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. Chris

    We Republicans are all united against your obongo messiah. You wish we were infighting you claim we are haha.

    September 15, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Paulie

    That means both sides wont vote Obama or democrat – not such a bad thing really.

    September 15, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. JJ

    I don't exactly understand this breakdown. Apparently, Tea Party members are more likely to be college educated, but are also more likely to believe that evolution and climate change are hoaxes. Where did they all go to college? Liberty University? I don't understand how "more college educated white males" could also believe that god created the earth in 6 days.

    September 15, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. MAVF

    Wowww...does it take a CNN news article to expose bigotry. Minorities are quite aware of how white men think in this country, we've had over 400 years of experience with them. YOu know how they loved to come to the slave quarters and take off those mask...they still are the same old "!#?!%white men", throwing the rock and hiding their hands". Honesty is the best policy...or is it.

    September 15, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. John J. Puccio

    One of the biggest components in the Tea Party is the Tea Party Express, which is fully funded by the multibillionaire Koch brothers (whose father was a co-founder of the John Birch Society). The idea is get some people angry enough to demand lower taxes (on the rich "job creators"), more corporate loopholes (incentives), deregulation of big business, elimination of the EPA, etc., and pretty much allow the rich to get richer. Most thinking people are catching on to this attempted takeover of the government by the Kochs and their kind.

    September 15, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. mikemc1970

    "angry white men"

    That is the most racist thing I've seen in a long while. I'm reporting CNN and Keating Holland to attackwatch.

    September 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. whoa!

    TeaPartiers are the direct descendants of the slave owners and their sympathizers.... understand now?

    September 15, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Mike

    The middle ground may be:
    "Tread Lightly On Me"

    September 15, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Nate

    I wonder how many angry lib drones CNN has on it's payroll for posting comments supporting the crap that's in these articles...

    September 15, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. Dave

    But there is someone out there that will UNITE us!

    Mr. Barrack Obama, will rally the Republicans together and motivate them to fight this fight!

    September 15, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. Rah Rah

    Down with the Koch brothers! Down with the Tea Party!

    September 15, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. glddraco

    It almost seems like CNN is become more and more right winged.

    September 15, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. Dennis

    Let's face it, most people want to belong to a cause even though they may not understand what the cause is. So the Teabaggers have a cause, but what is that cause? Budget Deficits? If so, then they must understand that most of the budget deficits have occurred under Republican administrations and have gone to benefit only a few Americans, by cutting taxes and waging wars. So, I am confused, are budget deficits good under Republican administrations, but bad under Democratic administrations? Are creating deficits to help Wall Street good, but creating deficits to help Main Street bad? Is anybody who truly believes in this cause intelligenct enough to understand how we got into this mess, or are they just being lead around with a ring in their nose by their Wall Street masters?

    September 15, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. Leo Gasdette

    This country was founded with a TEA PARTY in the 1770s and by GOD I feel this is the time for another one. It is about time we get rid of the career politicians and do nothings in Congress (both houses of course), and get people who will get this country moving again!!! We are in dire straits and those who are in Congress and their predecessors create this mess, and it is time to change and reverse decades of mismanagement and unethical behavior. Both DEMS & REPS should be looking over thier shoulders because the TEA PARTY is coming and coming fast, Fiscal responsibility is around the corner ( and maybe disaster), but a change from the busieness as usual is needed big time!!!

    September 15, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. conoclast

    What's obvious now is that the tea party has become a religion. Their deity is "liberty" and "freedom" and, just like the christians who can't really define what it is they believe in either, they invoke the terms with eyes skyward as if they were somehow above defining. Their satan - their Hated One - is of course Obama. These people cannot - and more importantly, will not - be reasoned with; they mistrust reason itself! But the most salient similarity with the Bible-belters is that they're doing all this "for our own good"; they're "saving" us (from ourselves, presumably!).

    September 15, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. TheWalrus13

    This is why the Republican Party is going to have a tough time winning the election in 2012. No matter who is nominated, its going to anger one half of the party caucus. I think the nominee (whoever it is) will quickly discover what President Obama has known for the last 4 years; that America is now divided into three parties: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party.

    September 15, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Al-NY,NY

    the T-B party will be the death knell of the GOP. I thought they were only interested in financial issues?? I guess not since they are likely more extreme than regular GOP'ers in terms of their "red meat social issues" What a laugh these guys are.

    September 15, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. Barking Alien

    The GOP has become a little more schizophrenic then usual. Give the Tea Party the boot and you will get rid of 90% of the flakes, nuts, cranks, and zealots.

    September 15, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Justin Smith

    Nice try C.N.N.
    Ron Paul 2012 !

    September 15, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. huh

    Goodstuff – you wrote:
    "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."

    The article does state that most tea party members are college educated, so that should be B) Angry educated hate-monger sociapathic zealots.

    And I agree, I too am voting for Cthulhu in 2012!

    September 15, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Rickb

    Hey, the "Tea Party" doesn't even get the Tea Party correct. The 1773 Boston Tea Party was a protest again corporate tax breaks for large corporations (in fact, the largest corporation) as a result of the Tea Act of 1773, which allowed the British East India Company to ship tea without tax (they even got a rebate on previously taxed tea). As you head to Wikipedia, note, it doesn't reference the only source (Hayes) written by a participant in the 1773 Tea Party.

    September 15, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. volksmaniac

    @ Jeremy ; With the exception that I'm not an Atheist , I agree with every statement that you made in your post . I have a feeling there are more Americans who believe the same things that you and I do , than either party would care to admit .

    September 15, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. H in Texas

    Can we take the moderate 50% and the independents together with the moderate democrats and make a sensible party? Leave the crackpots on both extremes to flap their mouths? That would solve the current situation wouldn't it? It seems to me the middle people are not that far apart. Let's just put aside those small differences for awhile and make one big team. We can vanquish these fringe maniacs in both directions and get back to caring about our country and each other instead of wedge issues.

    September 15, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Terri

    Wow, this doesn't speak very well to the quality of a college education!

    September 15, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Alex

    This will force the not-so-right-wing Republikinds to emerge again... and split the party! so, the monosyllabic slab they know best, "no", may finally work for the rest of us who don't use patriotism as a crutch for everything.

    September 15, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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