New CNN Poll: GOP divided over tea party movement
September 15th, 2011
12:00 PM ET
3 years ago

New CNN Poll: GOP divided over tea party movement

Washington (CNN) - The Republican Party is split right down the middle between tea party movement supporters and those who do not support the two-and-a-half-year-old movement, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll released Thursday also highlights the differences in demographics, ideology, and temperament between the two camps. According to the survey, on some issues, the two wings of the GOP are in accord, but tea party activists and supporters do not speak for the entire Republican Party on issues such as the deficit, global warming, evolution, abortion, gay marriage, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Education, or Social Security.

Full results (pdf)

"Demographically, the tea party movement seems to hearken back to the 'angry white men' who were credited with the GOP's upset victory in the 1994 midterm elections," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Ideologically, it effectively boils down to the century-old contest between the conservative and moderate wings of the party."

According to the survey, roughly half (49 percent) of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they support the tea party movement or are active members, with roughly half (51 percent) saying that they have no feelings one way or another about the tea party or that they oppose the movement.

The poll indicates that demographically, tea party Republicans are more likely to be male, older, and college educated, with non-tea party Republicans more likely to be younger, less educated, female, and less likely to say they are born-again or evangelical. Both groups are predominantly white.

Nearly eight in ten tea party Republicans describe themselves as conservatives, with nearly half of non-tea party Republicans call themselves moderate, or in a few cases, liberal. But the differences are also a matter of temperament: 50 percent of tea party Republicans say they are "very angry" about the way things are going in the country today, compared to just 29 percent of their Republican counterparts.

How does all of that affect their views on the issues of the day?

"One of the biggest differences is on the relative importance of jobs versus the federal deficit. Most tea party Republicans say that Congress and President Barack Obama should pay more attention to the deficit," says Holland. "Most non-tea party Republicans say that reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the deficit."

But the "science" issue is also a strong divider. Nearly six in ten tea party Republicans say that global warming is not a proven fact. Most non-tea party Republicans disagree. Six in ten tea party Republicans say that evolution is wrong. Non-tea party Republicans are split on evolution. Six in ten tea party Republicans say the Department of Education should be abolished, but only one in five of their GOP counterparts holds that same view.

There is also disagreement on social issues: Tea party Republicans are roughly twice as likely to say that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and roughly half as likely to support gay marriage. Tea party Republicans are also roughly twice as likely to believe that the Social Security system should be replaced, and although most Republicans on either side disagree with the assertion that Social Security is a lie and a failure, tea party GOPers are much more likely to embrace that view.

What will happen to the GOP next year if tea party Republicans don't get their way?

"Nearly half of them say that they are not very likely to support an independent presidential candidate next year - possibly because removing Obama from power is their overwhelming motivation, and they may recognize that bolting the party would ensure his re-election," says Holland.

Eight in ten tea party Republicans say that they would prefer a candidate who can beat Obama over one who agrees with them on top issues, so ideological purity may take a back seat to pragmatic politics in 2012 even if the GOP nominee is not a tea party favorite.

Non-tea party Republicans are somewhat more likely to consider voting for a third-party candidate, and place somewhat less emphasis on beating Obama.

"So it's possible that a bolt from the GOP may come from the moderates rather than the tea party activists and supporters. But there is no way to predict how people will react to inherently unpredictable events, so anything can happen," adds Holland.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International September 9-11, with 446 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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Live blog of CNN's first-ever Tea Party Republican Debate


Filed under: Republicans • Tea Party movement
soundoff (344 Responses)
  1. spoo

    " because removing Obama from power is their overwhelming motivation" this is the true origin of the tea party movement. disaffected whites angry to have a black man in the white house...period...anything else is just a smoke screen

    September 15, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. Rett

    I agree with the fiscal part of the Tea Party. The "hate" I could do without.

    September 15, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  3. Hector

    The Repub base let these teaparty folks take over the party just because they want so desperately to beat Obama. Now that the teaparty seem to be dictating our future the base want to take sides. Well too late for that!!! Don't be surprise come 2012 that most repubs will vote for Obama. Being a Independent, that is what i will be doing...voting for Obama. The repub has sold out to the devil who obviously want to take this country down!!!

    September 15, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  4. jn555

    My biggest pet peeve with the tea party: contradictions. You can't say you want small govt, and in the same sentence say you want to make abortion illegal. That is govt. very much involved in peoples private lives. I don't think they really understand what they are saying, but just pick up catchy phrases and go with it. Their social and fiscal ideas prove they never studied economics. Or history. Or science, or anything except the bible; and they can't even get those stories right half the time.

    September 15, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  5. Patrick in Minnesota

    The tea baggers on this site have proven once again the stereotype that they are uneducated and unsophisticated. If you guys have a single fact that defends your position, call me.

    September 15, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    The Republican Paarty should tell the Tea Party they cannot run under the Republilcan banner anymore. They are clearly a third party hiding within a major party. This is deceiptful. They will ultimately go the way of the John Birchers who lassoed the Republican party in 1964 by nominating Barry Goldwater.

