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. Lo

    Oh well!!!

    September 15, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Punctus

    So now "science" (i.e. accepted scientific theory) is an "issue"? What about the theory of gravity? Or the overwhelmingly accepted theory that the average Tea Party activist has a brain the size of a small pea? Are these "issues" also?

    September 15, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  3. J

    "Six in ten tea party Republicans say that evolution is wrong." That is just plain scary. Is antibiotic resistance a myth? How about having to make a new flu vaccine because the flu bug changes year to year? Discount evolution and you discount modern medicine. Perhaps you'd like to live in the middle ages again?

    September 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. B

    The Tea Party will be the GOPs biggest Nightmare in 2012.

    Most Americans are not radical, but more middle- ground and have seen enough Nonsense from the Right Wing Nuts!

    September 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. Lindsey

    I often look around, listen to these psychos, and wonder what century they're living in. Evidently, it is the same century they want to pull America back into. Evolution? Evolution shouldn't even be in the DISCUSSION, folks. The entire world is laughing their asses off at this. "Americans believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, how absurd!!" they're saying in classrooms and pubs across the world. If Tea Party nuts have their way, our students will be learning about Bible fables in public school biology class instead of will this prepare them for the future? How could they hope to compete on a global scale? The Tea Party kooks don't care. They want to stuff their economic AND religious dogma forcefully down all throats. If Perry wins, America goes back to the Dark Ages. Plain and simple. And I leave this country forever. Plain and simple. I want no part of a backward realm where the supernatural has the last word.

    September 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Chris PAPA

    Tea Party=KKK without the white hoods and rituals.

    September 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. J

    "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 it's not the most important issues in America that are important with the Tea Party, they just don't want Obama to be our President. I wonder what their reason is for that????????

    September 15, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    GM wrote:
    You don't actually believe this do you Rudy??!! I suppose you still believe the Democrats will maintain control of the House and the Democrat will win Weiner's old seat? Talk about living in the past and not keeping up. I know Obama's pending defeat has got you all upset but please try to cope reality.
    Weiner's old district, along with another NY seat with an "R" on it, will not exist come 2013.

    And yes, conservatives are more worried about President Obama being re-elected than liberals. Where have you been? Every conservative from McConnell to Bachmann have been repeating that the number one goal is to make President Obama a single termer. I would say that qualifies as extremely worried. Liberals are not extremely worried.

    September 15, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. mE

    Looks like the GOP wants to put the genie back into the bottle.
    But the Genie will not go gentle into that good night

    September 15, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Tea Party In My Pants

    Something that started out truly grassroots and with solid libertarian ideas becomes co-opted by big corporations and media, entrenched Beltway politicians, and other assorted hangers-on. Tea Party let hate and extremism win the day instead of logic, reason, and pride in America. A truly sad turn of events from an ideal that appeared so promising.

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

    I wonder what would happen if the more moderate Republicans split off from the Republican Tea Party? I think there are lots of Democrats that are more moderate than some of the more liberal parts of the party that seem to drive the agenda sometimes much like the Tea Party is driving the Republicans right now. Would it look like a Bell Curve with the extremely liberal and conservative being on each end and the moderates making up the majority?

    September 15, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. DREvans

    The dems have the same problems in their pary. The Repubs have their right wing radicals in the Tea Party and the dems have their left wing liberal loons. You know, the total ideologs that can only think in therory not in practicle terms (see communism). And let's not forget the ecco terroritsts that won't be happy until we're all back to living in cave's carrying sticks. Oh, and what about those in the government should be the sole provider of everything group. Need a job, government provides it, pay the mortgage, governments job, raise the kids, governments job, think for me so I don't have to, oh again that's the governments job. These groups pull them dems just as far to the left as the Tea party pulls the repubs to the right. What remains is the rest of us inn the middle who have managed to hold on to our sanity.

    September 15, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Insani-tea

    Screw 'em all, bunch of raving lunatics. Now Republicans are afraid of their own shadow...serves all of them right.

