Tea Party Supporters: Who They Are and What They Believe

Brian Montopoli, CBS News, April 14, 2010

They’re white. They’re older. And they’re angry.

CBS News and the New York Times surveyed 1,580 adults, including 881 self-identified Tea Party supporters, to get a snapshot of the Tea Party movement. There is a lot of information to unpack; let’s begin with the demographics.

Eighteen percent of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters. The vast majority of them–89 percent–are white. Just one percent is black.

They tend to skew older: Three in four are 45 years old or older, including 29 percent who are 65 plus. They are also more likely to be men (59 percent) than women (41 percent).

More than one in three (36 percent) hails from the South, far more than any other region. Twenty-five percent come from the West, 22 percent from the Midwest, and 18 percent from the northeast.

They are better educated than most Americans: 37 percent are college graduates, compared to 25 percent of Americans overall. They also have a higher-than-average household income, with 56 percent making more than $50,000 per year.

More than half (54 percent) identify as Republicans, and another 41 percent say they are independents. Just five percent call themselves Democrats, compared to 31 percent of adults nationwide.

Nearly three in four describe themselves as conservative, and 39 percent call themselves very conservative. Sixty percent say they always or usually vote Republican. Forty percent say the United States needs a third party, while 52 percent say it does not.

They are more likely than American adults overall to attend religious services weekly (38 percent do so) and to call themselves evangelical (39 percent). Sixty-one percent are Protestant, and another 22 percent are Catholic.

More than half–58 percent–keep a gun in the household.

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What They Believe

Fifty-three percent of Tea Party supporters describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in Washington, compared to 19 percent of Americans overall who say they are angry.

Asked what they are most angry about, the top four answers among Tea Party supporters who identify as angry were the health care reform bill (16 percent), the government not representing the people (14 percent), government spending (11 percent) and unemployment and the economy (8 percent).

More than nine in ten (92 percent) say America is on the wrong track, while just six percent say the country is headed in the right direction. Fifty-nine percent of Americans overall say the country is on the wrong track.

Eighty-eight percent disapprove of President Obama’s performance on the job, compared to 40 percent of Americans overall. While half of Americans approve of Mr. Obama’s job performance, just seven percent of Tea Party supporters say he is doing a good job.

Asked to volunteer what they don’t like about Mr. Obama, the top answer, offered by 19 percent of Tea Party supporters, was that they just don’t like him. Eleven percent said he is turning the country more toward socialism, ten percent cited his health care reform efforts, and nine percent said he is dishonest.

Seventy-seven percent describe Mr. Obama as “very liberal,” compared to 31 percent of Americans overall. Fifty-six percent say the president’s policies favor the poor, compared to 27 percent of Americans overall.

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Views on Race

Tea Party supporters are less likely than Americans overall to believe whites have more opportunities to get ahead than blacks.

Just 16 percent of Tea Party supporters say whites have more opportunities to get ahead, compared to 31 percent of all Americans. Seventy-three percent say both have equal opportunity, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.

Fifty-two percent believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Far fewer Americans overall–28 percent–believe as much. Among non-Tea Party whites, the percentage who say too much attention has been paid to the problems of black people is 23 percent.

A majority of Tea Party suppers believe the Obama administration treats both blacks and whites the same way. But one in four believe the administration favors blacks over whites, an opinion shared by just 11 percent of Americans overall and seven percent of non-Tea Party whites.

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