February 17th, 2010
01:12 PM ET
4 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. Eddie

    I just LOVE it when you Left Liberals attempt to discredit the Tea Party movement.....it is much more than a "potential" third party .....it is an "AWAKENING" of people just like me who are horrified at the direction the democrats, and more especially your supreme leader, Obama, is trying to take this "Nation Under God"....into a socaialist nation with a "redistribution of the wealth"! We will not stand idlely by while it happens!
    So just keep it up and see where it gets you....I personally do not care if the Republicans/Independents or whoever win out.....they will all heed this Awakening!

    And oh yeah.....keep slandering Sarah Palin.....just like the Tea Party movement.....she too gets stronger each time you Dems show your ignorance....

    February 17, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. cathy

    The Tea Party activists are a bunch of narrow-minded, ultra-conservative Republicans who still cannot accept the fact that the Republicans lost the last presidential election to a "non-citizen, socialist, black man" in their opinion.

    Guess they were all quite happy with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld running/ruining our country for eight years.

    Since the article says that three-quarters of them are college graduates (hard to believe), that speaks volumes about the appalling state of education in our country. The dumbing down of America is nearly complete!

    February 17, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Cody

    I honestly cannot believe these comments. Liberals are so out of touch with how things actually work it makes my head spin. I have not been at all involved with these tea parties, but they are great, people standing up for what they believe in, taking advantage of their rights as American citizens.

    Seems much more admirable than anything any liberal has ever done, except step down from their positions in government because they read the writing on the wall.

    February 17, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. THE JOKE IS ON YOU

    PLEASE GIVE BACK ANY GOVERNMENT CHECKS YOUR GROUP RECEIVES..........MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY, UNEMP, DISABIL, FOOD STAMPS, AND NO MORE CRYING ABOUT LOSING YOUR HOMES...........when you stop crying and taking hand outs from the government then and only then will we listen

    February 17, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Jeff, Sarasota, FL

    Anyone can read a book and pass a test, it is being able to learn, retain and apply the knowledge afterward that separates an intelligent person for an educated fool... Colleges have pumped out educated fools forever... Perfect example is one of the big leaders of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, she has a college education, so she managed to read a book and pass a test, but as anyone with half a brain that has paid a little attention can see she, has no clue what real knowledge is or how to apply it to most things...

    Now the Tea Party is a FOR PROFIT organization, which is why the majority of the "still in office" politicians have stopped doing them.

    So, it comes right back to where it has always been, the leaders of the movement are in it for the money and the people (college educated no less) are sheep who would rather be lead by the greedy and complain afterward, than actually do anything to make changes for the better...

    All you have to do is look at what they say at the Tea Party rallies, they are all for condeming the way things are, but I hear little to no ideals to make it better, so it is the same old same old, tell everyone it needs to be different and try to get elected, then worry about the how and what after the fact instead of coming up with ideals of how to make things better NOW!!!

    February 17, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. Doug,lib jersey

    In short these tea party people are the best of this nation, and those who tell lies about them are just your typical run of the mill hate-filled, dishonest, selfish Narcicrats.

    The Narcicrat will talk about its generousity but as you can see comparing red vs. blue areas of this nation, they are the most selfish people you can find and those they hate, conservative Americans, will do all they can to help anyone who is in need of real help. This goes along with the fact that those on the right give a much higher percentage of their wealth to charity than the left does. As usual it all comes down to lib lying and conservatives being humble, fair and kind, it always does and always will. Sorry libs, I know the truth is the worst hate crime in your misguided world of hate.

    February 17, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. Steve (the real one)

    Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be........You forgot to add keeping their women barefooted, pregnant and in the kitchen.
    The three quarter of the activist might have attended college, but when you have signs that are misspelled it doesn't say much for them (i.e., consitution and my favorite instead of public opinion pubic opinion).
    Oh yes, the dumbing of America!!
    -------------–
    The irony in this post to too good to let pass. I fat finger with the best of them but when you criticize about tea party signs being mispelled at then accuse them of KEEPING THEIR WOMEN BAREFOOTED instead of barefoot?? The dumbing of America??? INDEED!

    February 17, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. MichelleIndependent

    I went to 3 tea parties held near Independence Hall in Phila. I also
    marched on 9/12 in DC.

    I used to be a Democrat and I recently left the party due to disgust.

    I can tell you that the tea parties activists are people from all walks of life,
    all political parties, all ethnic groups, and all ranges of income.

    We are just average Americans who love our country and are displeased with the massive spending and rapid growth of big government.

    February 17, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. CNN STOP BLOCKING MY COMMENTS

    PLEASE GIVE BACK ANY GOVERNMENT CHECKS YOUR GROUP RECEIVES..........MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY, UNEMP, DISABIL, FOOD STAMPS, AND NO MORE CRYING ABOUT LOSING YOUR HOMES...........when you stop crying and taking hand outs from the government then and only then will we listen

    February 17, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. JJ

    To Shara & Elmerg...You both are EXACTLY right!!! I will also say this...the Tea Party ONLY represents angry White folks who can't except a Black man as President of the U.S.A...Period!!!!!!

