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. truth

    These people are sheetless Klan’s, and we all know the real truth. The tea party behavior is similar to that of a mob. The only news reporters who have the balls to tell the truth anymore are Rachel, Keith, and Lawrence. If these other news agencies continue to enable divisive politicians, and hate groups the nation will crumble. The tea party protesters are supported by CNN, Fox news, and Morning Joe from msnbc. These closet Republicans are willing to stoop very low to have their way, regardless of the effect it will have on American citizens.

    February 17, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Travis Lee

    This is a horrible article with no point other than to gather ratings (i.e. crossfire) Two percent of registered voters say they've given money to the tea party and yet CNN says 11% of all Americans support the Tea Party (By CNN's polling method, I suppose reading this article would also count as "active participation" in the team party). CNN is supposed to be the non-partisan news station yet this seems like CNN is trying to turn a group of protesters into the newest political party.

    February 17, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Damona

    I have a little bit of a problem with the "survey" numbers when reading this article. "11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement....". "The poll indicates that about 24 percent of the public generally favors the Tea Party movement...". "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." I, along with everyone I know, am included in "all Americans" and "the public". No one asked me or anyone I know about any of this. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say 11 percent of those polled, etc.?
    It seems like there was need for a bunch of unsubstantiated filler for this article to make it long enough to read.

    February 17, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  4. jackson

    Tea Party is made up of angry White folk, who can't stand to have a Black President. In other words the Radical Wing of the GOP.

    February 17, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. dave

    Rascism will never die. Oh, I forgot, it's not possible to be a rascist against white people. Go ahead, call me more rascist names since I am a white male!

    Liberals have to try to radicalize the Tea Party movement since they can't argue with the principles/ideas. Shall we really compare the Tea Parties with Anti-War protests or even pro-gay rights activists over who is more radical?

    February 17, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. jtom

    Tea Party members are the working middle class who end up paying for the excesses of government. If they tend to be white and conservative, then that's reflective of the demographics of the middle class. We were angry at Bush's and the incumbent Republicans' reckless spending, which is why the Republicans lost in 2008. It is also why we coined the term RINO (Republicans In Name Only), and want to drive them out of office as well.

    We have an all-inclusive tent wnd want to rein in the size, scope, and cost of the federal government. We care little about social issues except to point out that most social issues should be left to the individual states to decide. The federal government should play no role.

    The current crop of ultra-liberal Democrats has put this country on dangerous footing with their unending spending and nationalization of corporations.

    We see this movement as the last-best chance to solve this country's problems before complete collapse and anarchy. Most of us, however, are even prepared for that. If you liberal Democrats, special interest groups, Wall Street thieves, and professional welfare receipients do not regain some sense of the need to return to the basic principals that this country was founded on, then there will be a day of reckonning, and you will lose far more than those of us who are trying to keep this country from collapsing.

    February 17, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. Torch

    Why do the liberals on this board concern themselves with the color of the people at the tea party?

    What, just because you have minorities makes your party better? On the basis of what? What? does it make you feel all good inside at night when you go to sleep? Is that the reason you're so proud of minorities? Are you some wise Latina? hmmm?? Is that why you're so smart and smug?

    Shall we ship buses full of welfare queens to the tea party? Would that make your bleeding, progressive heart feel better?

    What makes the Tea Party great is it's members and followers are educated Americans who know the issues. Stick that in your progressive pipe and smoke that.

    February 17, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Donatella

    Stevegee-the only people you want out of congress are the democrats, as far as I'm concerned they all need to go so we could start all over. We know what this tea party is all about and it's not good. A bunch of ignorant hypocrits all of them!!!!

    February 17, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Couldn't guess who all were involved in your polls.....but.......I can tell you that physically these folks DO NOT RESEMBLE any college Grads that I am aware of( Overweight, toothless,unkept,and MOUTHY). Needless to say, having gone to some of the more conservative colleges, I did not recall people running around with racist signs or racist caricatures. They also did not yell or speak over speakers ...or holler profanities at those who were in disagreement with their views. I strongly suggest that the accurracy of your poll data is in question. The value of these polls depends on the honesty of those responding.

    February 17, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. REF

    what is wrong with you liberals**these are ordiniary everydays citizens excercising their rights. and they are RIGHT.. you call them all kind of names lament that they dont want their children to inherit an unsustainable debt.. you support every liberal kook out there yet these people you call names.. grow up take care of yourselves. i am apalled at your selective outrage at decent everyday americans..you are the voters that gave us this idiot in DC because you look at everone but yourself to take care of yourself. the only reason you want bigger govt. is because you think it will reward your own selfishness.

