February 17th, 2010
01:12 PM ET
5 years ago

CNN Poll: Who are the Tea Party activists

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday profiles the Tea Party movement.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday profiles the Tea Party movement.

Washington (CNN) – Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday also indicates that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress. The party's GOP leanings, the poll suggests, may pose a problem for the Tea Party movement if it tries to turn itself into a third party to compete with the two major parties in this year's general election.

Full poll results [PDF]

"If the Tea Party runs its own candidates for U.S. House, virtually every vote the Tea Party candidate gets would be siphoned from the GOP candidate, potentially allowing the Democrats to win in districts that they might have otherwise lost," says 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 survey, roughly 11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement, either by donating money, attending a rally, or taking some other active step to support the movement. Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas.

Nearly three quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than three in four call themselves conservatives.

"Keep in mind that this is a pretty small sample of Tea Party activists," notes Holland. "But even taking that into account, the demographic gaps that the poll finds between those activists and the general public on gender, education, income, ideology, and voting behavior appear to be significant differences."

The poll indicates that about 24 percent of the public generally favors the Tea Party movement but has not taken any actions such as donating money or attending a rally. Adding in the 11 percent who say they are active, a total of 35 percent could be described as Tea Party supporters. That larger group is also predominantly male, higher-income, and conservative.

Some 45 percent of all Americans say they don't know enough about the Tea Party to have a view of the movement; one in five say they oppose the Tea Party.

According to the survey, most Tea Party activists describe themselves as Independents.

"But that's slightly misleading, because 87 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their congressional district if there were no third-party candidate endorsed by the Tea Party," says Holland.

So what would happen if the Tea Party supported independent candidates for Congress?

The poll indicates that in a two-way race on the so-called "generic ballot" question, GOP candidates have a 47 percent to 45 percent edge. Throw a Tea Party candidate into the mix, and that two-point advantage becomes a 12-point deficit. That's because virtually everyone who would vote for a Tea Party candidate in a three-way contest would choose a Republican in a two-way race. The Democratic candidate gets 45 percent in both scenarios, but the GOP candidate's share of the vote drops from 47 percent in a two-way contest to just 33 percent with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot.

"Historically, that's the problem many political movements have faced if they try to become a full-fledged party. They often wind up ensuring the victory of the candidate they dislike the most," adds Holland.

Sixty-four percent of all Americans say they like the idea of a third party that would run against the Democrats and Republicans. But only 38 percent would support a third party if its presence on the ballot would mean that the winning candidate is one that disagrees with them on most major issues. According to the poll, Tea Party activists feel the same way: Only 4 in 10 favor a third party that would result in the election of candidates they don't like.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans, including 124 respondents who said they had taken active steps to support the Tea Party, such as donating money or attending a rally self. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points and plus or minus 9 percentage points for Tea Party activists only.

– CNN's Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • Popular Posts • Tea Party movement
soundoff (475 Responses)
  1. Reny

    WHAT A SHOCK! They are mostly Republican!!! Of course they are just shills for the Republican party.

    February 17, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Bob

    It's really about time Republicans got their Ralph Nader. Go Tea Party! There is no such thing as a half nazi measures! Bring your own candidates. They should probably all be white successful males in their 50s and they should hate the fact that anyone, anywhere could take away the hard earned money they amassed by putting in their time with Enron, Shell, Merrill Lynch, BankAmerica, CNA, UnitedHealthcare and the others.....

    Is anyone getting this joke? I consider myself a pretty even keel chap but nothing outrages me more than these self important jackanapes.

    February 17, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Jimmy James

    Keep dismissing them as irrelevant old white people. Martha Coakley did too. When liberals remove their blinds and see in November that America has rejected their agenda, they will need someone to blame. I notice liberals go right after the racial angle. Like name calling, crying racism is a sure sign you have lost the argument. Keep dismissing them. Yeah, they are college educated, work for a living and pay taxes. All things democrats and liberals are against. Don't these teabaggers know that liberals know whats good for them? That the government can solve all the problems with handouts and taxes?

    February 17, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Chipster

    These are people who complain about constitutional abuse because they fear that a public healthcare program will lead to Socialism. Although some of them are on Medicare and Social Security, most of them would dismantle those programs. Read their platform. They want to privatize Social Security which is just a way to dismantle it.

    Yet, these same people – so constitutionally concerned – were strangely quiet when our private communications were wiretapped by the previous administration and our telephone/email records were seized. Due process and equal protection violates didn't concern them one bit.

    The inconsistency is a mystery as are the number of them who actually think the Supreme Court and John McCain would not speak out to prevent someone from becoming President who isn't an American citizen. Flat earth comes to mind.

    February 17, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. MARK Sweeney

    FAT WHITE GREEDY RACISTS GUYS CALL THEMSELVES PATRIOTS.
    THATS WHAT HITLER CALLED THE BROWN SHIRTS.

    February 17, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Prospering Pete

    Tea Party does not equal the GOP. In fact, they should be rightfully stopping the GOP from attempting to hijack the movement for political points. Fox personalities are a poison to the true tea party movement.

    February 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. tj316

    How funny (and sad)! Where do you guys come up with this garbage? Look in the mirror and read your own disparaging comments about the Tea partiers...it sounds like it's you, and not they, who are the ignorant racists. Discount and underestimate the Tea Party Movement if you will... but you will be making the same mistake that Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of them have already made... sadly for them it's too late.

    February 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. Jim In Miami

    Teabaggers would:

    Vote for Republican candidate for U.S. House – 87%
    Vote for Democrat candidate for U.S.House – 5%
    What a surprise!
    Is anyone surprised?

