The New York Times/CBS News poll that focused on the opinions of self-identified tea party members paints an interesting picture of people who choose the label. We know they are very white, basically 86% of the them in the pool were white non-Hispanics. As a group, they tend to be financially better off and have a high level of education compared to the general public. They are also, as a group, much older than the rest of the voting population, and are more likely to attend church and call themselves “born again” (39% among tea party members, compared with 28% among the general population).
A majority of them, 52%, feel “too much” has been made of the problem facing black people. That is significantly more than the 28% of all Americans who hold that view. They are also much more likely to oppose gay marriage and think global warming is not a real or serious problem.
For the most part, they see themselves ideologically conservative. Only 4% called themselves liberal, and only 20% identified as moderate, while 73% claimed to be somewhat or very conservative. Not surprisingly, 66% of them always or usually vote for Republicans, while only 5% would say the same about Democrats.
They love Fox News; given how hard Fox has been pushing people to adopt the label, this is not a surprise. A whopping 63% of tea partiers get most of their news from Fox News–compared to only 23% of the full survey population. And, also not surprising given how much they watch Fox News, a solid 59% of them have a favorable opinion of Glenn Beck.
An overwhelming majority, 73%, of tea party supporters believe providing government benefits to the poor encourages them to stay poor. Which is ironic because a strong majority, 62% of them, think that government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are worth their cost to taxpayers.
The most interesting result basically proves claiming T.E.A. stands for “taxed enough already” is nonsense: 46% of self-identified tea party supporters believe the main goal of the movement should be to shrink federal government. Only 6% said that lowering taxes should be the main goal. When the self-identified angry tea party supporters were asked what made them most angry, taxes barely register–a scant 2%–far below health care reform (16%), not representing the people (14%), government spending (11%), and unemployment (8%).
What they do seem to agree about–overwhelmingly–is that Obama is very liberal (77%), and that Obama’s policies are moving use toward “socialism” (92%). Not surprisingly, because they think Obama is an ultra-liberal moving the country towards socialism, 75% of them believe he does not share the values most Americans try to live by. Given that, it is no shock that 88% of them disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, and 92% have an unfavorable view of the Democratic party.
Despite wall-to-wall coverage from Fox News, and a huge fascination with the idea, it turns out most have heard “nothing” (28%) or “not much” (22%) about the “Tea Party movement.”
It would appear that the tea party movement is made up mainly of older, conservative, religious, white people who usually vote Republican. They watch a lot of Fox News and really dislike President Obama and the Democratic Party. Even if the tea party started as something different, it appears the label has been co-opted to re-brand the more familiar Fox News-style, conservative Republicans.