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. Rustman

    I'm glad this poll confirmed my suspicions, that the Tea Party people are the ones that can actually see what is happening to our country. They are not radicals. I'm not quite sure when supporting the Constitution became a "radical" position.

    February 17, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. Alabama

    I don't care what anyone says. This crap came about because we have a black man as a president and those ignore folks are just coming out the closet. We need to see if some of the tea baggers are our neighbors or co-workers. Put their business out there, and see how others feel about them. You can say, oh no another racist remark but the truth is the truth. And guess what, it hurts to hear it. This mess is not going to get any better until those repub works with President Obama. Now go tea bag on that!

    February 17, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. Bill or Vin from Philly

    They are nothing but a bunch of white people who lived a sheltered rural life that haven't seen the rest of this country. I would love to see them work at a minimum wage with no health insurance and see how long they would be protesting in DC, the bible says love they neighbor as themselves the only thing they love is money they are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites

    February 17, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. wake up

    Quit the race-baiting! 99.9% of the people don't care about Obama being black...they care about him being a bad president. I'm so sick of the cop-outs. Obama is a retread of Jimmy Carter...and other big govt policies that have been proven wrong throughout the world, throughout history. Obama is a fraud and you lemmings just eat him up.

    February 17, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. Vincent Petrosino

    What do people NOT understand about the "Tea Party" activists? They are predominately white males from rural areas in this country. They are racists. They are unread, ignorant people who see the power of White people being threatened and they are hanging on for dear life. They are older and call themselves "christian" conservatives. They are hypocrites who are not concerned about the younger generation and they are reactionary. The past will always be the best. They will create such an atmosphere of irreconciliation that the only recourse is civil unrest. And when this unrest arrives, it will pit die-hard rural whites and white blue collar workers against people of all colors, the young, the educated, the experienced, the intellectuals and the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual populations.

    February 17, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  6. EC

    Tea Party Activist are people that can't stand the fact that we have an AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESIDENT. Bottom line.

    This has absolutely NOTHING to do about BIG GOVERNMENT, SOCIALISM, HEALTHCARE REFORM, etc.

    WHERE were ALL these Tea Party Bagger and Activist during the BUSH/CHENEY, REAGAN, Years?

    WHERE was ALL their concerns about BIG GOVERNMENT, SOCIALISM, TAXES, etc. 8-20+ years ago OR during any other WHITE PRESIDENT? WHERE?

    President Obama is NOT the first President to propose the issues he's proposing as President. President Obama is NOT doing anything different from any PREVIOUS WHITE PRESIDENT before him.

    This is ALL about WHITE FOLKS using the excuse of "TEA BAGGING" to go against a BLACK SITTING PRESIDENT.

    Just take a good CLOSE LOOK at the Tea Baggers across this country. WHAT DO YOU SEE? EVERY FACE IS WHITE, WHITE, WHITE!!! What's wrong with this picture? These organizations are starting to resemble those KKK rallies back in the days, but just like the KKKs wore sheets over their heads to HIDE their identities, these days WHITE FOLKS just use excuses of "tea bagging" as the sheets over their heads.

    RIGHT-WINGED WHITE RADICALS have always HID BEHIND THEIR TRUE INTENTIONS by using any excuse possible. They use certain "covert words" as if THAT excuses their racist intent or mentality.

    Minorities KNOW BETTER, they know all these "tea bagging" BS is directed towards OUR BLACK President out of hatred, hypocrisy, vindictiveness, bitterness, bigotry and racists intent.

    It's all just a bunch of white people AFRAID of a black sitting President. FEAR BREEDS MORE FEAR and IGNORANCE.

    February 17, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. Lisa P

    stevegee February 17th, 2010 12:12 pm ET
    And 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.

    It's time for us to clean out Congress and purge it of liberals and bureaucrats.

    But stevegee you never voted for the liberals; you voted for the self-serving, lying conservatives, presumably because you thought it would fatten your own pocketbook. Well, surprise! Maybe if you had voted on the liberal principle that we're all in this together (or as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently put it, "We must hang together or surely we will all hang separately") we wouldn't be this mess.

    February 17, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  8. Nick

    Why don't people just pretend their taxes go only to the causes/things they support (military, the arts, public schools, medicare/medicaid)? How's that? Problem solved! Now, move on with your life.

    February 17, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  9. TexasDem

    According to this article, "Nearly three quarters of Tea Party activists attended college". If three quarters of the Tea Baggers went to college why are their signs always misspelled? "This prezident is uh sozialst" and "Gie us me mone back"...they must have attended the University of Backwood Education and Glitter Sign Making.

    February 17, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  10. John

    I agree with many of the folks that commented CNN only highlighted by their survey what was already pretty clear about those who are tea-party participants; A bunch of noise if you ask me. It is usually what happens when something is about to come to an end. They fight as hard as they can to maintain their society. Sad thing is, they have already lost it. They are swinging at air. The world they knew only exist in the narrow recesses of their minds. Good luck teabaggers!

    February 17, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Rob

    I love the deriding the libs do. The funny thing is that consistently, polls show that only 20% of America is liberal. They spout off about the Tea Party being a "laughing stock", but they have a higher "regard" rating in America (45%) than either the Dems or Repubs. The very people who are claiming that the Tea Partiers are "radicals" are indeed radicals themselves. Obama's approval rating and the conservative victories in VA, NJ, and MA show this clearly.

    February 17, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. Liberal wing nut

    The tea party is being successful at bringing fiscal conservative issues back to the table.

    Funny how CNN never mentions the left wing liberal and moderate democrat split we are seeing right now..

