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. Carlos Murphy

    So the GOP is the Luddite contingent?
    Who needs science and education. We have big bombs.

    September 15, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. George

    The Tea Party are basically simple people with simple ideas that won't work starting from the current position we are in, perhaps if they had organized and spoken up when their leaders were running the country into the hole things would be different. But, its too stupid too late and now they are poised to finish the job that Bush started and bring economic chaos to the world.

    September 15, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. chrisg510

    SCRAPE OFF THE TEA PARTY NOW GOP. Or the tea party will take you down with them!!!

    September 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. Byrd

    Methinks someone slipped some eye of newt into the teapot. He's the moron who created these monsters that have returned to feed on their masters. Chow down, Tea Party cannibals.

    September 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. JohnRJ08

    The reason that the GOP and Tea Party are divided is because divisiveness is in their genes. These are rigid ideologues who follow various dogma and refuse to look at more than one side of any issue. These stress fractures were inevitable. Happens every time a party moves too far to the right or left. Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower would get booed off the stage at the GOP debates.

    September 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. As GM goes, so goes the country...Unions/Democrats killed GM, now they are killing the country

    The truth of the matter is that conservatives are more worried about President Obama's re-election than liberals are. They are worried because the polls continue to show that far more Americans blame Bush and Republicans for the bad economy than those who blame President Obama and the Democrats.
    =================================================================================================
    You don't actually believe this do you Rudy??!! I suppose you still believe the Democrats will maintain control of the House and the Democrat will win Weiner's old seat? Talk about living in the past and not keeping up. I know Obama's pending defeat has got you all upset but please try to cope reality.

    September 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. chatmandu002

    Considering that the Tea Party only has 3 core values of fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market enterprise. Why does this so-called report get into other areas such as SS, evolution, gay marriage and abortion where the Tea Party doesn't take a public stand. The liberal MSM is just trying to make the Tea Party all about being far right wing, when the Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market enterprise. The rest of the issues they talk about are the far-right wing of the republican party, not the Tea Party. As a Tea Party member I am fiscally conservative and socially moderate. So don't believe everything you read from the liberal MSM about the Tea Party.

    September 15, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. steve z

    How many people make up the Tea Party? I have not seen any actual verified figures on this anywhere. It seems that someone just has to say they are the head of some Tea Party organization and the media just lets them run at the mouth without verification, especially CNN. Maybe someone should start the anti Tea Party and they will get on the news. If they want to be called the Tea Party, then maybe they should form their own political party rather than piggy back onto the Republican Party.

    September 15, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. Joe

    Thank the lord for the tea party. Thanks to them, Obama will win and I get to keep my food stamps.

    September 15, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. davec.0121

    It appears that the Tea Party, like many mass movements, has been hijacked by the radical elements and the 'true believers' in the cause. When it started back in 2009 (right after Obama became president and while we were still being taxed at George W. Bush rates), the Tea Party was about restraining governments spending and cutting taxes. Social issues were specifically excluded from the agendas. However, the radicals (in this case the radical right-wing social conservatives) have distorted that agenda to now include all kinds of cultural issues that don't bear on the government's fiscal behavior. Consequently, candidates like Perry and Bachman can get traction with the Tea Party by invoking God every chance they get and railing not only against taxes and spending, but science (e.g., evolution, stem cells, global warming), gay marriage, etc. The question that Republicans have to ask themselves is how many non-Tea Partiers share their views.

    September 15, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Citizen

    CNN poll?
    You mean the one that runs 75% liberal?
    Oh, I believe the poll.
    Nice try, try again.

    September 15, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Annie, Atlanta

    Is this what happens when you let the birchers in? I see a big split in the party. Not a bad thing. Our two party system needs a little shaking up. This either/or thing hasn't been working for a while, as a strictly personal observance.

    Davidk – well said.

    September 15, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Marty B

    Can't say that I see anything in the poll results posted that supports the thesis of the article. Is there more data that is not posted?

    Have to say that having "no opinion" about the movement hardly spells "division" to me.

    September 15, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. gravis

    Who cares? There have always been old white bigots in this country. Now they've been given a name "tea party". So what? Nothing new here except perhaps their constant promotion by the 24/7 "news" entertainment media to churn up ratings. 20 years ago nobody gave a damn about these ignorant fools.

