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Most Tea Partiers call America a Christian nation, study finds
October 5th, 2010
10:33 AM ET

Most Tea Partiers call America a Christian nation, study finds

Members of the Tea Party movement tend to be Christian conservatives, not libertarians, and are more likely than even white evangelical Christians to say the United States is a Christian nation, a detailed new study has found.

More than half of self-identified Tea Party members say America is a Christian nation, while just over four out of 10 white evangelicals believe that - the same as the proportion of the general population that says so.

"We found actually that among the Tea Party, rather than being libertarians, at least on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, they're actually social conservatives," the survey's lead author, Robert Jones, said Tuesday.

Despite the headlines the Tea Party movement has generated with their candidates upsetting mainstream Republican candidates in primary races from Delaware to Nevada, it is only half the size of the Christian conservative movement, Jones said.

"We found that the Tea Party movement makes up a significant number. One in 10 Americans consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, that's not insignificant," he said. "But it is half the size of those who consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement or the religious right," he said.

The details come from the American Values Survey, released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Read an analysis of the results by the institute's CEO and research director

Some findings from the telephone survey of more than 3,000 Americans confirm the conventional wisdom.

Tea Party members are big fans of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and not so hot on President Barack Obama.

They're much more likely than the general population to trust Fox News most - almost six out of 10 say it's their most trusted source of news, more than twice as many who say that among Americans as a whole.

A former speechwriter for George W. Bush said the emergence of the Tea Party movement reflects the latest development in a long-running conflict.

"We used to have culture wars on abortion and the nature of family," said Michael Gerson, who is now a Washington Post columnist.

"I think we're in the middle of a culture war, just as vicious, on the role and size of government and I think these results are consistent with that," he told a packed house at the Brookings Institution in Washington, where the report was unveiled Tuesday.

The Tea Party is not simply a movement of white evangelicals, the survey found by digging deeper into the specific beliefs of both groups.

The religious beliefs of Tea Partiers tend to be more traditional than those of the general population, but less so than white evangelicals'.

Pollster Robert P. Jones releases the results of a new study at the Brookings Institution.

Nearly half of Tea Partiers believe the Bible is the literal word of God, for example. One in three Americans overall believes that, while nearly two in three white evangelicals do.

Tea Partiers are much more likely than white evangelicals or Americans in general to think that minorities get too much attention from the government.

Almost six in 10 Tea Partiers believe that, while fewer than four in 10 white evangelicals say so. Figures for white evangelicals and Americans in general on that question are statistically identical.

But Tea Party opinions of immigrants line up with those of white evangelicals, with just under two out of three in each group saying immigrants are a burden on the U.S. "because they take jobs, housing and health care."

Just under half of the population as a whole says that.

The head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said he was not surprised that there's both agreement and disagreement between the Tea Party and white evangelicals.

"Opposition movements tend to draw very broadly. When it gets to the specifics of governance there's going to be some big contrast," Albert Mohler Jr. told CNN.

"I think those areas of natural overlap are understandable but the issues of contrast are going to be unavoidable," he said.

Libertarians - who oppose government intervention in people's personal lives - will not see eye to eye with evangelicals on abortion or same-sex marriage, he said.

"Very few evangelicals would say the government has no role in these issues," he said.

The Public Religion Research Institute report, "Religion and the Tea Party in the 2010 Election: An Analysis of the Third Biennial American Values Survey," is based on telephone polling of a national random survey of 3,013 adults between September 1 and 14.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Polls • Sarah Palin • United States

soundoff (766 Responses)
  1. Zoo

    "Christian" Nation? Wasn't it the idea of our forefathers to keep church and state separate? This is my country too. Tea Baggers are idiots and so is anyone who believes verses from an ancient book are from some "deity". Is "Harry Potter" divinely inspired as well – give me a break – the Bible is just another book with stories. Religion, and the need to believe there is an overseeing force, is for the weak minded. You'd think as we evolve we could give up on old traditions – anyone for walking on water, rising from the dead or talking to invisible spirits – don't we call those people "crazy" now?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • Flora

      The only thing that inspired Harry Potter is a British womans' need to feed her child.