    September 15, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. Ty

    The Tea Party is a motley crew of freaks, fanatics and rejects.

    September 15, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I think that most of the tea people should be libertarians and not a part of the GOP. That should raise the ranks of the Libertarians and make them a viable 3rd party. I say that many of these tea people really don't understand anything other than they don't like government taxing them and spending the money on other people. They don't understand that the money that goes in taxes helps them.

    September 15, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    chatmandu002 wrote:
    Considering that the Tea Party only has 3 core values of fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market enterprise. Why does this so-called report get into other areas such as SS, evolution, gay marriage and abortion where the Tea Party doesn't take a public stand?
    You cite the "original" values held by the Tea Party. Big money got behind them and the "Tea Party" has taken stands on all of those social issues. Where have you been? Didn't you hear the cheers and boos at the Tea Parry debate this past Monday night? The Tea Party has outlined a clear position on populist social issues.

    September 15, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. Casey

    That's NOT "right down the middle". If they had shown the percentage that opposed the TEA party movement by themselves it would have been a much lower number. Instead they grouped those opposed with those who had no opinion. Those who support STILL have just as many as that combined group. What a FARCE!

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

    Has anyone seen the polls taken at the election booths across the country ever since Scott Brown took Kennedy's seat? The shellacking Democrats took in the House last November and again yesterday?
    The CNN polls are not very reflective of reality.

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

    call it the tea party, because Mob of Angry White Racists sound kind of bad.

    September 15, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. demmi

    libbies value education highly but yet call tea party members, who predominantly have college degrees, "Stupid", "Hillbillies", "ignorant", etc. How exactly do you reationalize that hypocrisy?

    September 15, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Teapot

    call it the tea party, because Mob of Angry Whiite Raciists sound kind of bad.

    September 15, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. dan in Alquerque

    I am elderly, from the Bible Belt South, but I disagree strongly with the self-satisifed Tea Party old white guys, and most of the GOP policies. They are slowly losing influence in American politics because they are out of step with mainstream America and have no compassion for the poor, unemployed, sick or disadvantged. . Of course, they may be around long enough to destroy America for many more years through extremism and obstructionism. But, it is inevitable that a more reasonable Americas will emerge sooner or later. Let's hope it is sooner.

    September 15, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. A Kickin' Donkey

    Taxed Enough Already is a great label. Who, in their right mind, could possibly be AGAINST THAT? The problem is the TEA Party isn't this at all.

    President Obama hasn't raised income taxes one bit and yet "Tea Partiers" were out in early 2009. The President and has ALWAYS said only those making $250K or MORE need to pay a little bit more in taxes and upwards of 70% of Americans agree [including those of us that would be hit with the taxes].

    You want to restor the health to Social Security and pay off all those IOUs sitting in the piggy bank? The money is going to come from slightly higher tax rates and this is only right. Afterall, Reagan & Bush & Bush raided the accounts to give the money away in prior tax cuts to the wealthier citizens.

    If you want the CASH back in Social Security, it's time for the more affluent to pay their fair share – that means a progressive tax – not some regressive scheme like Cain's. The highest tax on the rich was 70% when Reagan came to office; today it's half that. We've overshot the mark; you can't tell me a 40% marginal rate is going to hurt these people. How many Rolexes do they need?

    Sooner or later rhetoric and reality are going to have to meet.

    September 15, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Latch

    If the Republicans are so concerned about the deficit, why do they keep starting wars the US can't afford? OH right, because war is very profitable for some people.

    September 15, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. TakeNoPrisoners

    CNN writes these articles to get the pressure off o'blowzo. I am not worried about the T- party, i am worried about this idiot in the whitehouse who thinks he is rambo. get him out then we can worry about something else. this is a goofy article as o'bozo is running this country into the ground and gets a free pass from CNN. $500 millon lost on the solar company loan with o'gumbo smiling because GE wanted to buy these solar panels and now it isnt even front page news. ????????

    September 15, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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