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. dudley0418

    Well, say what you wish about the Tea Party, but at least they are against business as usual which is driving the country into default. They are like a group at an abortion clinic; two big groups screaming at and spitting on each other, accomplishing nothing, while the little group sneaks around the back and uh-oh, suddenly they are inside actually making changes.

    September 15, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. Tim, San Diego CA

    What I get from this story is that if the GOP nominates a Tea Party candidate they have reduced their chances of defeating Obama. I'll agree with that.

    September 15, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. dudley0418

    Well, say what you wish about the Tea Party, but at least they are against business as usual which is driving the country into default. They are like a group at a clinic; two big groups screaming at each other, accomplishing nothing, while the little group sneaks around the back and uh-oh, suddenly they are inside actually making changes

    September 15, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. 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 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. hypatia

    I suggest making a decision and not the one Germany made with the Nationalist Socialist Party in the 30's.

    September 15, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. James

    Sounds like they are reaping the results of pandering to the uneducated hardline religious right to get the votes.

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Following our Constitution is a radical idea? NO."

    Ignoring historical record and facts and SCOTUS precedent in order to misinterpret it, demanding that we amend it to get rid of the 10th and 17th amendments and trying to insert an amendment that would completely hamstring the government's ability to deal with economic crises are radical ideas? YES.

    "Not spending and borrowing the country into bankruptcy is a radical idea? NO."

    Demanding that we make huge cuts in government spending during a recession despite widespread overwhelmning consensus among expert economists that it is a terrible idea and should wait until we're out of the woods, ignoring said economists when they testify to exactly that before Congress this week and insisting that we continue to believe and behave as though tax cuts and deregulation aren't causing all the income, wealth and assets of the country to be redistributed to the extremely wealthy and corporations, but actually have the opposite effect of causing it all to "trickle down"...those are radical ideas? YES.

    "Not wanting the government to control EVERY aspect of our lives is a radical idera? NO."

    Believing every conspiracy theory beamed into your tinfoil hat and running around like your hair is on fire misusing the word "socialism" is radical behavior? YES.

    "Enforcing our laws and borders is a radical idea? NO."

    Claiming that it is possible or sane to create the pervasive quasi-fascist police state necessary to completely "close the borders" and then "root out and send all the illegals home" at the cost of trillions of dollars...especially right after complaining about the "government controlling all aspects of our lives"...and that any immigration reform that creates a saner path to citizenship for immigrants is solely the Dems "buying votes"...those are radical ideas? YES.

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Reformed Republican

    "Angry White Men"? First of all it's a racist statement. Say that about any other race and you'd be brought up on hate crime charges. Secondly, I am a white man who after getting screwed by the banks we bailed out, out of my home because a pharmaceutical company almost killed me if I was angry it's at big business, big banks and all the republican's. It's thinking like the tea party's that due to no fault of their own a family gets kicked out onto the street. The Banks and big business NEED to be regulated because they stomp all over individual American's without remorse or cause. They are crooks and the Government NEEDS to protect the citizens just like the CONSTITUTION states is the Governments responsibility.

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. WTFoxtrot

    The anonymity and anarchy of the internet makes it possible for people to be able to express themselves freely. But, it is also a means by which some people perpetuate falsehoods, hatred, and divisiveness

    So much vitriol and bile is spewed by very loud strident self-centered, self-serving, selfish voices – so much so that the regular everyday person does not get to be heard.

    Whether one agrees (or not) with the tea party or independents or republicans or democrats or Christians or atheists or Muslims or...: extreme left and extreme right are not where any government or populace will be successful. Success and health almost always comes from moderate points of view and the ability to work together.

    After all, the USA is one country. Democrats are not terrorist insurgents, nor are Republicans (or Independents)... we are NEIGHBORS.

    It’s time to stop destroying others for profit, politics, and ideology. It’s time to start thinking, breathing, caring, and working together.