      BTW, I'm a devout Christian, and I am nowhere near weak-minded. If you went through half the things I have, you'd probably be hanging from the rafters by now (I admit, I've thought about it). I'm simply sensible enough to know that the universe is connected in ways that we may never understand, nor were we probably ment to. The only fairytale that needs growing out of is the idea that we can know everything. The pursuit of knowledge is noble, but the pursuit of omnipotence is not.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Robert B.

      Harrie pooter is a demonic inspired story. Period.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  2. Byrd

    I can think of at least four abortions that Barbara Bush should've had that would've made our country a healthier place, both morally and fiscally.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  3. liz

    When I was in school it was the conservatives who were having abortions in a land far, far away where they could pretend they were on vacation and still maintain and air of purity looking down their noses at those trashy ones who got pregnant and had babies out of wedlock.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
    • DinaK

      Yeah, right, you knew the political affiliation of some teens who left town to give birth or have abortions? They were probably more wealthy than you – regarldess of their being Dems or Repubs. Plus, either you beleive it's o.k. to rip a baby out at 8 months of pregnancy, or you don't. What's hypocritical is that liberals in San Francisco don't think parents have privacy rights to buy their kids a Happy Meal, but that same parent has the privacy right to rip thd kid out of the womb. Now that's hypocrisy.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  4. DinaK

    So what? The views of the Tea Party on the facts of which religion dominates U.S. society is about the same as what the population as a whole knows/believes. Regardless, the fact remains that Christianity is still the majority religion in the U.S. . I am Jewish; I don't wake up every day having a cow over that fact. I also know that the majority religion in the Mid-East is Islam. What is, is. Just because the Tea Party acknowledges common fact is somehow bad?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ralf the Dog

      More people in America may believe in the Christian view of God vs Zeus, that does not make Christianity the official religion. That does not give Christianity a special (or any) place in government. That does not give the followers of Christ any more legal rights than the followers of Zeus.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • DA

      Dina – the Tea Party is not saying the majority of the nation is Christian. They're saying it's a Christian nation – that's completely different. They believe all laws in society should be based on Christianity (and their extreme version of Christianity no less). Pay attention! No abortion, no gay rights, no evolution, etc. etc.

      All legitimate scholars know this country was not founded as a Christian nation – too bad a lot of Americans don't realize this. Man – most Americans don't even realize that the word "God" wasn't originally in the Pledge of Allegiance!

      October 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  5. Ralf the Dog

    Welcome to Corporate America. This week the First Amendment is sponsored by Walmart. Remember, you are free to believe what we tell you to believe and say what we tell you to say. Please report to your nearest Walmart before 5:00 PM today to purchase your new First Amendment script.

    The scripts will be on sale for $9.95 until 12:00 PM.

    Have a wonderful day.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  6. JB21

    Religious Freedom, I really really used to think that term meant something in this country.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Flora

      It still does, but apparently only when applied to certain people.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Dave

    Amazing how many of you are completely ignorant to the facts.

    1. How does not wanting ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS to come in due to security concerns and MASSIVE debt instilled upon us, become "they hate immigrants, they are racists!" ?

    2. How does wanting the federal government to stop spending money they do not have not make sense?

    3. How does watning lower taxes for everyone not make sense when lower taxes (to a point) has shown throughout history to benefit the economy and increase revenue for the government.

    4. Why on earth do so many of you want the federal government to have more control over your lives (health care, global warming craaap, etc..), when we all know the federal government does nothing efficiently? They do nothing as cost effictive or better than the private sector.

    5. How is it the free market created the strongest, most fare living conditions in the world and brought the standard of living up for EVERYONE, yet many of you think of it is some evil conspiracy now?

    The Democrats in this country has moved way left and for that reason the House will shift to the right in historic numbers and the Senate will lose several seats.

