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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. Linda

    CNN- please stop referring to it as a "party". That's only legitimizing this particular branch of willful ignorance.

    October 6, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  2. jay

    Progressive Marxists will never change this countries principles.. Too many of us America loving patriots own guns.. hahaha ! Can't wait till Novemeber than 2012!!

    October 6, 2010 at 12:27 am |
    • NL

      So, you're speaking as what, a Repressive Fascist?

      Ok, that skims about 1% off both ends of the political spectrum in this country. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, right?

      October 6, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  3. berkeleydude

    As long as we are a"melting pot" of cultures and ideas we can never be a nation that categorizes itself with only one group. We are not a christian nation, we are not a an atheist nation, we are the United States of America.

    October 6, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  4. jay

    We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles..... why is this even a question?????????????????? the tea party is correct

    October 6, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • peace2all

      @Jay

      So, in effect, you are saying that our country, the United States of America is a 'state run christian theocracy,' just like Iran is a 'state run muslim theocracy.'....?

      Is that what you are saying....? If we are founded and run on christian principles and ideals, then we are a theocracy. Or does your political ravings give and mean freedom of choice in religion... or only freedom to 'christians.'...???

      And by the way, how do you know we are a christian nation...what does that mean exactly.. along with so-called christian ideals and principles, etc...?

      Please elaborate as I, and I am sure a lot of others are very, very curious to hear what you have to say..

      Thanks...

      Peace...

      Peace...

      October 6, 2010 at 3:31 am |
    • sheeple

      it is a question, because all the people are spewing this non-sense without regard to all the factual evidence against it! and when faith supercedes wisdom and facts, then reason soon flees! facts are facts and faith is faith. facts are proven and faith is a belief that have the hopes of being a possibility!

      October 9, 2010 at 5:41 am |
  5. NYC

    AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION

    AMERICA IS THE MOST CHRISTIAN COUNTRY IN THE WORLD – HAS THE MOST CHRISTIAN

    October 6, 2010 at 12:08 am |
    • berkeleydude

      This planet is dominated by people, but it is not called a people planet.It is shared by millions of different organisms.

      October 6, 2010 at 12:22 am |
    • Another study? tsk tsk!

      America is a retarded nation. But who is counting these tards but the tards themselves? What a shock. And the tards will run around in circles over anything – like these so-called "statistics".
      "Study"? More like MORE BULLSHlT AS USUAL.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  6. Reality

    But what are Christian principles based on? For starters, Hammurabi's Code and also the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Then there are the Greeks and their city states based on democratic principles.

    And let us not forget the effect of the randomness of birth on religion and citizenship:

    From Professor James Somerville:

    "John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed."

    October 5, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  7. Andrew Messenger

    If we look at the latest US Census results, 84 percent of all Americans believe in God, and 73 percent of all Americans claim to be Christian. Given the FACTS, as defined by THE CENSUS, if the Tea Partiers want to call America a Christian Nation, then I think the Census statistics prove they are probably correct in what they are saying. So ... what's the point anyway?

    October 5, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
    • NL

      A majority does not define a thing in completeness. Is America a White Nation? Not completely. We do have sizeable populations of non-whites too. A Dalmatian is mostly white, but it cannot be accurately described as being a white dog, right? So, America cannot be accurately described as a white country, or a Christian country either, because that would be inaccurate.

      October 5, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  8. KAScofield

    The religious right's theocratic agenda is an appeal to creedism.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  9. Chappyricky

    fewer than .033 of voters are true TEA party. the rest are Reublicans, independents and unregistered voters lashing out at Obama.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
    • American

      Lashing out at Obama for the problems Reagen started and the Bushes really drove home. Funny we didn't have these problems before that. No divisive country, liberals were just real Americans. But, Newt would do anything to win. And the GOP found their formula. Time to show them fear doesn't work. WE need to regulate Wall Street. We need to tax the rich.

      October 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  10. American

    IN GOD WE TRUST - all others pay cash.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  11. ChimChim

    The author could have saved me 15mins or so....just said it up front. Tea Party: Full of religious idiots.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • berkeleydude

      I could not agree more.

      October 6, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  12. Robert B.

    To find the answer simply READ for once THE words on the MONEY and see what it says....... Who does it say we trust in? Yup, thats right on the money.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • Andrew Messenger

      Every once in a while, I get a sneaky feeling that God is not very impressed with our common currency. When God told Peter, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and render to God what is God's" He was referring to the payment of taxes, but when He said that He also directed Peter to catch a fish, and the fish had a coin with Caesar's name on it to help pay for His taxes and Peter's taxes.

      Long story short, Americans truly only worship (and believe) in one thing, and that is the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR. The very idea that we print "In God We Trust" on our currency may have initially been intended to give God the glory; but in all actuality, in the amazingly materialistic world we live in, the almighty dollar is worshiped much much more than God is. It is as though the God In which We Trust is in all actuality the very dollar in which that statement is imprinted .. much the same way as Caesar's name was printed on that coin Peter found in the mouth of the fish.

