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. thunderbolt

    You liberals are so funny. After looking at the comments it looks like a dreamers list for Santa. You guys have tried to paint the tea party in a dark shade of light , but it has backfired every time. I will guarantee that republicans, with the tea party will stand together this election season. They see no bigger threat to the American way of life, than President Obama. You may forget the backroom deals, black-mail, extortion, and cronie power grabs but I sure won't. Nor will I forget the attacks on regular Americans who just want sensible solutions out of our government. The dem tactics are shameless in every way. I would rather flush my money than give it in support of such a group. They tout one thing but do another. They say one thing but their actions tell a much different story. Instead of attacks on the tea party why don't some of you geniuses defend Obama's policies, facts and numbers? Let me guess, that won't work either..............

    September 15, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Joe

    Unfortunately, fascinating though this is, it does not alter the fact that Obama has NO idea of how to govern a country

    September 15, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. jracforr

    The Tea Party is a white working class movement being stage managed by the Republican Party. It is unlikely this " Up Town, Down Town " union will last

    September 15, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Paul

    I think the Tea Party is really is bad for America!!! They have no solutions on how to fix the economy, and all there for is small government , and taking care of the rich. We wouldn't have government as big as it is, if it wasn't for these Republican wars where fighting, and the lack of oversite of Wall Street under President Bush. Obama has offered solutions, and is at least trying people??

    September 15, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |

    im voting for the guy who started the tea party. RON PAUL 2012!!!

    September 15, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. pat carr

    "How can the Republican Party be split between people who are Taxed Enough Already, and those who, evidently, like to pay more taxes."

    See that's the black and white simple thinking of the TeaBots. for example: I have never seen any of these "Taxed enough already" people protest the bloated defense budget.

    September 15, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    A CNN Poll found, yeah right! It seems all we heard is what CNN pollster Holland thought he heard. Who cares. They hope the GOP is divided, but all they have to look at is the NYC 9th district to know the democrats are in a mess!

    September 15, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Anchorite

    Simply put, the Tea Party is the popular arm of the corporate party. All they stand for is greater profits for the rich at all costs. They use religious issues to get large numbers of poor or uneducated voters on their side, but it is all about getting elected to lower taxes, undo regulations, and privatize more.

    September 15, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Daniel

    I know the Tea party has trouble with numbers, but where does "1,038 adults interviewed" equal less than 500 people sampled?

    September 15, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Lenny Pincus

    Pretty much what most normal people have been saying all along. The Teabaggers don't represent some new movement. They are this generation's Know-Nothings, hyper-Christianist white elders who hate everything except what they say is good. Their leaders are as illogical and mindless as they are, and they deserve each other. Oh yeah, they are completely underwritten by corporate interests who will benefit from their illogic.

    September 15, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. pat carr

    "Considering that the Tea Party only has 3 core values of fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market enterprise"

    if that's the case, why don't i ever see the "tea party" oppose the wars or the bloated defense budget?

    September 15, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. scott

    I think they should have one.

    September 15, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. College Grad with some common sense

    Few things teaparty members need to do before they are allowed in national talks of any kind:
    1) Take a course in Economics 101
    2) Take a course in Accounting
    3) Take a course in Geology
    4) Take a basics math course
    5) Read a science textbook (i.e., physics, chemisty, etc) but something other than the Bible

    But above all, make sure all above steps, 1 to 5, are done at a top 100 ranked school and not getting home-schooled or teaching oneself at a library

    After you have done the above, you (teapartiers) should then be allowed in national political debates.

    oh and another out of our lil town to another country or state to experience the diversity and multiculturalism rather than living in your little bubble.

    September 15, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Peggy - TX

    DC Johnny said” The Tea Party is made up of all colors, all religions, and all classes of people. Do I believe in Creationism? No. Am I ashamed to say that the Tea Party is inspiring to me, and that I believe in most of what they push for? Absolutely not.”