    Obama has proven to be the biggest failure as president in our history and it has only been 2 years. Quite the accomplishment.

    LESS spending
    LESS taxes
    LESS government
    Secure the borders
    Strong on defense!

    These 5 things have and will continue to make us the greates nation this world has ever known.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • JB21

      Dave,
      Honest, look, it's ONLY been 2 years. And if you really think the mess we are in has anything to do with the current administration, you really ought to rethink a bit. It took the previous administration 8 years to wreck it up, it'll take a whole lot longer to fix the damned thing.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • William Butler

      FINALLY someone makes a sane argument. For a second there I thought maybe I had been transported into the bizarro universe. Liberals tend to be more emotional and irrational than the average person, which is why they are extremely motivated to vent their emotions online, and hence are way over-represented in the frequency of posts on this blog.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Ralf the Dog

      @William Butler,

      Not true, Conservatives are quite a bit of fun to bate. Just say one thing they don't like and they go nuts. I thought I was going to get one to have a heart attack the other day but no luck. (Perhaps next time.)

      If there are more Liberals posting than Conservatives, it is because Liberals know how to read and write.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Daniel

      1. Why are "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS" suddenly a problem?

      2. Having "the federal government to stop spending money" would be good, if it weren't going to the rebuilding of our crumbling infrastructure.

      3. Having "lower taxes for everyone" has never worked "throughout history to benefit the economy and increase revenue for the government" (see George W. Bush's deregulation policies of 2001-2008).

      4. "Why on earth do so many of you want the federal government to have more control over your lives?" Because they print money, and are the only ones capable of doing it – because the banks certainly aren't.

      5. "How is it the free market created the strongest, most fare living conditions in the world and brought the standard of living up for EVERYONE" (yah – even the impoverished people who suffered in the streets all those years).

      "The Democrats in this country has moved way left (because of Bush's recklessness) and for that reason the House will shift to the right (nope – it will stay left for 26 more years).

      "Obama has proven to be the biggest failure as" (nope – the best) president.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Dave

      And less attempt to 'enforce' christian policies on us... i.e... hatred against gay's, hatred against any woman for having an abortion, etc.. etc...?

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  8. liz

    Most Tea Partiers call America a Christian nation, study finds If by Christian nation you mean one to which the commandment about bearing false witness does not apply, one for which abortions done in private clinics overseas behind closed doors that no one ever finds out about; one in which corporate fascism is fine etc, then perhaps they are right

    October 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  9. William Butler

    I'm still waiting for a sane argument from a liberal here. So far 100% of everything I've read is some asinine, emotional, anger filled post directed at either Christians or the Christian religion.

    Since no one in the tea party is proposing enforcing Christianity through law, it is obvious the person of Jesus Christ evokes strong anger and hatred amongst the posters here. This testifies to His power. Only a Being of importance and power could evoke such reactions.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • Oceanside

      Sarah belonged (maybe still does) to a church that proposed exactly that William.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • DwidSchrewt

      Why does our country need to "get right" with THEIR GOD? Do you see the problem here? I'm probably wasting my time trying to explain to someone who attests to the power of Jesus Christ through his ability to spark blog debates on a website. I am pretty much fighting a losing battle here. Live your faith, don't enforce it.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Flora

      I'm a devout Christian, and I know your post is probably the single dumbest thing I'll read all day (unless, of course, I decide to flip through "Going Rouge").

      October 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Tom in Wheaton

      The trouble with ALL really religious people is they all think they are right. There is no rational explanation for this. I am a confirmed agnostic and have lived my 60 years as a better Christian (in the lights of Jesus' teachings) than most of my Christian friends. If you need to or want to believe in your particular religion, go ahead. Just be quiet about it. Fervent religious belief has been the cause of more senseless death on this planet than disease.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Tom Wheaton

      Very well said... Thank you...

