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. ...and she will rise

    Remember that on Novermber 4, 2008....59,934,814 million Americans
    voted for the McCain/Palin ticket.

    Many of us underestimate Sarah Palin such as: the media, pundits,
    political panels on all networks and the likes of Bill Maher, etc.
    Sarah palin will pick the time and place to emerge the leader she really is and will surprise us all..She was demonized before we knew her and still she is standing.

    With Sarah Palin the United States of America will rise renewed from the economic ashes like the legendary "PHOENIX"

    Sarah Palin is authentic and true to who she is not like some
    politicians changing papidly like the "COMMON CHAMELEON"

    February 17, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Drew

    Rich GOP's who have a lot of money so they don't work or do anything but protest to not pay higher taxes or anything that don't reflect them.

    February 17, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. Woodie

    I'm still very confused why they call them Tea Party. They throw up their hands and run from the challenge. They block change. They squat. They abhor change. They drink tea while Rome burns.

    February 17, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. DK

    To the person who said Obama is proBank...you better look again. Larger reserves, more stable balance sheets...for the banks. That means less profit growth. As for the bailout as a lot of people will call it – if there wasn't one...Citigroup, Bank of America, WellsFargo, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, and AIG would have all went bankrupt and no one would have been able to lend them money to escape bankruptcy. So before you slap a tag of bailout on everything...think about what would have happened if those companies would have failed like Lehman Brothers. While there is a lot of blame to go around...including consumers for spending money they don't have – the government did it's job – protecting it's citizens by not allowing the financial system to fail.

    February 17, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. J.Crobuzon

    Duhhh! They are Republicans from FauxNews, trying to push their meme of "Traitors in High Places" again in hopes that some suggestible person will murder the President or some other unpopular politician. Also, they lie about going to college; remember the couple who didn't want their government-administered 'railroad' pension to be taken over by the government for fear of Socialism? Google Eugene Debs if you don't see why this is funny/sad.
    There's no Tea Party, any more than ACORN is a huge underground paramilitary organization. Get a grip; how gullible is this country?

    February 17, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Derrick Wayne Martin

    I bet a lot of them are KKK, White-Supremists, Skin-Heads. If they are what is considered "Real Americans" then consider me something else. They also are people who make me hate this country.

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. vgal

    All of these 'anti-government' people are just plain stupid and hypocritical. These are the people that don't want any government but they DO WANT decent roads with no potholes, no immigration, good schools, protection of consumer preying, good/cheap health coverage, social security checks, cable companies that don't price gauge, continued SUBSIDIZATION of gas prices so they can drive their pickups and SUVs, ETC. The list goes on of ALL of the things they WANT, but don't want to PAY for.

    Go live in a 3rd world country where the government doesn't do anything for you and you don't have to pay for one.

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Kristen

    The ignorance of the Tea Party bashers on this forum is stunning. While I am not a Tea Partier, I AM a conservative, well educated, white (sorry, I do not apologize for that) HARD WORKING AMERICAN! It is shameful what Obama and his brand of democrats are doing to our country, and you are just scared that the majority of the voting Americans see it, and will make them pay for their actions this November. I am tired of the left wingers belief that everything I have worked hard for should be redistributed to those unwilling to work via the Obama-ites socialistic agenda.

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Who would have guessed it?hahaha,we knew that long ago.They also bought Harleys to regain their childhood dreams of being badboys instead of having gone to business schools to learn the art of stealing money.hahaha

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Charlie in Maine

    "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,"

    Like my Mamma used to say, "Son every cloud has a silver lining". I had not looked at the Tea Party quite that way. Now..... Where do I donate to this worthy cause?

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Israel

    As a minority I say "HELL YEAH TO THE TEA PARTY"!!!!

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. James Cunningham

    Eat your heart out CNN! You like the elitest New York Times try to marginalyze and put down the average Americans who take part in the TEA parties because you look down on us. You think you have the right to determine who shall govern us and you do not. New Jersey, Virginia and Mass. were only the beginning so Keating Holland, better sharpen your pencil to relay some bad polling news for the media and political elite in the great Country in 2010!

