New CNN Poll: GOP divided over tea party movement
September 15th, 2011
12:00 PM ET
10 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. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    so I guess then half of the GOP is scared of the Tea Party and half is not. Start looking at the polling numbers where Congress is polling at 13% approval...practically lowest in hostory and trace to see when they slid so low. Seems to me it was after the 2010 November election and when people started to see that the Tea Party is more about ideaology and far less about governing. We need more of the latter than the former here.

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

    The host that allowed the parasite (for spreading hate and fear) is now being killed by the parasite. ha ha ha ha ha ha

    September 15, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. jenniferxxx

    The Repubs danced with the Devil ... now they have to pay the fiddler. You created these morons ...

    September 15, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. Blake

    So essentially 50% of the GOP has a brain, the other 50% are mindless sheep

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

    Kinda like hiring a maid to take care of the household and the maid takes the house, kids, and husband away. ha ha ha ha ha ha

    The FATAL ATTRACTION of the political scene. So many analogies, so little time.

    September 15, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Comments4U

    Funny how I never get to vote in these polls. Ron Paul 2012

    September 15, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Davidk

    Wouldn't it be great if the GOP was split and caused some of the more independent voters to not vote extreme right wing and evangelist? Reminds me of when that idiot Ralph Nader handed the election over to GWB. Without Nader, Gore would have won and we wouldn't be fighting 2 wars, crushing debt, and polarized society.

    September 15, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. Goodstuff

    So essentially, the GOP is split between:
    A). Uneducated hate-mongering sociopathic zealots
    B). Angry uneducated hate-monger sociopathic zealots.

    I'm voting for Cthulhu in 2012.

    September 15, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. Steel

    How in the hell is this breaking news? Typical CNN crap

    September 15, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. WhatInThe

    THIS constitutes breaking news now?

    September 15, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    That can't be right. "Most Americans agree with the Tea Party." I've heard Sen. McConnell, Spkr Boehner, and other Republican Congressional leaders say that quite often.

    September 15, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. Mike

    In the short term the Tea PArty has brought some energy to the republicans. In the long run they will prove to be their downfall. Their ideals will not be nationally embraced and will wind up turning more people off to them.

    September 15, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. MattNAustin

    Tell me again how this is "BREAKING NEWS" I hate CNN, used to watch everyday, but now I can stand it more and more with each passing day.

    September 15, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. awasis

    If you want to cut the deficit you focus on jobs and the economy, not cutting the deficit. But for most Tea Party people this is too complicated of a concept.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Karver

    If the GOP lets their cojones drop and they kick these traitorous and un-american teabaggers out of the party, I will gladly throw my unadulterated support behind the GOP regardless of the obstructionism that Obama has been so feeble in combatting.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. Brad

    lol lady holding sign "Tea Party is America". Quick Math: GOP is roughly 50% of the voting populace, this article says the Tea Party is roughly half of the GOP... thus the Tea Party is roughly 25% of America... thus, Tea Party is NOT America.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Ex-GOP Con

    Surprising? No. The TEA party is nothing new. They were the same radical right who infilitrated the GOP in the Bush years. They just decided to give themselves a name to distance themselves from the GOP brand after tarnishing it. It's time the GOP kicked out thes radical right-wingers.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. NoCommentCNN

    The tea party says they stand for individual freedom and liberty, yet still support the war machine, are anti tolerant of different life styles and continues to support the prohibition on drugs policy. The most conservative view would be to look to these areas for the most cost cuts.
    The Tea party is just another group who wants to tell people how to live their private lives.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. Johny

    I understand that you have identified this clearly as a poll, but I am still amazed that this can run as a major story with extrapolation that claims authority over the entire Republican party. Good grief, they polled less than 500 people!

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. MontanaSon

    CNN will continue its efforts to slander, minimize, whittle and divide, but there is one thing all the propaganda in the world cannot now change – come November, we are all going to give your favored son the boot.

    September 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. RON PAUL 2012!

    How can the Republican Party be split between people who are Taxed Enough Already, and those who, evidently, like to pay more taxes. If you want to pay higher taxes, feel free to do so. Just go to the US Treasury's website, and enter an amount that you want to pay. They take credit cards, and make it very easy to do what you feel is your patriotic duty. I already pay plenty of taxes myself – so don't force me to pay more!!!!


    September 15, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. kal

    Can somebody tell me in CNN front page where is the beaking news that "Weekly jobless claims jump to 428,000". I could not find it.

    September 15, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Cameron

    You mean to tell me that a CNN Poll about the GOP so called divided over the Tea Party movement is the "Breaking News" Headliner???? CNN – are you serious!! How about presenting something that matters and is relevant like the how unemployment claims rose once again. PLEASE resemble something even remotely close to a news agency....utterly pathetic once again!!

    September 15, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. jack

    1/2 and 1/2. So what's the big deal with that. Was a time when most folks thought the world was flat. So I guess half the republicans and all the democrats still do. Big deal. They'll come around.

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Yo Momma

    So 446 people are supposed to be an accurate sampling of the GOP?

    September 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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