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. DannyCali

    Let Teabager Party kill Republican Party first. Look if Teabager Perry win the GOP nomination he going to kill all Republican and their going to change the Party of "NO" to Teabag Party after that.

    September 15, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Larry, Austin, TX

    Why don't we just pass out guns to all the different and just shoot it out.
    We would be done with it and could get the US back to normal. This is reminds
    me out the Congress that went after Communists - Were't they republicans.
    I was a College Republican, but after living in UT and TX I will never ever be part of that party again.

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

    I would really liike to see a poll that asked tea party members some basic questions about Government such as; (1) How many members are there in Congress? (2) What are the names of the Senators from your State? (3) What is the name of the member of the House of Representatives from your district? (4) In regards to our National Debt, who is the greatest amount of money owed too? (5) If both the President and Vice-President died, who is next in line to assume the Presidency? (6) Does the Vice President of The United States ever vote in the U.S. Senate? (7) How many justices are on the United States Supreme Court? (8) What is "gerrymandering? (9) What are the "branches" of the U.S. Government?, etc.

    I personally have found tea party members very poorly informed about Government and how it functions. Most all that I have spoken with only understand GOP "talking points". Come on CNN or other MSM, do a poll of the tea party and see just how much they do know about Government since they want to be decision makers about who is elected.

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

    Dumb And Dumber

    September 15, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Tea Yourself

    Evidently there are some Republicans with triple digit IQs who can see through the Tea Party's veil of hate.

    September 15, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. BeverlyNC

    They should be – in fact they should be terrified of these extremist lunatics who applaud how many people Gov Perry had executed in the state of TX and cheered the loudest of the night when it was suggested people without insurance should be just allowed to die. And I thought Republicans were joking about "Death Panels" when they tried to scare people from Obama's protective healthcare law for ALL people? They were serious. The Republican Party is a DEATH PANEL and it is their real jobs plan – let people die and then we won't need more jobs!
    RUN- these Republicans are out to destroy our nation, our values, and our democracy and they are certainly NOT Christians. They are more like the MoneyChangers in the Temple that Jesus threw out. NO MORE REPUBLICANS in 2012!

    September 15, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Stratmaster

    Crazy List: Bachmann...check. Perry...check. Paul...check. Cain...check. Santorum....check
    Spineless list: Romney...check, Democratic Party as a whole...check.
    Hypocrite list: Gingrich...check. Santorum...check.
    Ineffective List: Obama...check. US senate...check
    Snowball's chance list: Huntsman, Paul, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich...check.
    Purposely running our country for political/ideological gains list: House of Representatives, Tea Party

    Wow, I didn't mean to depress everyone. But I am not sure where that leaves us. I guess I will stick with either ineffective (Obama) or Snowball's chance (Huntsman).

    September 15, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. Daniel

    My professor at med school (outside the U.S.) was saying the other day that the United States doesn't have a political right or a political left. It has the middle (Democrat party), and the far right (Republican party). I think that the core of the Republican party wants to go back to their position in the right, distancing themselves from extremists, but they need votes.

    September 15, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. 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 "dirty white men", throwing the rock and hiding their hands". Honesty is the best policy...or is it.

    September 15, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Aeromechanic

    Here is what the Tea Party is about: A deadbeat dad owing $100,000 in back child support and then not even showing up in court because he thinks he is too important as a congressmen. Thsi is the guy who told President Obama to "quit lying".

    September 15, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. Tea Time

    Read enough of the comments to see most missed the line in the 5th paragraph "The poll indicates that demographically, tea party Republicans are more likely to be male, older, and college educated". I'll repeat it for the people saying tea = idiots... "college educated". Sorry if that doesn't fit the agenda for you.

    September 15, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. LogicReason

    the Tea Party must fail. Seriously....... S E R I O U S L Y....

    September 15, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. 66Biker

    The Republicons are splitting up? They were such a perfect couple. I wonder who will get the sheep?

    September 15, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. JiminNM

    Takers and users oppose the Tea Party. Vote Ron Paul for President and restore American sovereignty.

    September 15, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. Ray E. Georgia

    For those that aren't Taxed Enough Already, pay more Taxes! ! !

    September 15, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |

    Predominantly white? I think the writer meant predominantly stupid.

    September 15, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. AZVoter

    Of course Tea Partiers are more concerned with the deficit than jobs... most of them are "angry white men" who are retired and don't need a job because they're collecting SS.

    Funny how they think Obama is a Socialist, but have no problem collectin SOCIAL Security.

    September 15, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Not Fat

    The Tea Party has destroyed the GOP. Americans reject these extremists.

    September 15, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Asland

    In the end it looks like a stream of idiots here who believe their own propaganda. Best point was made by Marty B. You are all fools to believe anything that comes from CNN or Fox for that matter. Start doing some critical thinking. Your not rooting for a football team. We are talking about the fate of Freedom in this country. Nothing more and nothing less. If your still caught up in the right vs. left or R vs. D debate and think it really makes a difference you just don't get it.

    September 15, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. musician

    Born-again, evangelical, gun-tootin`, government-hating, Obama hating, science-hating, tax-hating, gay-hating, environment-hating, flag-waving, foreigner=hating, white, old and stupid. Try to guess who I`m talking about.

    September 15, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. us1776

    Well, now we know what percentage of the GOP are racists !!

    September 15, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Dean

    The Tea Party will probably cause Obama to be reelected in 2012. That's the worst thing that could happen to the Democrat Party. (Go Tea Party!)

    September 15, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. BiminiBob

    When I register to vote some 30 years ago, I choose the Republican party. Now all the candidates that are running for the presidency are associated with the Republican Tea Party. I wonder when a Republican is going announce their candidacy for the presidency.

    September 15, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. Dee

    If the Tea Party people have their way, all of our state houses will be the same as church's, not with limited government in our lives, but with laws implemented based on evangelical religious idiology. First law, Abortion Illegal punishable by imprisonment. Second law, anyone Gay/Lesbian will be stripped of any basic rights much less equal rights and will be punished with prison or even death.

    September 15, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. steven harnack

    Once again I have to doubt the story that tea party Repubs are more likely to be college educated. I think that they are more likely to lie about it! You can't convince me that people who doubt evolution, global warming and choices for women are the college educated ones. That just doesn't pass the smell test. Actually it smells like sulfur and rotten eggs.

    September 15, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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