    Sorry DC Johnny, but just because you are delusional and see only what you want to see through your racist, nazi, terroist eyes, the rest of Americans only see elderly middle class folks carrying the banner for a few ulta-rich guys who want more power and money. That makes these Tea Partirers stooges. Even through there may be some legitimacy in the proposition for small Government and lower debt, that purported purpose is just the pretext for the Tea Party purpose. The real agenda is clear from the actions of the Tea Party leaders and if American lets these Crazes take control of our Government, it will take 30 years to recover and the elderly stooges that carry the torch will then know that they were had … but it will be too late.

    September 15, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. Say What?

    A CNN Poll, yeah right!. The CNN pollster reported what he dreamed he heard as facts. Worried about the GOP being split. There was a poll this week in NYC 9th district that shows that the Democrats are really messed up!

    September 15, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. just me

    I always do the CNN polls when I see them, and I didn't see this one. As a Repub in voting – actually more liberal in life, I DO NOT AGREE that the Tea Party defines, or really has much to do with most Republicans. "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." This is an ABSURD statement, and does NOT represent ANY of my fellow Repubs. It's way too simplistic and a load of crxp.

    September 15, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. U.S.Army-OverLord

    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 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Dennis B

    I would like to see a CNN poll on Dems that are moving away from the president... They are moving so fast the boat willbe tipping and sinking.

    September 15, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. JT

    The GOP solicits hard right to the idiots who believe the earth is 6000 yrs old and science is a sham. They forgot about those in the middle, or even center right, which is why they will not regain the Presidency.

    September 15, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. Mama Judy

    What a relief I thought America and the Republicans were going crazy......good to know normal republican out there...don't let the Tea Party bully strong for America!

    September 15, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. paul

    The teabaggers, they do not deserve another name are the reason why the economy stalled. They are 100% responsible for the Credit downgrade and the ZERO jobs created last month. They are reason the GOP is going down. There is no sanity left in the GOP. Sure back only the top 1% and ignore the other 99%.

    September 15, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  22. Brendan

    It is counter intuitive that the half supporting the Tea Party are more likely to have a college education. What college teaches that Evolution is not supported by overwhelming evidence? What college teaches you to ignore significant scientific evidence and measurements that the Earth is warming (I'm willing to have a discussion if Global Warming is man-made but not that it is actually happening)? Maybe that is why the Tea Party is so angry with the Dept of Education.... Anyone who has gone through that much schooling and still cannot accept scientific fact should feel disappointed.

    I'm an Independent leaning Republican right now but I don't think I can punch the ticket for someone that will not accept modern scientific thinking. That is taking 2 steps forward (possibly improved economy) but 3 steps back (rejection of scientific method because "you don't like the answer").

    September 15, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. carl

    Finally theiy're admitting the truth. Other BREAKING NEWS is in 1987 their girl Sarah Palin dated NBA Player Glen Rice and used cocaine, other BREAKING NEWS is she and Todd used cocaine. It might be BREAKING NEWS but no surprise.

    September 15, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. Global Economy

    I wish the Republicans could get it together and give us an option to look at vs. Obama come 2012. I can't see how a moderate Republican can win the nomination, and any Republican that drinks up tea party ignorance simply won't win my vote, and won't win the election either.

    Romney is their best hope, but I don't think he's ignorant enough to get the tea party vote for the nomination.

    September 15, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. MTATL67

    This organization is an extremist group and fiscal terrorist. They would rather see Americans savings wiped (the downgrade = markets falling), American out on the street if they don't get their way. They want to continue to reward companies that put Americans out of work by sending jobs overseas. They are supporting a Governor who ran his state’s debt up to $27B (Approx). This extremist group wants to strip the social freedoms that many of us have fought so hard far. Rep. Bachmann would rather see young American females get cancer for what ideology. My Grandfather said of this group “Watch them that is how the Nazis got Germany”.

    September 15, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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