    February 17, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. Chris

    it is all hype and the media is constantly, promoting this crap!! Like most of the people have already pointed out "where were all these folks during the last administration?" not one media outlet asks any of these idiots that question. I mean seriously, you have a lot of disgrundled white people who now want to speak up because a black man is in the White House doing what needs to be done because a white man messed it up!!! Please it is all about race and no one wants to call it for what it is. Give me a break!!! The smart thing for all them to do is vote out all the GOP incumbents in November. I will do you better vote out all the Democrats too!!! The President is trying to help the idiots yet all their so call Reps on Congress is hindering the process. Kick them all OUT!!!

    February 17, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. CF

    "Well, well, well... Tea Party supporters tend to be conservative, college educated and higher income! In other words, they are overworked, overtaxed AMERICAN CITIZENS"

    Thats the whole point! They are rich conservative who have no idea the importance of healthcare and gov't programs to the middle and lower class! You think YOU are overtaxed?? Try being someone making HALF as much but paying MORE in taxes because of the Bush/GOP/Teabag tax policy! Your ignorance, intolerance and self-centeredness is stunning.

    February 17, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. p

    Republicans represent all the big corporations teabaggers says they are against. Corporations who send all their jobs overseas where labor costs next-to-nothing. Corporations who break unions. Corporation who pay no taxes. Corporations who want to keep the health-care system exactly like it is, because they are getting rich rich RICH!
    Republicans created most of the debt and deficit. Charged Irag to China. Hooked up with the big jackpot for big Pharma(Medicare pt 2), and didn't pay for that one either.
    If you teabag folks think these Renutlicans believe what you do, I feel really sorry for you. You've just got to come to your senses.
    You think Sarah Palin gives a crap about your cause? Just as long as she gets paid...
    The stimulus is working, folks!

    February 17, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  14. From the south

    The leaders of the Tea Party activists believe like Ron Paul. No wars. That's a lot different than the Republicans. They love war.
    I believe a lot of these people are getting into the Tea Party and don't know what they are doing.

    February 17, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. rfk

    From what I have observed, the Tea Party is comprised of people who expect the best for themselves but never want to sacrifice for others. They only want government programs that benefit them. They also seem to be angry that the rest of the country elected a successful intellectual who is a daily reminder of their own failings.
    My advice to them is to take a look at pictures from Haiti even before the earthquake. You have no idea how good we have it here.

    February 17, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. noworknoeat

    Looks like a bunch of you all want hand outs too. These "white people" that you are talking about are the ones paying for the majority of minorities that do not contribute to society. Dare to compare tax stats with crime rates... Who contributes to society, and who is a burden? The numbers say it all. Or, just continue with your ignorant rants about racism. People are just sick of paying high taxes for other people that don't work and contribute to society. It's just that simple.

    February 17, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Tyler Henderson

    This really isn't suprising at all. It's the Republican party pretending to be a social movement. >_<

    February 17, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  18. lonnie

    "Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll" - and undoubtedly with a sixth grade education.............

    February 17, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. Mitt Romney for President

    They are citizens who want: responsible government, less spending and reduced debt....

    February 17, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Democrats-a party of lies and spin

    Dems have nothing to say but lies and hate for the tea party.Come November the Dems will be talking to themselves as they go home.Bye Bye MORONS – Good Riddance

    February 17, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. shadysider

    Ron Paul was the epitome of what the Tea Party wants in their candidate and look what the Republican Party did to him...they banned him from the national convention during the last election. A lot of young people are Paul fans, but the Republican Party has attempted to minimalize him. Now Sarah Palin says Tea Party members should choose Republican. It's so hypocritical.

    February 17, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  22. Troy of Vermont

    stevegee said "It's time for us to clean out Congress and purge it of liberals and bureaucrats. Then we'll have to make the hard choices so we can clean up the mess they've gotten us into."

    Well Stevegee who in the HEIL you think put us in this mess. I know, I know, "YOU WANT YOUR COUNTRY BACK". All of YALL will have to wait until 2016, and if you lucky maybe 2012.

    February 17, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  23. Karl in SLC

    Who are they?

    Racists.

    February 17, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. Andy

    Rather have the Tea Party instead of the party of NO-the Dems NO jobs NO plan NO hope NO improvement NO change-the Tea Party would be an improvement.

    February 17, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. T'SAH from Virginia

    "CNN Poll: Who are the Tea Party activists"

    They are a DYING RACE that refuse to recognize there are Black People and others of COLOR in this world..........Case and POINT!!!

    They are also angry because we have an African American President.....Case and POINT!!!

    Where were they when BUSHwack and his sidekick CHENgang was in office – the ones who got us in the MESS we are in today – NO WHERE to be found..........Case and POINT!!!

    Who are the Tea-Partiers???? A bunch of far right mainly white males who now are the MINORITY of this country........Case and POINT!!!

    February 17, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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