    February 17, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    The tea party movement was started by Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty back in 2007. There were three (I believe) tea parties during the second term of the Bush Presidency. By being a libertarian event no one noticed. Just like today where no one is noticing we are being enslaved into a plutocracy. It was then hijacked by Glenn Beck on 09/12/08 and twisted into the extreme right conservative movement. Then hijacked again by political PACs of Sarah Palin, The Club for Growth and Freedom works. Look folks if you independents want to read and know about the changes you know in your heart to be the true American values of truth, Justice and the American way, maybe you better read the Libertarian platform again.

    February 17, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. WOW - CONCERNED WOMEN

    THE TEA PARTY GROUP NEEDS TO HEAR THE TRUTH

    PLEASE GIVE BACK ANY GOVERNMENT CHECKS YOUR GROUP RECEIVES..........MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY, UNEMP, DISABIL, FOOD STAMPS, AND NO MORE CRYING ABOUT LOSING YOUR HOMES...........when you stop crying and taking hand outs from the government then and only then will we listen

    February 17, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. gary

    I hope the Tea Baggers keep it up and link themselves with Palin. Not only would it split up Republican votes, it would also push moderate Republicans (who appeal to independents) even further to the right (e.g., McCain). This, in turn, would cause many independents to vote for a Democrats or simply not vote.

    February 17, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. Nick Y

    I kind of think that we should reform the system so that both the far left and far right have their own parties and the moderates can actually work together to make workable legislation in this country. As of right now, the moderates are forced to kowtow to the radical wings of their parties, who are more focused on putting forth ideals than working to help the American People.

    February 17, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. Sgt. Flagg T. McLiberty, Superpatriot

    "Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll."

    Libertarians enjoy the luxury of forever wallowing in theory. Their ideology has never and will never be implemented, so they can talk and talk and talk without ever actually having to back up anything they say.

    February 17, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. bcords

    KKK without the hoods!!!

    February 17, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. Lisa P

    the drifter February 17th, 2010 12:40 pm ET
    In the end, it'll be obvious that the people the tea party were most angry at were actually themselves.

    Exactly!

    February 17, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. Harry8

    I think they lied about their college education. Have you seen their signs? Half the words are misspelled. Maybe they drove by a college on the way to get Teabagged. I think the percentage of normal people who view the Teabaggers unfavorably is higher than 20% too. No middle ground – you’re either with them or not insane.

    February 17, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. RW

    Interesting twist on words by the writer. He says "half are from rural areas" which also means that half are from the city. You can't "tend to be" anything if it's only half! The other thing is that the writer did NOT open with the mention of white. Only male, conservative, and rural are mentioned. Who came up with the racist rhetoric in the comments on this blog? This sounds like another writer who is trying to brand the T-party as some sort of racist, low class rural movement. More amazingly, the many of the responses to this article feed into the frenzy of racist, anti-white idealism created by the writer.

    February 17, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Buffalo Bill

    Sounds like the"Progressive" left might be OK with the Tea Partyites if they set up a government approved quota system....you know, be more inclusive, OR ELSE!

    February 17, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. TSRVT

    Mouth-breathers. I sincerely doubt 75% attended college. Heck, I'll wager that 75% couldn't even SPELL 'college'.

    February 17, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. Mesa Mick

    Hey "conservative voice"...
    With that kind of retarded post one has to ask...
    What planet you from?

    And Hey "Socialism Bad"...
    Stop your whining and cowboy up. You're not some poor white male being persecuted by the "commies" taxing you to death, you're just feeling sorry for yourself and are trying to blame anyone, anywhere at anytime. The Dems won and will continue to win, deal with it...

    February 17, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. karen

    If the Republicans really believed in less government, I would be one. Sadly, they seem to forget that they created the laws that have eroded our civil rights and our freedom as Americans.

    February 17, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Jay

    Have to answer Stevegee(the patriot). The audacity that ONLY HE and his tea party group or right wing conservatives are patriots is garbage.

    I have found that almost all extremist groups be it political or religious are the most dangerous groups to society. Because only THEIR VIEWS count. All through out history these groups have caused almost all of the sensless wars and conflicts and have murdered mass upon mass amounts of the population 'IN THE NAME OF' put in the appropriate cause.

    Thank god for the checks and balances in our government. If you don't like it pal go to Iran or China

    February 17, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Paul

    These Tea Party rabble are being hypnotized by some very special interest groups who I assume learned their tact fromntheir mentor the late Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels, the father of modern day propoganda. These people in the background which I am sure include some very powerful groups are using propoganda bites and turning good people into right wing lunetic zombies and will turn this country into the 4th Reich. I only hope the American public in their fair judgment will see these groups of what they are, wolves in lambs clothing.

    February 17, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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