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. Tom

    The original Tea Party premise is sound: smaller government, more personal responsibility, more free enterprise. I don't have a problem with that. The problem is that Tea Party zealots have adopted an extreme "all government is bad, and only the free market can solve problems" approach. This means everyone is completely on their own, and if you're poor and sick and you can't afford health insurance and you die, that's just too bad. If a corporation dumps waste into your river, that's just the price of progress. As if that is somehow good for society.

    September 15, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. Jeremy

    The problem with politics today is that no one really represents the majority of Americans, who are in the middle. I'm fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. I believe everyone should have to work for what they get, and there are way to many people abusing the "safety net" provided by the government, but I'm also an athiest and believe in as much personal freedom as is practical. That means freedom to bear arms, and it also means freedom to marry whoever you want to. Unfortunatly both parties are too busy catering to special interests to really represent me or the millions of other Americans who feel the same.

    September 15, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Damian

    .........they forgot about the part that Tea Party people are twice as dumb as their GOP counter parts :)

    September 15, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. Tony T

    "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. " So having no feeling one ay or the others, counts in the column AGAINST the Tea Party. What are these idiots talking about? Also, the quetion should have been asked "Would you support a liberal Dem or someone from the Tea Party?" 95%+ would support the Tea Party. CNN stop with the Spin BS and just tell us the truth. We already know, and you trying to hide it makes you look really bad.

    September 15, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. stlouisjake

    so some republicans "get it." the tea party can feign "anger" about the economy or social isseus or the amount of cream in their coffee, but the last part of the above report says it all. they are really angry because "my god martha!! there is a black man in the white house and he ain't workin' in the kitchen!!" some day we, as a society, will mature – i hope to see it in my lifetime.

    September 15, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. charles bowen

    Republicant's are'nt bad enough for America but mix them with the Tea freaks and you have all the makings for a civil war in our country . Do Us all a favor and step toward the middle and avoid what will be the inevitable Destruction of the United State . They are called the United States because of the unity of their Populas for security and power ,split them up like you are doing and civil strife will be your reward . WAKE UP AMERICA BEFORE WE BECOME THE NEXT FAILED ROMAN EMPIRE...........Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    September 15, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Robert H

    This is the glaringly obvious problem with democracy in a country with poor education and religious freedom – ignorant religious extremists gaining power over millions and shoving their religious views into the democratic process.
    We may as well be living in Iran with the Ayatollah as the head of the Tea Party, the way things are going.

    September 15, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Bravo33

    With the economy in shambles and paper money worth nothing I expect Obama to take the White House silverware on his way out late 2012 . . . . join the unemployed.

    September 15, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    We all know what the TeaPers will do ... hold their breath, stamp their feet, and stick their fingers in their ears crying waa, waa, waa. As for the old guard? Continue using TeaPers for their votes ... then toss them under the bus as yesterdays trash, just as they are attempting to do now.

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. JEan

    Even though I personally I prefer Hot Chocolate parties. What's the big deal about a Tea party, or any other beverage? As long as it's not a Kool-Aid party.

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Chel in FL

    What a load of crap CNN. I don't even buy that 30% are tea party....

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. TheFatherofLies

    or perhaps they booed when he said they all WEREN'T seeking America's destruction. I am a liar after all. :)

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. Disgusted!!!

    So let me get this right. If the tea party has their way. Everyone will be at the poverty level (including most tea party members (sheep) – except for the rich few that are pushing the tea party agenda – SMART....I do not think McConnel, Cantor, etc are poor) , except the few rich at the top. Hey, the deficit will be reduced!!!! At least their children will not have to worry about the deficit. They can all live at home with their tea party parents, as there will not be any jobs!!!

    I agree with someone else!! Why am I never called for one of these polls?

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. Richard Reynaud

    A CNN skewed poll is breaking news? Are you serious? Your poorly disguised plan to divide conservatives is telling in many respects. First, you're a news organization, not an arm of a political party (as in Obama's) pushing an agenda.
    Second, all the liberal buzz words are contained in your article: Angry, anti-science, global warming (by the way Global warming has been debunked by the very scientists faking the facts – didn't you get the memo?).
    Not all of your CNN website readers are fools, try better next time.

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    Wrong, scubadiver. I'm a part of the "we the people" too, and the majority of us do not agree with you. Keep lying, maybe you'll convince your 1st grader.

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Spacial

    Laugh all you want liberals. You are still a minority in this country. Independents swing the vote and more of them each day are leaning towards the Tea party. mark my words in 2012 you are toast along with Obama.

    September 15, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. coy4one

    So now I am really confused. It is a Black Tea Party, a Green Tea Party, or a Ginseng Tea Party?

    September 15, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Carlos

    I dont know why the media is trying to hide the truth!!!. In social netwoks and even in youtube comments Ron Paul wins easily. Wake up America, RON PAUL 2012.

    September 15, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. markiejoe

    This GOP-GOTP split is very good news. My fervent hope is that the GOP Presidential nominee is so unsatisfactory to the GOTP that the GOTP then goes off in a huff and nominates their own Presidential candidate, and then in a three-way race Obama wins easily, thus saving America from right-wing zealotry for another four years at least.

    So let's hear it for the Republican split!!!

    September 15, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  20. Dave

    So you're saying if you took a group of people with generally the same set of values, then pushed those values to the extreme, about half would follow, while the other half would think they were too extreme. A-ma-zing. I would have never thought.

    September 15, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Ben H

    That they want to destroy the Department of Education speaks volumes about their ignorance and delusional ideas.

    September 15, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. Ryno

    As I have stated before, the Tea Party is one of the most UN-AMERICAN organizations this side of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Why? Because Americans CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER AN OTHER PEOPLE. Tea Partiers care for 1 thing and 1 thing only: Themselves. They don't want to pay taxes. They don't want you to marry whoever you want to. They don't want you to believe in God differently than they do. They don't want to help you when you are out of a job, sick, or elderly. All the Tea Party is about is ME! ME! ME! and MINE! MINE! MINE! They TRULY are UN-AMERICAN!

    September 15, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Mike Brooks

    Here's a news flash for you.... without the Tea Party there is No Republican Party! The mainstream Republican's are all neocon's and virtually all Dem's are "multinationalists", both free traders, global economy nitwits that have managed to just about kill this country. They have presided over the outsourcing of 30 million jobs, moved our factories whole off to China and India, gutted our technology sector, and inflicted around 7 million Indian, Chinese, and Philippine "guest workers" on us, every stinking one them taking a job from a US worker. We have five million unemployed engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers - we don't need ANY H1-B or L-1 visa guest workers. We have more than a million American nurses without jobs and it's flat out insane to import a million Philippine nurses! The same applies for xray technicians, doctors, clerks, machinists, meat cutters, carpenters, painters, roofers, masons, and hundreds of other skilled jobs! The Tea Party is the ONLY group that is pointing out that this is insane and needs to be stopped.

    September 15, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    What are they so angry about? What is there to be angry about? If you lose an election fair and square, you accept it and do better next time. If you are going to be mad at someone, then you should be mad at yourself for your own failure.

    I will answer my own questions. They are not angry at all. They are filled with hate. It only looks like anger on the outside. This display of "anger" by the Tea Party is unprecedented in American politics.

    The anger cannot be completely because of the economy. Remember, the Tea Party was first formed in Aug. 2008, which was before the financial collapse and the GOP convention, but *after* Obama won the nomination.

    September 15, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. humtake

    Half of the GOP disagree with each other. That's a better number than how many Dems disagree with their messiah. Guess that means the GOP is doing better than the Dems.

    September 15, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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