New CNN Poll: GOP divided over tea party movement
September 15th, 2011
12:00 PM ET
12 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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Filed under: Republicans • Tea Party movement
soundoff (344 Responses)
  1. kent

    Oh pleae most of you here believe polls and loved the negative numbers about the democrats and President Obama, now that the truth is finally out about your GOPers and Teabaggers you can't handle the truth!

    September 15, 2011 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Cliff

    How can 60% of tea party (and all of the GOTP front runners for president) say evolution is wrong?! That alone disqualifies them for serious debate and critical thinking skills on other issues – it's all about their beliefs and agenda, not the facts and evidence.

    September 15, 2011 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |

    How can the poll conclude the GOP is split down the middle when the 51% referenced is joining two completely positions, as no feelings one way or the other and opposing the movement are drastically different. Now I’m no mathematician nor am I for the GOP but I would feel many of the “NO FEELINGS ONE WAY OR THE OTHER” would vote for the GOP or at least half. Better scrap this article!!!! Terrible poll conclusion.

    September 15, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. Soldier 4 life

    Even if the GOP wins in 2012 (which I don't believe will happen) they should expect the Dems to do the same thing to them. Say NO to everything. The GOP is weaker because of the Tea Party. They could not stand losing power now this is their weapon of choice. When your goal is to see someone else fail, you deserve to fail as well.

    September 15, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. Larry

    I think it is stupid to have a party within a party, they need to split apart!!!

    September 15, 2011 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  6. Melody

    Nice to know that some republicans see the Tea Party for the right wing neo fascists that they are. The Tea Party is America's version of the Taliban and they need to be stopped or they will destroy this country

    September 15, 2011 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  7. philtration

    It leaves a nasty stink on everything it touches.

    September 15, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  8. Omin

    The TeaParty is nothing but the Klan. Who has the time and money to stand outside all day holding a sign. These bigots need to be shot on sight.

    September 15, 2011 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. Livefree88

    It seems to me that the Tea Party was hijacked by the Evangelicals at some point. What i remember about the origins of the Tea party was more about fiscal conservationism instead of the radical social conservationism that we see today. I am a conservative but more of a Libertarian on social issues. We need to get all agendas out of the Federal government and get back to the basics of true freedom.

    September 15, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Omin

    All I know is that klan membership increased by 83% the day Obama became President but then they just disappeared. Where did they go you might ask,.. The Tea Party!

    September 15, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Mark B.

    A CNN poll – can you say AGENDA? Lets see in 2012.

    September 15, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. MightyMoo

    To me this says that the Tea Party is the American version of the Taliban for white evangelical males. And Republicans in general are so hell bent against Obama they'll gladly sink the country and let it be run by these whack jobs just to get him out of office. Wow, what a screwed up country I live in, it even comes with a hint of Dark Ages thinking in that science is bad.

    September 15, 2011 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Not that I don't believe it...

    ...but CNN polls are a joke. For one thing, you can vote as many times as you want!

    Anyone who believes that the so-called Tea Party is a grassroots organization...I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn!

    September 15, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Um

    Wow. You are completely full of it.
    Either that or blissfully ignorant. MANY so-called Tea Party candidates have taken a stand on social issues.


    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"

    September 15, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. Glenn

    The "science" issue? Seriously? When did we become the party of ignorance? What's the issue? Whether centuries of scientific discovery are true – or just an elaborate ruse to make us hate Jesus? I want my GOP back; my capitalism-believing, small-government, de-regulation and social tolerance-rather-than-support GOP. Remember us? We're the ones that gave you RONALD REAGAN. You Tea Party wingnuts can go form your own party, where everyone who doesn't go to church with you is a terrorist and school is the enemy. The Tea Party is a disgusting aberration of the GOP of which we should all be ashamed. THIS is how you lose an election to the worst President in history – thanks for "four more years" Tea Party.

    September 15, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. MathewP1

    I'm suprised the T-party Republicans have higher education than non-t-party types. In fact, I surmised it would be the opposite. Usually highly educated people (masters or higher) are open to new ideas and research, especially science (facts related to global warming). The education results are also incongruent considering their knowledge level and limited cerebral capacity, possibily related to attending lower level schools.

    I can see where the old guys care less about employment, as they have already earned their dollars and thinking about retirement.

    September 15, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. woodofpine

    The tapestry of history... Remember the Spanish Empire circa 1500-1650. They decided to not manufacture but be rich off 'money' (in those days – precious metal and gems from New World colonies, today an int'l 'key' currency), It didn't turn out so good for Spain later... Tea Party – flash point extremists discounted by so many and railing about the economy – and foriegners. The sound and aroma of a good German bierstube in '32...

    September 15, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. kent

    Hey Rick Perry I don't know what kind of Christian you are but the Holy Bible Says "Thou Shall Not Kill" check thse facts in the book of Exodus.

    September 15, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |

    The teabagger/wingnut trainwreck continues. Wingnuts were silent in 2010 as the teabaggers blew the Senate for them. In 2012 they will pay for that silence.

    September 15, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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