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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. Eric

    We are a country of Freedom of Religious beliefs

    October 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  2. damn what happened to my CNN default name - DryHump

    and Hitler called Germany the Aryan nation...

    October 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Vic

    Of course this is a Christian Nation. Whatis wrong with you people? It may be changing, over time to reflect all religions, and that is fine. But- too deny this Nation was and still is a Christian Nation is just ignorant.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • damn what happened to my CNN default name - DryHump

      i know right! we should totally kick every body else out that believes in other faiths or ideologies than Christianity...maybe put them on trains and send them to special camps or something of the sort. and if that doesn't work since they'll be so far removed from society you could maybe just, um, gas them...nobody would ever know.......IDIOT!!!!

      October 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      Sorry, Vic, but this is not a Christian Nation. Especially when you see the actions of the GOP/TeaParty! These people do not have an ounce of compassion or love for the needy. They spread hate, they are prejudice. They claim to be Christians, but do not live the Message of the Gospels of Jesus Christ, "LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU." (John 15:12) Jesus said "LOVE ONE ANOTHER...." He did not make any exceptions! I do not SEE any LOVE from the GOP/Tea Party whatsoever, they want to ram down our throats their warped beliefs and are greedy for power.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Vulpes

      This is a good example of right-wing ignorance. Take note. Call people ignorant to validate their statement. Thanks for such a fine example.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Vic,
      Are you confusing 'a Christian nation' with a majority of the nation being Christian?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  4. MiddleFinger

    Sinclair Lewis no doubt had the "Tea Baggers" in mind when he said: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross". 'Nough said.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I find it difficult to believe people prone to name calling.
      Not that I advocate the Tea Party, I think most of their resulting candidates unqualified and have overly simplistic views of how this country works, however I'm not sure a group that is fighting state run health could be called fascist. Doesn't a fascist state control everything?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  5. teaclown

    baggers' are haters hiding behind the bible. Never mind about the good samaritan. baggers' greed is greater than their ignorance!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  6. Smith

    One of the last tea parties I went to with a black man speaking "we will NOT let gays into our military, you're gay? then you're gone buddy!...We aren't going to muzzies take over this country! Sharia law is coming to a town near you, people! You see a muzzie, you tell him to GET OUT!!... I know you all are scared about talking about Obama because you might be called a racist, well I am a black man, and I am telling you, talk away! He ain't black, he ain't white, he isn't anything! He is sitting there playing basketball with basketball players in the White House! Can you believe that?!"

    October 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Tom S

      Yep, idiots come in all shapes, sizes and races.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  7. B

    I wish someone would start a group or movement that's fiscally conservative but without of all the religious garbage that comes out of tea party members. The US is not, and never will be, a "Christian nation". Give up and go home.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Luke

      I don't know of a party per se, but a good example is Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • Rod

      That is the true Libertarian party

      October 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Thomas

      LIbertarian party?

      http://www.lp.org/

      October 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom S

      How about a party that's fiscally conservative (cuts unnecessary spending like most of out military spending and pork, and stops corporate welfare and increases taxes for the rich), but unlike the libertarians, is also humanitarian in that it increases spending on education, community programs and helping the poor dig themselves out of the holes they're in. I'd vote for them.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Luke

      Tom S – Move to Scandinavia or Costa Rica.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  8. Mike

    i support the Tea party but why is this a shock? People who are proponents of smaller government are going to be conservative (duh) and conservatives tend to be more Christian (another duh) The liberal media needs to stop trying to explain something they know nothing about....

    October 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • Rod

      Don't use your conspiracy theories to try and paint this as a liberal issues. You are not correct. True libertarians want government out of all of their decisions, both economic and social. Someone who preaches being fiscally conservative yet try to legislate their own sense of morality is nothing more than a hypocrite.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jack

      It's even worse when you do know what you're talking about.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Sen

      Out of curiosity, how small is 'smaller government'? Seeing how restrictions, laws and regulations is the only thing that keeps the seething pit of self interest and lust in check that we are constantly subject to... Where do you draw the line? I always hear that rallyign cry for smaller government and smirk. When do you say it is enough?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      Mike, don't you know that the Federal Government grew more during the time the GOP (Conservatives) controlled Congress & the 8 years of the Bush admin., than at any other time in U.S. history? Its fact.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Don't bother Mike with facts. He sees things as he wants them to be ...

      October 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  9. TeaClown

    Tea Party beliefs correlate with the KKK more closely than with conservative evangelicals. Is anybody surprised?

    October 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • Mike

      do you have a functiong brain cell? really.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  10. Smith

    I have heard so many complaints from these people like "I am not going to accept other religions and their practices when mine is under fire, and I can't even practice mine in my own country". Well... it's because you are trying to impose yours on every citizen in America, others just want to practice theirs privately.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • Let freedom reign

      I agree with you Smith. People should try to understand that a person's religion is their own "personal" relationship with their god. It should be kept to one's self. No need to try to impose your beliefs on others. Mind your own darned business!!! If I choose not to believe in your god- or god at all, that is my freedom from religion! Keep religion and govt apart. Only then will a country have peace.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  11. blf83

    Ignorance, especially willful ignorance, is a powerful force. And... the teabaggers are among the most willfully ignorant. As the old adage states, "Be careful what you wish for!" It's the kind of ignorance that fuels pogroms,Holocausts, wars, and theocratic dictatorships.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      So choose the higher road, like name-calling!?! (tea baggers?)

      October 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  12. ryan

    amen REV.M i need it LOL

    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  13. Bobby

    Republicans love Big Government when they get it to do their will and invade people's personal lives.. They hate big government when Middle-Class people get a few pennies back from the government like SS, healthcare etc.. Hypocrites!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Deciminyan

    Ten Fundamental Truths that the Tea Party Needs to Understand:
    http://www.deciminyan.org/2010/09/ten-fundamental-truths-that-tea-party.html

    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Yes, you are your brother’s keeper. "
      Says who?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  15. Rod

    This is the confirmed fear. The Tea Party, which was supposed to be about economics has been hijacked by the evangelicals.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jack

      Exactly, it didn't start out like that. They were infiltrated by the evangelicals because they saw a good platform to gather and talk about their hate for Obama.. and abortion.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  16. JC

    We're a Christian nation? Cool. So, here's what a nation that follows the example of Christ should do, the next time a 9/11 occurs: nothing. Turn the other cheek. Don't retaliate. Pray for the terrorists. LOVE the terrorists.

    If you're not willing to do this, you're hypocritical if you call yourself a Christian nation.

    Try telling a Tea Partier that. Good luck.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  17. Daniel

    Tea partiers also believe that all Americans are white, too.
    These are people that simply project their daily lives (those with whom they surround themselves on a daily basis) and generalize their lives onto America as a whole, which is evident in their statements like "all Americans are againast Obama care, or most Americans believe Obama is Muslim, or all Americans are Christian." These people simply deny, or consciously choose not to acknowledge that America is made up of many people with many beliefs, many ethnicities, and many various diverse backgroundsa that are not an accurate representation of bigoted right wing hate groups like Tea-Partiers.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  18. Rev. M

    May God have mercy on their ignorant, arrogant and bigoted souls.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  19. Dave

    This goes hand in hand with that other Pew poll that showed the more religious someone was the less they knew about other and even their own religion.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Nick

    I didn't realize 2 in 10 people was the majority...

    October 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
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About this blog

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.