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 from San Antonio

    But I was told the TEA party was made up of republicans AND democrats. I guess they've given up on that lie.

    September 15, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Robert

    The Tea Party is bad news for this country. They are Republican extremists and in that way are no better than al Quida is to Islam. Their approach to politics..."it's our way or screw you" simply unacceptable in a democracy that demands BIPARTISAN cooperation. I don't see this movement lasting. Eventually congressional candidates and electees who have garnered Tea Party support to get them to Washington will tire of being their puppets.

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Leafonthewind

    The Tea Party started out with one simple ideal: tell the U.S. government to stop wasting our tax dollars. Over the course of it's so-far very short life span, it has been taken over by extreme fright-wingers who are anti-government, anti-choice, and anti-gay. Too many Tea Party members are quick to quote Christian scripture even where it absolutely does not apply, and want the laws of our secular republic to reflect their religious views of what is right and what is wrong. I'm neither Democrat nor Republican, but I'm really, really far away from agreement with most Tea Party members.

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Fitz

    When did the Tea Party become just a more radically right republican? The Tea Party is supposed to Libertarian by nature. They are supposed to support small government at home and abroad. They're supposed to support personal liberty and states' rights. Establishment republicans have ruined the Tea Party. They've brought the religious fanaticism and big government war mongering, that spoiled the republican party in the first place. Real tea partiers want fiscal reponsibility, personal liberty, and strong national defense that stays put til we need em

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Where did this poll get the phone list? RNC? 40% creationist, 47% against gay marriage, Obama approval 20 points from Reuters, tells me someone did not do their job. The plus minus for under 50 says the same thing. I will call it by it's proper name, the CNN/ORC/55,25,20/GOP,IND,DEM poll.

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. don

    Divided or not GOP. you got em.

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Don

    Why can't one half of the GOP dispose of the other half? Let's be decisive already! Repubes are such fence-straddlers!

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. dave richman

    Whatever real or imagined division within the Republican will be scattered by the winds of change. All will unite to bring and end to the liberal agenda now in Washington.

    September 15, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Cedar Rapids

    '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."

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

    Sorry folks but dont blame the media for reporting how the tea party responded to the questions.

    September 15, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. napoleon365

    Want to help america?.Tell the morons in washington to abolish the IRS.

    September 15, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Lardeau

    Ah .. they are all just talkers. There are no do-ers. Our leaders are going in circles. Nothing ever gets done. BAH !!!!!

    September 15, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Chris m

    "Nearly six in ten tea party Republicans say that global warming is not a proven fact"

    Yeah, it is a proven fact. And it's not a political issue. Except in the United states.

    September 15, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Weemees

    So, half of all republicans still have some ethics and are sane and half are radical right wingers who just want their way, forget democracy.

    Nothing surpising or new about that.

    September 15, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Jimmy

    Let me preface this by saying Obama is a joke and I did not vote for him, but that being said where was the Tea Party when GWB was spending almost as much money as Obama?

    September 15, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. jecd

    The Tea Party are a bunch of right wing, uneducated zealots. You won't find many voting for anyone who thinks dinosaurs and humans co-existed. In 2008 they accused Obama care of having "death panels" – then at the Tea Party debate the other night they actually shouted out that those with out health insurance should just die. (Incidentally, Ron Pauls head guy did die – without insurance – and they handed the hospital bill of $400, 000.00 to his mother to pay) This is what the Tea Party wants???? All of you out there without insurance – "drop dead" is what they're saying. Good luck.

    September 15, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Rsprings

    So if you get past your bias...Here is how I see it. Like them or not...they have brought focus to an issue that is ruining our country...the out of control spending that has given us a $14.7 Trillion debt and growing. If you are a receiver of public assistance or left wing in your view point you will vilify them. If you are a producer right wing you will love them. If you are a moderate you have questions about them. Here is the only question you should ask yourself. Am I happy with the way the country is being run and what does the future bring if we stay on this course.

    September 15, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Well

    It's good to know that only half of one of the major parties in this country is insane.

    September 15, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Ts

    Hmmm after reading what those in the tea party are for, it sounds like they are the LESS EDUCATED!

    September 15, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. Willie12345

    The tea party folks provide the energy to the Republican party. About 6-8 months before the election, expect the tea party folks to start kicking up a fuss and add a little zing to the Republicans. Without the tea party the Republicans would be as interesting as a glass of warm milk.

    September 15, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. chuchsheen9

    If the CNN/ORC poll is an international poll, why does CNN claim it is a national survey?

    September 15, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. Bozzz

    Would rather have no parties at all, so that the elected officials could align themselves with the USA rather than the GOP and Democratic Party.

    September 15, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. petercha

    TEA = Taxed Enough Already. Shouldn't be that controversial; I'd think that Americans of all stripes would agree with that basic platform. Of course, how the extreme leftists in the media choose to portray the TEA party will have an effect on how they are perceived.

    September 15, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. TheFatherofLies

    Ron Paul got booed by his own when he said that he didn't think "all Muslims" wanted to see America destroyed.

    September 15, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. GOP Hates Middle Class

    How are they split? They are one and the same. GOTP. TeePee is an astroturg organization bought and paid for by Dick Armey and the Kock brothers.

    September 15, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. gatosgal

    This doesn't surprise me. If the moderate republicans (hello? are there any?) want to win anything at all, they'd best help form an Independent party. It's desperately needed. As things stand now, every republican has to stand on the party platform, whether they agree with it or not.

    A split party? Fine by me. Obama in 2012!

    September 15, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
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