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. RBS

    "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....Six in ten tea party Republicans say that evolution is wrong... Six in ten tea party Republicans say the Department of Education should be abolished."

    Wow, so basically the Tea Party bases its policy on something other than EVIDENCE! EVIDENCE, is the only tool of Science and should be the primary tool of government. How the hell does one make policy decisions based on something other than EVIDENCE?!?! This is the same mental malfunction Michele Bachmann showed when she said that, someone (unknown and not able to be identified) told her that 'her daughter became mentally retarded after being vaccinated against HPV' although ALL the EVIDENCE shows the vaccine is safe.

    Basically the Tea Party wants to make decisions off of a religious agenda and not EVIDENCE. As a Republican that bases his decisions off of the best EVIDENCE available I'm scared of these nuts. It's basically the Evangelical Christians in a thinly veiled disguise trying to establish an unconstitutional Theocracy.

    September 15, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. PA_Resident

    It's funny,why people are against the TEA party. They're about lowering "Taxes" nothing more, nothing less. How the media spins this into racisim and hatred is typical of America today. Why is it so difficult to understand that taxpayers are tired of supporting people who abuse the system.

    When fear mongers start attacking a broad based group with claims of racism and lack of education to protect the entitlement state, someone who is getting something they shouldn't is getting nervous. There are entirely too many people making withdrawls and not enough making deposits.

    If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you're not a racist, then vote for a Republican in 2012 to prove you're not an idiot.

    September 15, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    what are they so angry about????

    September 15, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Clark

    The Tea Party ultra-conservative right is just as bad as the ultra-liberal left. Neither side represents the average American. Most people hopped on the Tea Party bandwagon because they had good ideas, in the beginning. Once the Tea Party started to get a little too weird and fascist a lot of people hopped off of that band wagon. If the Tea Party could have kept their focus on government waste and taxes I think they would have become the most dominant political party in the upcoming elections. Instead, they will be treated with derision.

    September 15, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. manuel Rodrtguez

    I think that ALL politicians are playing with fire the patience of the people of this great nation is running out.

    September 15, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. Elaine

    It was a mistake for the mainstream GOP to embrace the Tea Party.As long as all of their ire was trained on Obama they were happy with them; but the Tea Party has taken over the GOP, and their irrational extremism is going to cost the party.There was no push-back until now, but they have taken over, and all attempts are futile.The Tea Partiers live in a bubble, and think that they are absolutely right about their views, not realizing that they are out of step with most of the country.

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Stella

    "Non-tea party Republicans are split on evolution". Really? The party overall is almost evenly split with half supporting the tea party? Holy cow. Tea party members are clueless and, I suspect, crazy. They should be seen as a fringe movement; I would expect their support to be about 2 percent, especially on issues of science. How is it possible they can be half of all Republicans? I'm a Democrat who supported hilary Clinton in the primary but voted for Mr. Obama in the general election. I'm so fed up with the president's inability to get the economy going – it seems clear now that his community service prior to office taught him all about spending money but noting about how to generate it or jobs – that I would gladly vote for a moderate Republican. Many feel like I do, but the Republicans will throw away their chance with these stupid tea party people. They are handing the next election to Obama.

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Cedar Rapids

    The TEA party demographic is religious old white guys? no! Im shocked! its a good job I was sitting down when you told me, lol.

    'Perhaps the TEA party folks know what is better than the uneducated; then again, liberals despise education.'
    And here was I thinking it was the right the kept going on about educated 'elitists'.

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. USS Constitution

    The tea party is a mixed bag. I do not at all like their "leaders". I like Ron Paul, but IMO the Tea Party was basically taken over quickly after the 2008 election. Many such as myself just quit supporting them at all. When Sarah Palin jumped on the bandwagon, I was jumping off the back and so were many others who were Ron Paul supporters. Some stayed, so it's a mixed bag really. Some of them I just have to look at and wonder.

    But anyone who thinks the tea party is the reason for congress's approval rating should take a look at previous years. The approval rating was that way before 2008.

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Mary

    itsonlyfair
    It is not accurate to describe the Tea Party as "largely" consisting of libertarians and federalists. Libertarians believe in individual liberty and don't care who you sleep with. The Tea Party movement is "largely" Populist, and, as such, their politics don't have a strong philosophical foundation. They are more like the guy in Network who is "mad as hell" and is "not going to take it anymore."

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. Chas in Iowa

    So they got their moral trump card hidden way, way over on the right.
    I don't think Christians are directly associated to the right.
    Christians with any moral values are still on the left of center.

    September 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. anne82958

    The Tea Party is a danger to this country.They are trying to destroy our economy. They feel threatened by social change and whites becoming a minority in the US and no longer in control. The Tea Party was formed when we elected a non white president. They did not care about the deficit when we had a white president.

    September 15, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. mo

    what people don;t understand is the tea party is mainly about smaller govt and fiscal sanity....unlike the story the msm wants you to believe and pushes every day that they are hardcore bible thumping christians bent on passing a social agenda. most tea partiers are more libertarian than they are conservative....the msm message is a joke!

    September 15, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Code 40 Dog

    Funny how republicans reject any poll that is against their party, but jump on on the silly polls that are anti-Obama like flies to chit.

    September 15, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. Richard

    Wow, after reading through the poll questions, I wonder who is dumber? CNN (who came up with this stupid poll) or the Tea party (who actually answered these questions)? Seriously, evolution, homosexuality, global warming, religion and State etc.

    September 15, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. Cynic

    I support the Tea Party in part. However, I do not support their stand on "moral" issues like abortion and gay marriage, and their silence on military spending and our endless and expensive cycle of wars is deafening.

    September 15, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Bill

    Half the GOP side with the Tea Party? If true, they can give up any chance of ever retaking the White House. They may even lose the House if they don't smarten up and start representing Americans, instead of one small, but loud, group.

    September 15, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. YellowJournalismLives

    A CNN poll that should help divde the COP and on the same page Obama advertising. Seems the two are the same thing. Its time to take the politics out of the news.(Won't happen, I know)

    September 15, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Led9

    The Tea Party people are hypocrites. They say they are for small government, but ask any of them if they are socially liberal and most will say no. So how is that small government? Sounds like only the Libertarians are the true TeaPers.

    September 15, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Peter

    The majority of Tea Party members don't believe in evolution and the majority of Tea Party members want to abolish the Department Of Education. Why is this no surprise? :)

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. wishing

    GOTParty Americans, lots of opinions, various convictions, catchy sound bites, very few facts.

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. DC Johnny

    I can't help but laugh at the stupidity of the comments on this article, even more so than the usual Liberal banter. CNN would have you believe there is some kind of internal clash in the Republican Party that is about to be its demise, and you all come running to the table with fork and knife in hand.

    Reality says that Liberal policies have been overruled by the voting public time and time again, from Scott Brown and Gov. Christie all the way up until as recent as Tuesday. Yet still you mock and belittle. The Tea Party is made up of all colors, all religions, and all classes of people. Do I believe in Creationism? No. Am I ashamed to say that the Tea Party is inspiring to me, and that I believe in most of what they push for? Absolutely not.

    Keep laughing.

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. American Steeve

    If the Koch brothers are the only reason there's a TeaParty in the first place, then they should be arrested for treason and put into federal prison.

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  24. Joe

    I see the Ron Paul trolls are out again today trying to make it seem like there are more than ten of them. This is getting almost funny.

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    The GOP better SCRAPE OFF the tea party or the tea party will take the GOP down with them. And the GOP KNOWS THIS!!!

    September 15, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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