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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. John

    The headline to this article speaks as though this were somehow a surprising find. EVERY individual, let alone political group polled would describe the U.S. as a Christian nation unless that individual were decidedly uneducated. I am an atheist, but I am also not an illiterate moron. The very foundations of this nation - it's legal system, government, customs ... all of it - are built on Christianity. To deny this is to be patently ignorant and/or blind. You don't have to BE a Christian to be an American, but to say that America is not a Christian nation is absurd.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  2. Marko

    It is a majority of the people who are Christians living in the nation called America along side other people who are of different faiths and philosophies who are just as important. This is not an area where majority rules.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  3. John

    Christians don't have to be republicans or tea partiers. In fact, the SE has a large chunk of democrat christians that tend to lean towards liberal policies.

    And our left leaning liberal democrats tend to be like european moderates. Our conservatives are like extreme conservatives in europe.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  4. Unconscious

    If you want to talk about straight up majority, then yes, it's a Christian nation. There are more Christians than Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Jedis, practicing Jews, Hindus, and other religions. Our nation wasn't founded on any religious principle, but the religious majority has always been Christians.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  5. William Butler

    You have convinced me the tea party movement is wrong. I concede.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • William Butler

      Lame attempt at name-jacking. Of course, one cannot be surprised at the behavior as it is consistent with the juvenile tone and ad hominem attacks that are so characteristic of the hateful left, who ultimately have no intellectual arguments to back up their positions and hence must resort to demonizing people and hurling insults...

      October 5, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  6. Micael

    There is a great deal of presumption and fluff in this article. It presumes to say that if you believe the US to be a Christian Nation...then you must be unified by Conservatism. First, Christianity (a.k.a. "Conservatism" in mainstream media circles) in this nation has never been united in one faith...there have been Deists, Methodist, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, and numberous other offshoots of these denominations since the very beginning of the Nation....which is the very reason why the concept of "Separation of Church and State" is so integral from the inception of this country, despite its undoubtedly Christian roots. Hence, it is loudicrous to imply a blanket statement that the tea party'iers are nothing more than ultra religious fanatics pushing for some kind of CONCERVOcracy when there is no such reasoning for such a correlation since most are not even united by faith.

    To make comparisons between the Tea Party and the "conservative movement" proves a profound ignorance. First the Tea Party is a anti-establishment entirely POLITICAL movement..that many happen to consider themselves Christian (by their various and even conflicting methods of beliefs) is quite a red herring. On the other hand, the "conservative movement" whatever that really means is a lesser defined SOCIAL movement not merely politically based.

    This article exemplifies the profound American Journalistic ingnorance of all matters of faith, those loosely conected to faith and how poorly they are educated in relating such matters in the public square.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  7. Spijder

    If the Tea Party achieves any real measure of political power, it will be a momentary thing. With the level of attention they put on it being a Christian nation, they are going to find that they will have to endure quite a bit of squabbling amongst themselves about which type of Christian is the most Christian. And then that'll be the end of that.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  8. Tom in Wheaton

    Why are we so worried about a group that is this small? Because they scream? Because they're armed? (well, OK, maybe) Whenever you get a bunch of dumb people to agree on something, it doesn't mean they have a point.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  9. TheMod

    Join the US is not Christian Facebook group!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/US-is-not-Christian/151918524844257

    October 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
    • Guest

      ...but I thought the US was just "a Christian Facebook Group."

      October 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  10. sully

    It isn't news that any new political group that gains traction is in some way a group of extremest nuts with little grip on reality.

    I wish it werent true but it is.

    Perot?

    Green?

    What was his name this last election? He wanted to go back on the gold standard...

    October 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  11. Kevin B

    Having, or at least asking for, God's blessing on this country is a very different thing than expecting God, and his minion, to run this country.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  12. Okie

    Wow, it is amazing how little so-called "patriots" know about the history of our country. This country was not founded upon Judeo-Christian values. Thankfully, our government is secular. Otherwise, we would look like Iran with Pat Robertson as the grand ayatollah. Hopefully, the whole religion thing will end up fading away from human history soon since it has been nothing but a detriment to human history.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Reality

      News Alert!!!!

      Let us look at the Research for Public Religion Research Insti-tute, a nonprofit group headed by Dr. Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, "director of research", before putting any credence to their survey statistics. As per their IRS Form 990 for 2009, they are only starting up this non-profit, have no as-sets and apparently no money. The same form states "there was no activity in 2009". The only conclusion is that Jones and Cox (listed not as the director of research but only as a key employee on the form) have conco-cted their survey in order to generate donations.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  13. lstro

    No doubt the Tea Party would also consider America, a White nation as well. "We want our country back." Now, where have we heard that before?.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Deva

    Tea Party members are the most uneducated people in America. Where as the rest of the world progresses to realize that the paths to God are many, Teabaggers being uneducated cannot understand this concept, let alone that God resides in each one of us. Go ahead Teabaggers, take this county back 200 years, you are only bound to FAIL.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Free Man

      Professing to be wise, they became fools,

      and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God
      for an image in the form of corruptible man (self)
      Romans 1:22-23

      October 6, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  15. TheRationale

    The US is not a Christian nation. Get over it.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  16. sw6blues

    ModerateAmerican
    @ CarefulThought

    the phrase "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the United States in 1956. Eisenhower and the Congress declared this to supposedly differentiate us from the evil, godless commies. That motto is cold war hysteria propaganda, not the action of our founding fathers.
    -–

    This was also the time period when the phrase "under god" was added into the Pledge of Allegiance for the very same reason. Before then, during WWII, etc it was simply, "One nation indivisible, etc..."

    October 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Frank

    Is this 'study' supposed to be surprising?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  18. Bucci

    You can't compare white evangelicals with Tea Party folks. The whole story is flawed using this data. I appears, it was all about putting a statistical hit on Fox news as some sort of untrustworthy news source. On news sources, I wonder how many white evangelicals out in the country think CNN is a trustworthy news source vs Fox.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  19. KDS

    I thought America was considered a melting pot of culture? That is something to be proud of! But we definitely cannot call ourselves a "melting pot" if we are going to continue to hate-monger and oppress those who belong to religions other than Christianity.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  20. ZZ-Top

    @Cameron- None of us are hate-filled, we're just angered by the fact that people have the audacity to try and label our nation as something it truly is not. And I am no atheist, I just simply have no faith in a higher power, I attempt to have faith in mankind.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Daniel

      You mean you attempt to have faith in sane, rational, educated people who practice healthy skepticism.
      Unfortunately, these types of people are hard to come by in all "mankind."

      October 5, 2010 at 4:49 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.