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Apr 16th, 2010

Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated

Supporters tend to be white, male, Republican

Walter Maciel, center, of Tewskbury, Mass., at the Tea Party rally Wednesday, April 14, 2010 on Boston Common. (Photo credit: Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times)

By Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan

April 15, 2010


Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

The Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package, and its supporters have vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care. But the demographics and attitudes of those in the movement have been known largely anecdotally. The Times/CBS poll offers a detailed look at the profile and attitudes of those supporters.

Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott.

Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich. […]

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington. […]

They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy. More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us” when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.

Nearly 9 in 10 disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit. Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.

“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says.” […]

Of the 18 percent of Americans who identified themselves as supporters, 20 percent, or 4 percent of the general public, said they had given money or attended a Tea Party event, or both. These activists were more likely than supporters generally to describe themselves as very conservative and had more negative views about the economy and Mr. Obama. They were more angry with Washington and intense in their desires for a smaller federal government and deficit. […]

But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress.

They do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican. The percentage holding a favorable opinion of former President George W. Bush, at 57 percent, almost exactly matches the percentage in the general public that holds an unfavorable view of him. […]

When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes. […]

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits. […]

Full story and link to detailed poll results and interactive features



On Saturday, April 17, I’ll be at the 6th Congressional District Independence Party Convention at the Blaine High School Media Center from 9 a.m. until noon to seek the IP endorsement for U.S. Representative in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

More information

4/17/10 Update

Bob Anderson, who ran on the IP ticket in 2008, had enough delegates lined up at the convention to secure the endorsement and I withdrew my nomination, resulting in Anderson receiving the unanimous endorsement of the Independence Party of Minnesota.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 16, 2009

Hate groups including neo-Nazis and the Klan have grown in recent years, feeding on economic fears and distrust of government. Watch NBC News report. (Image: NBC News)

Economy and Obama Volatile Mix

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that a Homeland Security Department intelligence estimate warned that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country’s first black president to recruit members and incite violence.

7 Responses to “New York Times Tea Party Poll”
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