    February 17, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. John

    So in other words it's a whole lot of white people? Tell us something we didn't know.

    February 17, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. Aaron Seattle

    Stevegee: You are part of the problem not the solution. YES politicians are corrupt, self serving people but if your Tea Party wants to include more than just white pompous windbags w/ nothing better to do than shout at the rain than I suggest realize that it's both parties which are the problem. Liberals are not your enemy, conservatives are not your enemy....The talking heads like Olberman and Beck are the enemy, people who want to pit us against each other by saying "if your not with us than your against us" are your enemy, politicians who don't follow through on campaign promises are the enemy and are constantly covering up things (BUSH) are the enemy, people who want you to live in constant fear are the enemy. You Tea Parties don't understand that you are the product of manufactured rage of Fox News, otherwise you would have been mad YEARS ago when actual experts were warning of this and all you people did was snub your noses at them.

    February 17, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Get a Job

    Whatever race you are, you lefties, need to quit sponging off govt. We, the workers and successful, are sick of supporting the lazy and unwilling. King Barack will not save you. He will lie and promise the world, while indebting the country and making us forever poorer!!

    I'm sick of supporting the lazy and unwilling.

    February 17, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. susanj

    The Tea Party people to me are nothing but racists, and dumber than dirt.

    February 17, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. notfooledbydistractions

    White, low IQ, uneducated, middle aged to elderly and gullible as sin.

    I keep hoping they wake up and realized how badly they're being duped by the lobbyists, but I fear that they don't have the sense God gave them, and they're blindly bitter which is also clouding their judgement.

    But you know, they'll be in good company in the "lemmings that have been used" by the republican party group – they can commiserate with the evangelicals who bush used to get elected and then tossed like a dirty diaper.

    February 17, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. Ron in California

    Wow! Lefties whats up...every group has it's loons and wing nuts. Not all white middle aged people are are racist, religious nuts, haters etc.

    I haven't made up my mind about the Tea Party...but I have worked hard and saved and built up a nice nest egg. I don't want to have it taxed away. Nor do I want to give up my social Security or Medicare that I have paid into for 42 years. I feel that the Democrats are target ing folks just like me to tax away my years of hard work and sacrfice to get where I am. I'm just not crazy about the policies of the current administration.

    February 17, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. Tom C

    Ok, let's give them what they want. Want to cut the size of government, fine, let's get rid of social security, medicare, unemployment first. Let the big capitalistic corporations come up with a plan. 2nd, when the banks blow their money, let them fail. When the roads and bridges start crumbling let those same capitalistic companies repair them. In the mean time we will have lower taxes, no jobs, and starving people because those greedy private large corporations don't care.

    We can also go to the Robocop future and let these companies run our police force and firefighters. We can get rid of their unions and have them risk their lives for half the price. In fact let's cut out all unions so these companies can dictate what they will pay, which will be less.

    Tea Party activists want unchecked capitalism and let's let em have it, 100%. They do not want the other side, they believe they are 100% right all the time. Never made a mistake, just like good ole George W. What a pathetic group of people to think they are right and that God is on their side and nobody elses. Sorry, I want no part of it.

    February 17, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Bob

    Their party lost and, oh my , oh my, a B-k man is president. Just a bunch of white racists. Lots of talk– no solutions–. In my part of the country we call it All Hat and no Cattle.

    February 17, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  21. Duane

    I see the libs want to know how many mnorities are in the Tea Party…..great question…..I don’t think very many. Why you ask? Here are some theories. Minorities voted for Obama because he was a minority, no other reason, just “he’s black!” (See, if we whites do that we are racist lol). Oh yeah, they also thought he would save them, you know what I mean libs….promise them free stuff….healthcare, stimulus money, Cash for clunkers, silly crap like that. The Tea party is not giving away anything for free, so why would most minorities join? Lol……………..oh, one last thing…the Tea Party does not hate the rich…we understand that making money and being successful is a good thing and that these are the people that REALLY create jobs and create opportunity, not the government. Being rich is good, greed is good, being dumb and poor…not good. :o) lol……….deal with it.

    February 17, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  22. johnnie w

    The tea baggers are the Republican Party, they are just TRYING to use a Different NAME, because NO ONE want to be LABELED as a REPUBLICAN....

    February 17, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. John

    Rural and upscale.....lol! How often do you hear that?
    Someone should tell these people barber college, burger and walmart universities don't count. Hazelton, ND has a population of 250, more than half follow the tea party, and the average income is $17K a year. These aren't "upscale" people. They're poor, welfare needing, uneducated followers!

    February 17, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. Mike

    I find the part about the majority being college educated very hard to believe. White & rural – definitely. I want to know where their anger was during 8 years of George Jr ruining the country.

    February 17, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Dave in Houston

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

    and how many minorities are in the tea party?
    --------------------–
    When 97 pecent of a race votes for the candidate that is there own color, how many do you expect to be there? And its all a racist white man problem.
    Change Washington, no more politics as usual. Isn’t that what president Obama promised?
    So they vote on bills they haven’t even read, grease palms to get what they want. Closed door meetings to keep what they’re doing away from the public view.
    The list just goes on and on. It doesn’t take a high IQ to figure out the anger. must be why you all dont understand.
    All you libs can say is Racist, dumb redneck white kkk members.
    Liberals didn’t get Obama in office! It was the moderates and some conservatives who did.
    They were tired of the bs from the last administration.
    Remember change and hope?
    It’s the same bs now as before but its ok cause it’s a lib doing it now?
    Makes me wonder who the stupid really are.
    Is it grape or cherry today

    February 17, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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