    February 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. pv

    "...after all these decades of voting for people we thought would take care of our country, we've now realized that they were only looking out for themselves."

    ...and the Republicans that you are talking about fully intend to do the exact same thing if and when you put them back in power.

    They are smacking their lips....

    February 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. YBM

    I see the RAWPs are out in force. Throwing the race card as usual. He who cast stones should not live in a glass house.

    February 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. dennisk

    Tea-baggers = Ku Klux Klan without the sheets.

    February 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. John Doe

    I would be interested see how many of the 75 percent that attended college actually graduated. From what I've seen of the tea party supporters I suspect the number would be quite low.

    February 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. roflstomp

    And once again those who don't buy in to the "progressive" crap are labeled as racists and idiots- that never changes.

    And as for Holland's pitch about "But that's slightly misleading, because 87 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their congressional district if there were no third-party candidate endorsed by the Tea Party," (referencing Tea Partiers being Independents). Holland- quit commenting on your poll just to slant it a certain way. And why? Oh I forgot because when there is no viable third-party candidate, "normal" Independents are supposed to vote Democrat, right? Up yours.

    It never ceases to amaze me how these leftist idiots use one statistic to try and prove a claim no matter how baseless or without actual fact that claim is. "Majority are white, so therefore they're racist and that's why they dissapprove of Obama." Newsflash- the vast majority of people in this country are white. Also, they disagree with his policies and a lot of the anger is directed at people like Reid and Pelosi as well. "Majority are men so therefore they're against women." That majority are also loving husbands and fathers, and since Palin is so largely supported by them, that whole anti-women claim is BS also.

    February 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. american patriot

    I would rather take a chance of Electing a Third Party than to have NO choice at all and keep Electing one Party after the other.

    It obviously has gotten us no where.

    The time has come for The Constitution Party by WE THE PEOPLE.

    February 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Susan L.

    The only surprising part of this poll is that so many of them went to college. I can only assume that this statistic proves the extremely sorry state of far too many colleges in the United States. They graduated idiots like these teabaggers? Just having a college degree is obviously not very indicative of being intelligent. Or being able to spell, considering the signs you see at teabagger gatherings. Still, the poll seems like a clarion call to Captain Obvious. Angry, old, well off, white, country/ex-urban men are the backbone of the tea party "movement". In other words, as I've said from the beginning about this bunch, they are just whining and mad because they lost in 2008. Grow up, grow a pair, and get over it.

    February 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. FactCheck

    Tea Party activists are people like me – patriots who are fed up with the Feds!
    -----

    How many years did you serve in the Army? Navy?? Boy scouts??? Yeah, some patriot.

    February 17, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. YBM

    Michael in Houston February 17th, 2010 12:37 pm ET

    and how many minorities are in the tea party?
    -------------------------–
    The white minority with some others thrown in.

    February 17, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Tina, NC

    If teabaggers are Independent, name me one policy of the Democrats they support? Yeah, thought so. All the tea party is, is a far right-wing branch of the Republican party. They will never vote for a Democrat. All they will serve to do is push out moderate voices in the Republican Party. Which is good news for most Democrats.

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. Liz

    These people are anarchists! have any of them stopped to think what their lives would be like without the things our taxes pay for, like police and fire protection, paved roads, schools, safe products in our stores, etc, etc? i doubt it because i don't think thinking is their strong suit. in order to be a tea partier, you should be required to sign a form relinquishing (that's giving up for all you tea partiers) their rights to medicare, medicade, social security benefits, unemployment, or any of the other benefits the hated government provides our citizens. let's see how many would still be part of the movement if they had to put their money where their mouths are. they're a bunch of stupid hypocrites!

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. KLS

    I’m not surprised at all about this poll, just another bunch of white ultra conservative males who “hate” anyone who they deem as looking different or having views they don’t agree with.

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Sgt. USMC

    I can't believe these guys try to pass themselves off as patriots. The Bush years really did a number on them. Since when is it patriotic to pout and complain about everything under the sun? What happen to the real patriots who served honorably and saw that our men and women serving would be shown the appreciation they deserve? Since when is it patriotic to pay over $500 a ticket just to hear a loon speak, since when is it patriotic to go to Las Vegas and curse our President? since when is it patriotic to segregate Americans from so-called "real Americans"? Have your tea boys, I'm a hard working coffee drinking Marine and I support my President with honor and courage. Most importantly I will always support the Constitution of these United States especially when some rich old fart is exploiting patriotism as a means to cut his taxes.

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. aware

    The tea party movement represents a wise, informed confrontation of a pagan ideology! :)

    The very people the Progressives and the Obama administration would destroy and subsequently control! :(

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  23. markus

    "Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative..."

    yeah...I think you forgot to add WHITE...

    was "inbred" a question in the poll?

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. Hilroy

    Mr President many people are asking this question. Where were these tea party people when George Bush was President?

    Seventy five percent of whites think you should not be re-elected. Very interesting indeed because they never wanted you elected in the first place.

    Mr. president, they want their country back so give it back to them before they lynch you. No one wants to see that because we have seen fire and we have seen rain.

    February 17, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Just as I suspected the "Teabaggers" are Republicans! How amusing to see people like "stevegee" posting " ... are people like me – patriots who are fed up with the Feds!"

    FYI: ALL Americans LOVE our Country, we are ALL PATRIOTS!

    The Teabaggers are overwhelmingly Republican, few are Independents. Which is funny.

    Beware America of small groups of angry people! Once upon a time in Germany there was a small group of angry people who called themselves Nazis!

    February 17, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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