    September 15, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Rusty Freedom

    The split in the GOP over the Tea Party is very clear. The Tea Party adheres to the atheist Ayn Rand's view (their diva!) that the Rich and powerful are the movers and shakers of this world – and deserve everything. While those not rich and powerful are leeches, parasites, users – and deserve nothing, not a living wage, not even compassion. Not all in the GOP can buy the atheist part – it conflicts with their supposed Christian beliefs. The other part they are fine with – hence the 50-50 split.

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. gravis

    Who cares? There have always been old, fat white bigots in this country. Now they've been given a name "tea party". So what? Nothing new here except perhaps their constant promotion by the 24/7 "news" entertainment media to churn up ratings. 20 years ago nobody cared about these ignorant fools

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Not fooled

    What blatant misinformation. You start off your 'article' by saying:
    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.

    But then you go on to say:
    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.

    So of that 51 percent, just how many "have no feelings one way or the other"? Because you seem to want everyone to believe that number can be lumped together with those who "oppose the movement", which unfortunately for your agenda, is untrue.

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. cnnsucks

    EVERY PARTY IN AMERICA IS PREDOMINATELY WHITE.

    Also, they included in this poll so called 'independents'.... Of which are mostly democrats jumping a sinking ship to save their poor old denial habit.

    Half the people who voted said they don't mind the tea party, not that they oppose it (I'd bet maybe 1% say they opposed it, and that's because they're stupid or democrats). CNN tryin to be cute ONCE again, and hitting a home run with these SHEEPLE LIBS who slaver at any thought to trounce common sense conservatism.

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. James

    Wow... 60% of TP republicans believe evolution is wrong? And these are college educated people?

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Liberty Reigns

    CNN, where is your story on weekly unemployment numbers, and how much they shot upwards...at one point this was a News organization

    September 15, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. cnnsucks

    lol awaiting moderation! Great job Freedom of speech worthless CNN only want LIB comments.

    September 15, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. The Elephant in The Room

    As most have said from the beginning, T-partiers have always been Republicans. It was never more than their internal "Madison Ave" re-branding effort to try to extend the life of an outdated product which time is passing by. They are "CDs" in an "I-Pod" world; "PCs" in a "Tablet" world.

    They may tried to couch their resistence to Obama as due to his "policies" or his "effectiveness" but the truth is, most T-partiers were coming out against he WELL BEFORE any real policies had been developed or inacted. Those of us paying attention see the very concerted plan to deny the President`s effectivness by refusing to do ANYTHING he prosposes, even when it reflects a previously GOP-supported initiative.

    These T-Partiers are deathly afraid that their era of priveledge is coming to an end. They are desperate. They see life in America as a zero sum game and if someone else is winning they figure they must be losing. If they truly favored a meritocracy, they`d not sweat this; but sweating they are. If they were true nationalistic patriots, they`d till see a zero sum game but with ALL Americans winning at the expense of the rest of the world.

    I refuse to support the Neanderthals. American will be better if we reject the GOPTP in 2012 & 2014. With that lesson learned, a true moderate faction will re-emerge and the Party can survive.

    September 15, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. Buck Jackson

    I am a Republican and I am disgusted at the hijacking of the party by the Teahadist movement.

    September 15, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. Damage Control

    The T-party doesn't understand cause and effect–hence their focus on austerity as a means of reducing the debt and their failure to understand science. If God can just go 'poof!' and create man and society (and fake fossils for scientists to find) he can also go 'poof!' when once of his radical zealots installs their regime and wipe out the deficit. That's what they think, if you could call it thinking.

    September 15, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. jeff george

    As a fierce independent, I chose to check out the tea party in 2009. I immediately saw three things I didn't like. First off, Freedomworks is utterly corporate-sponsored, and I don't like Dick Armey. He's rude and obnoxious. Second, governing means compromise, it's the American way. Ideology doesn't breed cooperation. Third, I went to three different rallies in the midwest, and was completely turned off by all the racist signs, and the death panel nonsense. An unreasonable bunch.

    September 15, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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