Tea Party Members as something they are not. First they weren't a grass roots movement, then they were extreme radicals, now they are "the religious right. The media can put the spin cycle on high but the facts are clear; Repuiblicans are in and democrats are out.

October 06 2010 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tnickerson08's comment
ambacengineering

I think you need to hold an election first, before you can make that "a fact." Or are you now in favor of simply appointing our leaders?

October 15 2010 at 11:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome HERRING!

I am an independent and am not a member of the Tea Party. I am a retired school teacher and a veteran. The main component of the Tea Party's agenda that appeals to me is the force that it is lending to voting "the scoundrels out," Democrat or Republican. But, having read most of these comments from those opposed to the Tea Party, I find myself much more sympathetic to the movement. Yes, I believe that there are not sufficient reasons for me to become a Republican, and I left the Democrats because they have gone off the deep-end. It's very difficult for me to believe how filled with hatred the party has become. Today, if I was forced to choose, I would have to join the Tea Party because it best represents the views of Americans who are disgusted with the bickering and counter-productive squabbling "while Rome burns." Let us have CHANGE, but. please, let it be for the betterment of this great country.

October 06 2010 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
andrc657

Tea party candidates want to cut services to middle and lower income folks in order to give more tax cuts and other giveaways to the rich. For many Christians this is rather a perversion of the gospel message to help the poor and store up one's riches in heaven rather than here on earth.

October 06 2010 at 10:25 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to andrc657's comment
redneckjep@yahoo.com

I am a Christian and I disagree with this statement to a degree only due to the fact that I believe that we should give to the poor on our own rather than the government doing it for us. If our money is taken rather than given, we do not have a giving spirit, which is how we get our treasure in heaven. God also tells us that we should give to the poor, but the poor in the gospel were people who couldn't get any income except through begging. Having a government take money from the successful to give out to those who have lower income teaches people that they can mooch off society. We should know this and realize we don't want to depend on anything but the good Lord Jesus. I hope I wrote this to be helpful rather than arguing or condemning, if you believe your statement is still true, there is nothing I can do about it.

October 17 2010 at 10:16 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
fultzexcavating

The teaparty in general believes the government shouldn't stick their nose where it doesn't belong , let's take the BP spill for example if the minerals management service "A GOVERNMENT ORGANAZATION" had monitored bp as their job required they would have shut the rig down when the rubber seal chunks started coming up the drill pipe instead bp probably bought them a new car to look the other way! it's called corruption from bp and the gov. now the oil rigs are shut down and more regulations are sure to come,when the problem in the first place was the government employees failure to wach over the operation, now to fix it we will have more government regulation and employees who won't do their job either bp will just have to buy more cars! privatize the oversite get the gov. out they cause problem not solve them!

October 06 2010 at 10:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win". M. Ghandi

October 06 2010 at 10:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
John Vilvens

The tea party has a very simple platform. We are taxed enough already, Reduce the size and scope of federal government. Enforce all the laws do not pick and choose what they want to enforce. Protect our borders. Americans do not need a nanny.They need a government to do what it was designed to do. Not try to change its primary purpose. You want a nanny state vote liberal. You want a free society votr conservitive

October 06 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sweetbabi3

I find this article just another article written by a left wing liberal. Its somewhat right. I disagree with the male vs female thing. There are probably more women in truth. I find this survey was probably conducted by phoning in a number and information provided by whomever answered the phone. I can only tell you that I work in an office with about 2 dozen. Out of that 2 dozen about 75 percent relate to the TEA party and hate what is happening to America. We have very loud discussions. Even Democrats have moved to Independents and Republican side (I did), and see our country as moving into socialism and communism. The blacks at work think that is ok....I am finding its a culture thing. Amazing but true....I was shocked when a co-workers said communism is fine. Anything Obama does is fine with other blacks I am finding.

October 06 2010 at 6:07 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sweetbabi3's comment
starbottm

"Anything Obama does is fine with other blacks I am finding." Funny how you question and criticize the survey methods on which the article is based, yet you draw a conclusion about black people based on your discussions with a small number of them in your office.

October 06 2010 at 9:40 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
lpconman

Wow. Said as though it's a bad thing to hold the principles of God and Country up. That's "stupid," toranderson? As for supporting Bush, that's how ignorant you really are. Who on the Tea Party have you heard defend his economic policies? Only a moron would not want less government control. Unless of course, you're one of the what, 10 people who have benefited from obama's "shove -L ready" jobs!

October 06 2010 at 6:04 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sandie

When Grayson says taliban, I believe the right crazies and the birthers and the tea parters are bigots, anti American and Americas taliban. they want to fight the civil war all over again and don't like blacks, hispanic, jews, gays and anything that is not them. they will take this country back to the civil war and back to where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. they don't understand other people. they listen to lies and make them the truth and have no real love for the constitution but use it when they need it. they don't like change and they don't like what our country stands for. they are ignorant and hate intelligence. they must not win. or we will be where Germany was in the 1920's when Nazism was growing. prefudice and hatred and stupidy brought out the worst in people. I believe in a higher power but these people use organized religion as a tool for hatred and ignorance. Real Americans must stop this now and get out the vote. these are bad times.

October 06 2010 at 5:41 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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