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Stop Drinking the Tea

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

    And White. If the teaparty represents a cross section of American, where are the minorities? There is never a black, asian, hispanic face in any of the photos. Do these people not have a problem with taxes, unemployment, government policy? All we ever see is white people who, in all likelihood got a tax cut, complaining about taxes, and that they "want their country back". They had no problems with the exact same policies under the Bush administration. What does that tell you?

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. Expat American

    McCain/Palin and their vague 'Country First' mantra were going to lose regardless.

    Palin was the nine-inch bonehead nail in McCain's coffin.

    The real question is: Would the Tea Party movement exist had McCain lost the election to a White candidate?

    20-30 yrs. from now, rural conservative white racists are going to be a forgotten minority in this country. I hope they're ready to be marginalized even more with each passing day. Better days are coming.

    February 17, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Tea & kookies

    Nice CNN..tell us what we already know......rich angry...old white males..holding on to outdated ideas that got us into the mess we are in now...fed up with feds even though unregulated banks are the sole reason our financial system crashed...tax cuts for the rich while fighting two wars left us with huge deficits....NOW they want fiscal responsibility..when the stimulus kept us from a depression...utterly CLUELESS..maybe they are just upset that america saw past color and race and voted for the BEST candidate...

    February 17, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    "According to the survey, roughly 11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement."

    These would be the same 11% that:
    – advocate nuclear bombing of all Islamic countries
    – think George Bush did a great job as Pres.
    – listen to and worship Limbaugh daily
    – wish McCain would have won in 2008 so that free market principles could lead us out of the Great [R] Depression in 2020
    – continue to think that a Strom Thurmond presidency would have been good for the country
    – compare Cheney with Hitler, as a compliment to Cheney
    – think our constitution establishes our country as a christian nation
    – had therir skulls breeched when the word 'LOSER" was branded on their foreheads

    February 17, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Tommy

    To Stevegee:

    Tea party activitists are just patriots who are fed up with the feds? One question: where the hell were you in the 8 years of the prior administration?

    Hard working citizens? And the rest of us (non-tea baggers) are not?

    Congress is full of just bureaucrats and democrats? That's not what I saw the last time I checked. it's full of democrats and republicans – BOTH parties are pathetic. The bureaucrats are the ones working in the fed govt agencies.

    Clean up the mess the democrats and "bureaucrats" left you with. Have you been asleep for the last 9 years?

    Voting conservative will do nothing for your "liberty" or "freedom". It will, however, lower one's intelligence quotient.

    February 17, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Fritz

    That's those patriotic country boys for ya; ' I got mine jack, don't worry 'bout his.'

    Stop being hoodwinked by the same people cutting your pay, slashing your benefits, cutting the social programs, trying to end 'entitlement programs' while pandering to the seniors that the Black man is trying to take their Social Security. Enough of the No-Nothings.

    February 17, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. lucy

    I hope no one spent a lot of money on this survey.

    February 17, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. Mad Mike

    It's amazing the amount of venom in the words of the anti-tea party people (a normal and typical reaction of people who have nothing valid to support themselves)

    Like it or not, Dems and Libs poll numbers are dropping.... So the "attack the Tea Party" strategy is working as well as that hopey changey stuff is.

    Thank you

    February 17, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. britto-fl

    If they are college grads, we are in trouble America, they lack common sense, history, and color in that group. Bring out the burn cross, and white hoods instead!

    February 17, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. greg

    i don't understand what race has to do with it. have we really evolved into a society where your complaints are not legitimate unless you diversify your base into a mixture of races? it sounds to me like most of you don't really care about racial equality, you just cant stand white people. that in itself is racism.

    February 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. Papasan

    Racists, Bigots, and Right Wing Loonies with anti-social behavior problems makes for a great demographic. How they think Americans believe they have the Constitution in mind when most Tea Party clowns haven't even read it.

    February 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. Charlie in Maine

    Ticker: Tea Partiers revealed in poll

    Oh darn I thought it said"Ticker: "Tea Partiers reviled in poll"

    February 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  25. P. D.

    Wow. It's like an exclusive club for old, white men. It sounds a lot like Congress...

    February 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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