    September 15, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. Peggy Chambers

    If it weren't for Ron Paul, the Tea Party would have never happened and media outlets just like this one...you are trying so hard to keep all the corruption from the people who need it the most! All of you are and are just as guilty as the government! You will be fired, hopefully, when you exposed just like our own government...I don't think you have a conscience either...

    September 15, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Bhari

    There used to be a great cable news network, that would have real stories, about real news... that they didn't make up... remember?

    September 15, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Bill

    Big deal. The KKK changed their name to The Tea Party.

    September 15, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    The CNN political unit has done in this article what all communist news agencies do .They have rewritten the facts to support their point of view.They certinlly did not use the poll they cited for their facts.The Communist News Network should go out of business.

    September 15, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. Reggie from LA

    Divided? They are overturned, overrun, overruled and over intimidated by them.

    September 15, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Jt_flyer

    It's a far left brain / no brain thing.

    September 15, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. dave richman

    New CNN poll. Hmmmmm -- News groups should leave accurate polling to the professionals. CNN writes a story and then takes a pool to back it up. Hmmmmm.

    September 15, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Dave V

    Take a whole group of people and classify them all using the same demeaning language, stay classy CNN.

    September 15, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Manny

    I am a Republican however after the last debate I was horrified about what I saw and heard. It was unbelievable when Ron Paul made that comment about the person who were in dire need of medical assistance and telling people that it was that person's responsibility and to make matters worse the reaction of the audience. Further more when Michele Bachman, like a character from the middle ages or the Spanish inquisitision was rambling about the vaccine for cervical cancer. If we expect to win the election we'd better get rid of those strange characters and get into the real concerns of the American people. Jobs, jobs and more jobs.

    September 15, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Davidr

    Anything the Tea party can do to sew the seeds of divisiveness among Republicans is fine by me.

    September 15, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. JC

    Talk about media "spin"... CNN says at the bottom of the article that "446 Republicans and Independents....were polled", but the actual ORC poll says the data included responses from 1036 "voters". That to me says that a lot more people support the Tea Party than I previously suspected...

    September 15, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. Atlanta Independent Voters

    Independent voters against teabaggars

    Independent voters for President Obama job bill

    September 15, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. John in Colorado

    How soon we forget the absolute disaster that befell the country after 8 years under Bush. That anyone even considers, for even one second, turning the Oval Office over to anyone from the crowd is hard to believe. My neighbors and I of the middle class have been getting it put to us ever since Ronald Reagan. Yes, his presidency was a disaster for working people. It was after he fired the Air Traffic Controllers that businesses started routinely laying off workers. Prior to that there was too much stigma associated with doing that. Then after that our federally-insured private company pensions were chucked in favor of 401Ks so that the GOP's money manager's could get a hold of our life savings. And what did they do with those trillions of dollars? They squandered it and many, many of us lost most of the value of those accounts. And, not a single one of those criminals has gone to jail. Not one. Then came the GOP-engineered exodus of jobs to China. It is how Romney made his living. Finally right before Bush left office, the banks engineered the most incredible robbery of the US Treasury in the nation's history. They threatened to crash the economy if they were not given 780 Billion with no strings attached. They were supposed to right off the bad mortgages they they got people into. Instead, they invested the money in risky overseas investments and lost most of it figuring that Uncle Sugar would bail them out again. It has been the most incredible 3 decades I have lived through. Shame on the GOP. Shame, shame, shame.

    September 15, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Marj

    when the GOP was in control (GWB) era, deficits didn't matter. Now that the Democrats are in the whiter house all of a sudden
    it matters more than jobs. The ultimate hypocrites. I think 50% of this country is suffering from Alzheimer.

    September 15, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. CCMars

    You know what? I think I'm going to start referring to anyone who calls President Obama a socialist/Marxist/Kenyan/whatever the Big Bad Buzzword of the day is, call him an idiot without saying why, and/or use the word "liberal" as if it were a schoolyard insult* as trolls. Sure it's hard to tell whether they're serious or not (Poe's Law and all), but since they're fond of the broad brush, I'm sure they won't mind me using it on them. <3

    * I can't say I like "conservative" used in this way either, but its meaning is so broad that it's harder to call people out on.

    September 15, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Aridzonan

    You don't have to be a member of the Tea Party to agree with their principles. This will become apparent in the 2012 election.
    Dream on Democrats1

    September 15, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. Reality

    Why are white men so angry? They have always had the highest standard of living in the world and currently it is at an alltime high. What could they possibly being crying about now?

    September 15, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. MiketheElectrician

    I say let those who don't want social security to keep their money and trust the stock market. The rest of us will be thankful a final safety net is there to keep seniors from worse poverty.

    September 15, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. JC

    I would go on to argue that the numbers they show at the bottom of the poll comparing Tea Party to the GOP supporters is pretty closely aligned

    I think the only numbers that support CNN's claim is the DOE question

    September 15, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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