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Following our Constitution is a radical idea? NO."

    Ignoring historical record and facts and SCOTUS precedent in order to misinterpret it, demanding that we amend it to get rid of the 10th and 17th amendments and trying to insert an amendment that would completely hamstring the government's ability to deal with economic crises are radical ideas? YES.

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. Peikovian

    Are all Democrats fans of MoveOn or of deficit spending? Any polls on that issue?

    September 15, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Mark

    foreign policy as far as out military presence in the middle east and nation building in general... who will do anything about that? I dont care if its Dem or some Tea Party nut... thats what needs to change... Ron Paul may seem like a bit of an anarchist when it comes to how he would want to axe everything, but hes the only candidate who i feel would successfully overhaul our foreign policy. I think there would be enough checks and balances to prevent him from doing anything else too crazy... and we know he would stick to what he says... normalize relations with other nations and bring our troops home!!!

    September 15, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. Cody

    The Tea party will divide the GOP in 2012 and make Obama's reelection easy. Go tea party!

    September 15, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Sid Boxman

    Yes, unlike the Democratic party, we Republican welcome diverse opinions and ideas versus the "our way or the highway" Democrat approach.

    September 15, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. xzodiac

    CCN reporters you are so manipulative of news. 49% for and 51% neutral or against... Really? Why wont you be more accurate are you afraid of the truth?
    So what is the actual percentage against and percentage neutral? I bet its more like 20% against and 31% neutral. Makes it sound total different doesn't it
    I will not view CNN any longer just like MSNBC you sound too much like old Soviet era news reporters.

    September 15, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Ron Hall

    As a moderate, I will not support a group that does not believe in compromise. I support lowering the debt through lowered military spending and less empire building. We need to get rid of reforms that are burdensome and don't promote responsible behavior. The President's plan to add a couple of hundred billion in debt by shorting the Social Security trust is a stupid idea. We can cut taxes by elimination of loopholes and a fair tax rate for individuals and business. I don't believe Obama has provided much leadership to his legislation. If the election is between him and a far right Tea blessed candidate, I will be forced to vote to re-elect a President that shouldn't have run. The extremism of the tea party will wreck the GOP and possibly our political process. Where is our moderation and fairness?

    September 15, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. dudley0418

    Well, say what you wish about them, but at least they are against business as usual which is driving the country into default. They are like a group at a clinic; two big groups screaming at each other, accomplishing nothing, while the little group sneaks around the back and uh-oh, suddenly they are inside actually making changes

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. Realistic85

    So if Tea Party members are considered to be more educated than why are they so stupid to begin with? They would rather the country defualt causing higher interest rates, possible devaulation of the dollar. But hey it's OK what do we need low interest rates and the dollar for? Then they said they don't care who's president as long as it's not Obama. While I may not like Obama I still wouldn't want someone like Palin or Bachman running this country. The Tea Party is the worst of society. They maybe educated, but are obviously oblivious to common sense. They are a dangerous faction and If they get there way it's the certian destruction of this country.

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. xzodiac

    The tea Party is way way too left wing for me :) Sharia law is starting to sound like something the U.S. needs to put left wing freaks in their place.

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. Paulie

    That means both sides hate Obama and democrats. Its not that bad of a thing.

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. Katy

    If the GOP wants any kind of serious future, it has to lose the Tea Partiers. IMO, they are an ignorant bunch of religious fanatics who will make our country into a third world joke.

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. dudley0418

    I can't figure out which words require review by a moderator.

    September 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  23. Darmell

    If a Republican president wins, the tea party fakers will put away their colonial hats get their war drums back out. This time they want to fight Iran.

    September 15, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. John

    The picture says it all!! Enough said. Hillbillies

    September 15, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  25. Paulie

    Do you remember the poll the other day that said 46% of people approve of Obama's handling of the economy? What CNN failed to mention is that mean 54% of americans disapprove!

    September 15, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
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