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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DNC Chair uses debate moment to pounce on GOP

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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. what's up

    But tax paying Americans will UNIT agains a common enemy in 2012. The ENEMY from within, Obama.

    September 15, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Andrew

    I'm under the impression that Huntsman is the one whom the Democrats would fear most in the general election (though if someone can correct me on this, please do so). If this is true, why isn't Huntsman the landslide front-runner with a veritable mountain of endorsements from congressional Republicans who say their #1 political goal is to unseat Obama?

    September 15, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Vince

    The Tea Party will probalby pull off a big victory in 2012 with a presidential win and both houses of congress....by the vote of 2014, however, I would expect to see mass revolt against them. We're like Germany in the early 1930s right now....economy is awful, we have lots of scapegoats, and we vote out of fear....we kind of have an idea that the Nazis are bad for us...but we keep electing them anyway.....eventually we'll realize what we've done and get things back to normal.

    September 15, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. M Paquette

    The GOP just cant effectively house the Tea Party movement. The extremes of their believes just place them too much in the minority of national opinions but the GOP doesn't want to loose that base of voters.

    September 15, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. ElKai0

    Breaking news! The Tea Party is full of hill billy's and bible thumpers, Im not sure how many people are involved in the Tea Party, but i can say that they all share a brain. Not a good one either.

    September 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. Concerned4Fla

    I thought they were supposed to be "non-partisan" and focused only on fiscal issues? I thought their platform was baloney when they announced it–this seems like proof. How else to explain away the homogeneous composition of the group? Tea Party=extremist, religiously motivated republicans. Always has, always will.

    September 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. rs

    The Tea Party is a cancer on the Republican Party- if it goes much longer, it will be inoperable.

    September 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Southern Liberal

    Really? ". . . tea party Republicans are more likely to be male, older, and college educated" I find this hard to believe. All you need to do is look at the photos of the Tea Party rally's from the past two years. Yes = Older, White Males. College Education = NO WAY. These people are barely able to put one knuckle in front of the other just to walk.

    September 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. Denise

    I'm sorry, THIS is news? The Tea Party ... taking fact-free living to a whole new level!

    It's astounding there are people in this thread that actually believe the words of McConnell, Boehner, and other Republican Congressional leaders as being fact. How amusing! Talk about sheeple!

    September 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Jason R

    Very scary of the correlations to tea party and religion and tea party and the non-belief in evolution. It really is amazing to me how many people do not believe in evolution when the genetic, archaeological, fossil record, etc. information is so widely available to view it and understand it, and a basis on scientific methods to support it. Sounds to me that if the tea party prevails, we will be living in a world similar to the movie Idiocracy... you know.. its what plants crave!

    September 15, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. Jen

    As an atheist, I'd just like to say, "Please God, please, please, please, let this split the Republican party." And as a Democrat, I'd like to personally thank the Tea Party if that happens.

    September 15, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. Mr. Kennedy

    first the split then they not damn cnt nobody make up their minds but they cna agree they dnt like dems wat a shame if you wanna win gotta stick together so i guess united we stand divided we fall stands tru wit the gop and the tea party obama in 2012 hahahahahahahahaha sound off on that! have a good day!

    September 15, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. NoBama

    I laugh my arse off at you out there trying to analyze the Tea Party movement. CNN is sending this out as BREAKING NEWS!!!!!
    LMAO
    How dumb are you guys? Really!!! Both “halves” (sigh) would vote for a rusty beer can before they would vote for Obama. I’m tired of saying it. Expect a LANDSLIDE against Obama next election.
    Why is it so hard for outsiders to try to understand the Tea Party? Because of the Media!!!
    Shame on you CNN. You failed to report honestly and now you believe your own Crap!

    September 15, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Dan

    I'm disappointed in the conclusion of CNN on this. They say, "roughly half (51 percent) saying that they have no feelings one way or another about the tea party or that they oppose the movement" and then say, "split down the middle". What if 90% of that 51% are in the "no feelings one way or the other" category? Their conclusion is not supported by their numbers.

    September 15, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. tstorm

    Republicans have gotten so extreme and anti-government that they'd have us take back the Louisiana Purchase and return middle America to the French! Tea Partiers and Conservatives have lost touch with the average American.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Frederick

    Great! Such a split will only benefit the Dems, though the fact that so many Americans are Teapublicans doesn't bode well for America's future. Dumbing down has only just begun.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. RG

    This shows the Tea Party is the party of unbridled hate. They won't vote for a sane Independent. and will select from one of the clowns in the Republican party, just to unseat the black man.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. As GM goes, so goes the country...Unions/Democrats killed GM, now they are killing the country

    Following our Constitution is a radical idea? NO.
    Not spending and borrowing the country into bankruptcy is a radical idea? NO.
    Not wanting the government to control EVERY aspect of our lives is a radical idera? NO.
    Enforcing our laws and borders is a radical idea? NO.

    What IS radical is that ANY of this would be considered radical in the USA. There are too many people in this country that would be pleased to have us become Cuba.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. Damian

    Blake I hope you you were referring to the Tea Party as the 50% that are mindless sheep.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. seneca

    The teaparty are just republicans in a new suit. Its a red white and blue tiger striped suit that allows them to reinforce the delusion that they are the only real patriots in this country and therefore everyone else is bad. They love America they just don't love other Americans.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. Stewart

    Guess what? The Democratic party is divided over socialism. But you got one in the White House anyway.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. RickL

    The type of questions regarding social issues shows how slanted this poll was. It is not surprising that Tea Party members are more conservative on social issues since they are conservative. However, the Tea Party is not about social issues, it is about smaller government, less spending, reduced deficits, personal liberty. It appears that CNN is going out of their way to make these principles appear to be radical.

    September 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. nebby

    the only thing that matters is that both sides would vote for a sack of turnips rather than obama in 2012

    September 15, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. K3Citizen

    Our country can't afford to be divided any more. The tea party is angry, but so are the Democrats. Obama can't lead a nation with only half of the support. He spent the last year trying to appease the republicans, especially with the renewed Bush tax breaks. He could have voted them down when they had the super majority, but he didn't. According to the tea party, Obama is not allowed to shed any light on the fact that republican policies are what caused this mess. They won't admit that their party was responsible for the financial downfall, instead, they blame Obama. Their anger and rage has been there well before the stimulus and Healthcare Act. Some folks just can't stand having a minority telling them what to do.

    September 15, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. QS

    What more proof is required that these people are the bottom of the barrel of our society?

    The only reason they call themselves "angry" is because they see a country they used to know and love (you know, the whites only country club country) beginning to change and are actually terrified of the progress being achieved, which is obviously outpacing their ability to keep up with it!

    Don't kid yourselves people, these people aren't concerned with budgets, deficits, or anything else remotely tied to fiscal matters – they are religious extremists whose main focus is trying to turn back the clock on any social issues that they deem as "sinful" or immoral.

    Just as the establishment republicans are extremely predictable when it comes to their views on the economy, the TP people are just as predictable when it comes to their real agenda....the social agenda they are pursuing.

    In one sense they are exactly like the establishment republicans...they have no qualms whatsoever about trying to force their religious beliefs onto others through legislation. The entire right wing in this country is so backwards and out of touch already, but the TP people have taken that to a completely new level of zealotry!

    September 15, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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