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  10. Oceanside

    William, even if Sarah does not run she along with Beck are the face of the Tea Party. If abortion is your number one concern then yes, vote for these people. That is way down on my list of issues and voting for people that seem to ride the crazy train isn't what most Americans want in a candidate. Just my point of view and I shouldn't speak for the masses but that's my guess. Have a good night, gotta run.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • liz

      Since when did pro-life become defined by those who believe life begins at conception and ends at birth?

      October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  11. kevinb

    they are not saying immigrants are not wanted, We don't mine LEGAL immigrants, its the illegal ones that we don't want, we are a nation of laws, so why is it that they are alouded to brake the law. the government dosen't have the guts to take care of this country any more all they care about is themsevles, they are the terrorist in this country

    October 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  12. Carl

    Yet another anti-Tea Party article by the liberal left lapdogs at CNN. It's no wonder the mainstream media is going down the toilet in its ratings. The mainstream media used to have a purpose when it reported "news" based on "facts". Now they are simply the mouthpiece of the liberal agenda.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • Daniel

      Written like a true anit-education Limbaugh-idiot.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  13. Run4DaHills

    The Founding Fathers would have seen Teabaggers as unenlightened, blithering idiots, with no respect or comprehension of the full scope of Freedoms the country was founded on in the first place. Also, the country was not founded on Christianity but rather, freedom from, as well as, for Christianity – or any other personal paths of faith – not solely, Christianity. The Christian folklore that North America is the White Man's or Christian Promised Land is complete hogwash. That's just Christian "whitewashing of history" in hopes of repeating a story so many times people think it's true or even, biblical. Quite frankly, The Americas are Indian Country. If anything, "this country" was founded on native beliefs.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Daniel

    If God exists – may he strike you all dead.

    See – no God.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • Run4DaHills

      LOL, that hardly proved your point. Try this: Dear God, prove you exist by demonstrating how well you can play Hide-n-Seek from Daniel.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  15. Grain of Salt

    My daughter is a member of a teat party. She has one after school most days with her imaginary firends. Will similarities ever cease?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  16. usualone

    That is one of their basic problems. America may have been founded by Christians but all faiths were to be recognized too. Their narrow scope of what Americans are is why they are a DANGER to us all. That shows their bigotry too, plain and simple.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  17. AlexL

    I'm a moderate Republican and I believe I should be put into the endanger species list, along with others who share my political views.

    I don't care much of social conservatism since it usually means objecting someone's god-given right to live, like marriage for example. I'm more interested in how our government is handling their responsibility in governing us, and personally I believe they've doing an awful job for the past decade now. Now I'm not only talking about the Democrats but the Republicans as well. Both parties have extremely changed from their past selves and I feel as though I can't relate to either one of them. One party is either too extremely to the left and the other too extremely aligned to the right. There's no middle ground and there are no shades of gray. And I am sadden by this since we're never going to progress forward and solve our domestic problems with such partisanship in our government. We're not the United States any more. We're not United at all.

    I don't care which party wins election any more as there's no where for me to go to.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  18. Shari from Madison

    Tea party= christian? As for America being a 'Christian Nation': It was founded on Christian principles but has engaged in Torture, has incited hatred to all Muslims, even peaceful law abiding people and have allowed the Rich to get richer and the poor to be ignored and/or ridiculed. Does that answer this question?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Shari from Madison

    Tea party= christian? What a joke. They do not follow Christ's teaching. They are as much like Christ as Adolph Hitler was. As for America being a 'Christian Nation': It was founded on Christian principles but has engaged in Torture, has incited hatred to all Muslims, even peaceful law abiding people and have allowed the Rich to get richer and the poor to be ignored and/or ridiculed. Does that answer this question?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  20. Oceanside

    William. Yes, Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • William Butler

      Oceanside, I agree that the voters of Maryland could have chosen a better candidate than O'Donnell. (Palin isn't running for anything, so that point is moot). However, unlike the bearded Marxist, at least O'Donnell appears to have a problem with slaughtering unborn children, so I'd give her the edge in a tie-breaker between two bad candidates.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.