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.

Related:

Did Bachmann wound front-runner Perry at CNN/Tea Party Debate?

DNC Chair uses debate moment to pounce on GOP

Perry comes under fire at the CNN/Tea Party debate

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


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

    I oppose extremists of each party. ROMNEY 2012!!!

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. James

    Seriously? "Breaking News?" This is not "Breaking News." I'm not a fan of the Tea Party/Republicans either.

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. DemFL

    That's perfect.... so let the fighting begin. I love to watch the Tea Party go against the Republicans... The Republicans should win out (my theroy being they are smarter) but who knows. Dat Tea party folks aint the spelin type but they may kick you buts. Yes, all spelling errors on purpose.

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Tea Party Express

    Then half the Republican Party is Democrats in disguise.

    RUN THEM OUTTA TOWN AND FIX THIS GREAT COUNTRY IN THE NAME OF THE ONE TRUE GOD... Money!

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. vivian m.

    I support Obama BECAUSE of the Tea Party zealotry.

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. JB

    LOL, CNN Polls long been the joke of the polling world. So folks, you no longer have any credibility.

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. dick barney

    The "Tea Party" is not a political party. It is not a movement. It is PAC, a Political Action Commitee, funded by the Koch brothers.

    CNN should make the clear distinction so that people can research the PAC backers.

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. amlcpamaine

    Looks pretty simple to me: the billionaire puppeteers have found the stooges to do their dirty work without question – people who are fueled by hatred and frustration but don't question social goals and government competence.
    Unfortunately, the puppeteers are heartless and greedy, so eventually the stooges will either catch on or face the music. Kill health care and let people die. Kill decent jobs and let the middle class die. Kill disaster support and let the victims of floods die.

    The stooges will eventually rise up in anger because they're not getting their medicare, or their FEMA help, or whatever. It's just a matter of time.

    For now, greed and heartlessness are ruling the roost.

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Super8

    So the GOP chances have gone from almost but not quite to no chance at all?

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. Charlie

    "The poll indicates that demographically, tea party Republicans are more likely to be male, older, and college educated" Key – COLLEGE EDUCATED!!! – Perhaps the TEA party folks know what is better than the uneducated; then again, liberals despise education.

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. me

    who wrote this crap?

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Joe Mama

    Oh please this whole story is just trying to advance this manufactured image of the tea party. The whole original idea was the liberty movement and the idea of fiscal conservatism. That of course is easy to get behind, so we get all of these kinds of stories talking about the team party's position on abortion and science and such. That has NOTHING to do with the original movement. As far as I am concerned there is no such thing as the tea party. I'm not losing sight of the original liberty movement.

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Just a Mom

    Why are those who " have no feelings one way or another about the tea party" lumped in with those who say they oppose the movement? Is it just so that the "numbers" will come up roughly 50/50?????

    September 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. Remford

    "Divided"? Sure. But united in dislike for Obama. There will be only one Republican candidate in November 2012, and that's whom Republicans will elect (plus MORE than a few Democrats), Tea Party or no.

    70% "right" is a damn sight better than 100% idiot.

    September 15, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  15. DrDanno

    Been following these blogs for months. It's clear from the running commentary; the people have lost to Big Money. The coup is complete, our Republic replaced by a Plutocracy with power so enormous, reach so extensive, fear used so viciously to control us, that we no longer have a US of A. Our government is thoroughly and irretrievably corrupt. Our people are increasingly uneducated, earning minimum wage, bereft, as assets like homes depreciated and employment threatened; vulnerable, terrified. We no longer just cling to guns and religion, we cling to anyone who promises protection from it all, regardless the price to liberty or the values upon which this country was founded. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Republican Tea Party

    September 15, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. Ben

    Ron Paul 2012, let's spread the truth the media doesn't know how to...

    September 15, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. Remford

    "Divided"? Sure. But united in dislike for Obama. There will be only one Republican candidate in November 2012, and that's whom Republicans will elect (plus MORE than a few Democrats), Tea Party or no.

    70% "right" is a damn sight better than 100% fool.

    September 15, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. JEan

    Look if I decide to go to a Tea Party, I expect to share the cost for the Tea, and only those who enjoy it should have to pay.
    Common sense to me!

    September 15, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. gaucho420

    Its refreshing to hear that not all Repubs agree with their extreme politics. American should be a country where neighbor helps neighbor, not where neighbor attacks his neighbor because of his race, language or political differences. Yet the tea party, as a non member, seems to thrive in hate and the attack of others. They seem to want to step on others, to get themselves ahead.

    That's not the way to run a country.

    September 15, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. az

    GI Joe interesting comparison hahaha

    September 15, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. carly

    which side is dumb and which side is dumber? one thing is for sure all of them are obstructionists and should be voted out.

    September 15, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. itsonlyfair

    The "tea party" isn't really a 2 1/2 year old movement as stated in this article. The "tea party" is simply a rebranding of the far right wing of the GOP, which largely consists of libertarians and federalists...two groups that have never had much success with voters when openly identified as such.

    September 15, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Curious

    I checked the entire survey and it doesn't seem to support the claim that Tea Party supporters are more likely to be college educated. Did I miss something?

    September 15, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Robert

    DavidK

    Reminds me of when that idiot Ralph Nader handed the election over to GWB. Without Nader, Gore would have won and we wouldn't be fighting 2 wars, crushing debt, and polarized society.

    So if Gore was elected, 9/11 would never have happened and we would not be in Afghanistan. You are an idiot.

    September 15, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. scubadiver

    haha they will try to get obama elected again. sorry folks he is toast. our economy is in the tank and we the people will hold him accountable.

    September 15, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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