      October 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  13. Ruspanic

    None of this is surprising, except this:
    "One in 10 Americans consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement."
    That's 30 million people.
    WHAT? 30 MILLION? THERE'S NO WAY THAT CAN BE RIGHT!

    October 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  14. nobodyspecial

    I don't care what is inscribed on the penny the dollar bill or the steps of the supreme court, America is and always has been secular nation. America only tolerates those who choose a life of religion, but don't push it.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  15. SickOfTea

    Why does this not surprise me, especially when tea party sycophant, Jim DeMint, stated last weekend that gays and unwed mothers should be banned from teaching jobs. The scary thing is that people are ready to vote in more of these bigoted idiots, who, just like DeMint, are determined to marginalize and discriminate against any segment of our population that doesn’t conform to their own so called Christian values.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
    • American

      Those Christians also use the Bible to support slavery, segregation, and everything else. They're the false prophets the Bible speaks of.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  16. William Butler

    On his death bed, Patrick Henry said:

    “Doctor, I wish you to observe how real and beneficial the religion of Christ is to a man about to die....I am, however, much consoled by reflecting that the religion of Christ has, from its first appearance in the world, been attacked in vain by all the wits, philosophers, and wise ones, aided by every power of man, and its triumphs have been complete.”

    October 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  17. KeithTexas

    Most of you Christians know less about your own religion than you know about your Nation. It is pretty sad either way. The founding fathers did believe in God but they didn't believe that Jesus was God incarnate, they didn't accept the trinity and they weren't Pauline Christians. Christianity as you know it has been around for less than 200 years. What do you think Christians believed the first 1500 years or so?

    October 5, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • Robert B.

      Do your research before posting babyish comments with nothing to back them up. Learn at least some History! We are a Country of Liberty NOT liberals! Like it or not, the U.S. was founded upon christian principles with the freedom of religion.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • American

      Yeah most 'Christians' don't know their history, have no idea that most were what would be middle class. They were liberals in the true sense of the word. They did care about their fellow man, unlike all the selfish dolts in the GOP. These 'Christians' don't care about their fellow man or the poor. guess the took all the writings about the poor out of their Bibles. Makes it easier for them to read. The Founding Fathers were deists. And educated. Unlike most of the Tea Party crowd. Washington wondered what the 'rabble' would do with Democracy. We're about to find out. I just hope the Democrats win, not the corporations, not the clueless Tea Party or Christian Right.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • NL

      Robert B.-
      Would that be freedom of religion, or freedom but only if you are a Christian? Because an America founded and run according to Christian principles would be a theocracy, like Iran is a Muslim theocracy. So, again, do you mean freedom to practice whatever religion you wish, or freedom as long as you obey Christian laws?

      October 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  18. jadescorpion

    I have read over a good bit of these comments and I am so glad that there are people who actually think for themselves! I consider myself to be a Christian, but I am also a free-thinking person. I'll say this again as I did in the other article about the Tea Party being religious: I do believe that the majority of those who reside in this country are religious, but to those who believe that this country was founded on Christianity, I urge you to read the writings and works of the Founding Fathers. There is NOTHING mentioned about Christianity in ANY of their works.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
    • KeithTexas

      It is refreshing that a Christian is honest and informed. Thanks for your comment.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • William Butler

      In 1777. Continental Congress voted to spend $300,000 to purchase bibles which were to be distributed throughout the 13 colonies! And in 1782, the United States Congress declared, “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Proudcommie

    As a member of the communist nation we must give up the silly idea that christianity is a religion that can be practiced in this country. I thought that we gave that kick up with the election of Obama but I see that Christianity is still around. Liberals! Wake up and give up christianity and embrace dialetric materialism.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • sanity

      I guess you missed the memo; Obama is a flaming fundamentalist Christian who believea America is a Christian nation.

      On October 3, 2010, President Barack Obama spoke out about his Christian faith Tuesday, telling a crowd that "we're sinful and we're flawed," but have salvation through Christ. "I'm a Christian by choice. The precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead," Obama answered. "Also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings. ...We're sinful and we're flawed, and we make mistakes." We achieve salvation through the grace of God," he continued. Obama also pointed out that America is a predominately Christian nation, but said Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists all have their own path to grace.

      October 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • William Butler

      @sanity – It speaks volumes that the liberals here don't have much of a problem with the pro-Christian statements Obama made a few days ago. Can you imagine how they'd act if George W. Bush had said the same exact thing?

      Of course, they know (as do we) that Obama is simply paying lip service in order to convince the American people that he is one of them. That's why its OK for liberals to talk about God but not conservatives. Everyone knows the liberal doesn't really mean any of it. And the know that the conservative probably does mean it. Hence the vitriolic reactions.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
  20. bobby

    tea party = GOP. big surprise

    October 5, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • Robert B.

      Did it take you that long to figure it out? By the way the U.S. was founded on Christian principles, and the freedom of religion.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:27 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.