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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. Kate

    I think this is yet another example of why ALL of us should attend the Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30th. Our voices need to be heard to drown out the crazy people.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  2. Todd

    @ Joe- You should learn proper grammer if you are going to comment otherwise you just make yourself look stupid. For example, I believe this is what you said: "this is not a Christian nation only they are totally wrong like all the time, there are in this country people of different countries, cultures, religions, but like all the time ignorant people live in a not existing world". Really Joe???? Really?? You should like totally go take a like refresher course on like English and grammer......totally, otherwise you totally like make yourself look like an idiot. Moron.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
    • Anti-Todd

      And you actually took the time to write all that to bash someone's ability to use English... It appears that you are the idiot.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • Godless

      Todd wrote: "@ Joe- You should learn proper grammer if you are going to comment otherwise you just make yourself look stupid."

      Anyone else see the incredible irony in Todd's statement?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  3. LetsAllParty

    Tea Party is to Christianity as Taliban and Al Queda is to Muslims. Both hide behind the majorities religion to mask their true agenda.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  4. Geez

    A Christian- Who doesnt like immigrants? Ive never heard anyone say they were Anti-Immigrant. Id like to know your source for that...

    October 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Sam

    Stop Scaring the Voters as if each one of you understood what the Tea Party folks have said to you. It is being profiled to scare the voters for the November so that obama can spend his way out before 2012. First goal is to get rid of the power he has so that everyone comes to sanity before passing another spending bill. After this happens we can find out what is it got to do with Christianity or Muslims or Hindus.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  6. Patriot

    Religious Psychopaths: Please comprehend SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, a founding principle of the United States Of America.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  7. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    I am Hindu, I am a proud US citizen, and I want this to be a Christian nation, just as I want my native India to be a Hindu nation!

    October 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  8. jbaer

    Look up the Treaty of Tripoli. It states "Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". This treaty was signed during the administration George Washington. Our founders were deists. The separation of church and state acts to protect the state from religion, and to protect religion from the state.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  9. Atheist

    Nothing irritates me more then pathetic, "BABLE-believing", Chrisitans that DO NOT KNOW AMERICAN HISTORY, NOR ANYTHING ABOUT THE FOUNDING OF THIS COUNTRY, NOR ITS GOVERNMENT! Its because of morons like them, that my atheism is reenforced! Chritians are pathetically, ignorant, and even more pathetically INSECURE in what are the beliefs of a DYING (let it be soon!) religion!

    October 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • b.

      Maybe it's you who is the hypocrite?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  10. Confused by the Tea Party

    The fact the "Tea Party" wants "government to stay out of their lives," but do not mind when religion & Christianity more specifically, intrudes in the lives of others, defies logic.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Hear, Hear.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  11. Zak

    Why are we only polling "white evangelicals"? I think that's a bit disingenuous.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Vulpes

      They are easier to see at night.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  12. June

    How easily these Tea Party theocratic Talibaners forget "Render unto Caeser the things that are Caeser's..."

    October 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  13. b.

    How sad. The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian tenets. Fact. Period. Unfortunately, we are not even close to a 'Christian nation' now. When we have come to a point in our history that laws are being made by the 'Supreme Court' to support (or not) common decency... We have failed as the Judeo- Christian nation that we once were. Is everybody feeling equal now? Sad. Too sad. Deal with it. Christians and Jews have to.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • jbaer

      Our country was founded by deists. The confederation of the five tribes of New York (Seneca, Mohawk, etc), as well as the Magna Carta were central sources for the ideals on which the gov't system established. I doubt the Indian Tribes were acting on ancient Middle Eastern pholosophies when they established their confederation.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "The confederation of the five tribes of New York (Seneca, Mohawk, etc), as well as the Magna Carta were central sources for the ideals on which the gov't system established."

      What? The Magna Carta had some influence sure, but the five tribes of New York? Where did you hear that?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  14. jack

    If the "small Government" group were to have their way, then this country would be under the closest thing to a dictatorship it has ever seen. They are just too deluded to realize that they are suppressing themselves with their archaic ideology. Also they fail to recognize their views as being the very thing they scream about big government causing.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Gov't is GOOD

      I agree. The job of gov't is to run this country! Especially in times of crisis like now. Gov't is the only way to adjust our failing economy (spending will straigten things out–i.e. the stimulus $$ and taking away the tax break for the wealty –will put more $$ back into our economy!! At the same time, working with SMALL business to create jobs. (inventing new forms of energy WILL also create jobs–and at the same time solving environmental and political (WARS) problems! Obama is on the right track, but he can't fix what damage the Repugnicans did overnight. Be patient people! Better times will be here soon. VOTE for DEMOCRATS!!!!!!!!!!

      October 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  15. Tom

    Given the chance, the Tea Party would, to some extent, enact a "Christian" form of shira law. As long as those laws wouldn't interfere with the interests of their corperate masters.
    Freedom of religion and seperation of church and state were meant to ensure there would be no national religion like many European countries had when our country was founded. Many of the earliest settlers of this country were escaping religious persecution in their homelands.
    The evangelicals are the worst of the bunch. They look down their noses at everyone who doesn't have the same belief system they have. I have personally delt with people like that. They discriminate against others based on religious beliefs in our state and federal government and in the military. My sister-in-law has been passed over for promotion at her job for a state health department on several occasions because she is the one person in her office that doesn't belong to the religion that her supervisor and the other workers in her office belong to.
    Also, remember a few years ago, when it was brought to light, the religious discrimination that was occuring at the Air Force Academy. The evangelicals were harassing or treating non-evangelicals poorly. Students and staff were both guilty of this.
    My neighbor works at a military medical clinic has told me about the evangelicals in her work place and how they shove their beliefs upon everyone in her work place. While it isn't technically manditory, certain staff members at this clinic, military and civilian, round up the entire staff for a group prayer every morning, included in the staff is a practicing HINDU!!! The evangelicals totally ignore the fact that this person isn't a Christian, and nor do they care.
    Given the chance, evangelicals would have our country perpetually at war with the Muslim world all in the name of God. Just another group corrupting relgion for their own benefit.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  16. CokeParty

    Maybe I have it wrong but didn't our founding fathers come here for freedom of religion? They were tried of being told how to believe. That is why we have separations of church and State. Wiki says 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. We don't go around saying this is a white nation just because there are more whites.

    Tea party isn't a Christian group. They just hide behind it. Christians are suppose to want to help the suppressed not keep kicking them while they are down. To me the Tea Party is a bunch of greedy white upper class people who use the middle and lower classes as stepping stones to their riches. They think because they say they are Christians and against illegal immigration that everybody is going to over look their true agenda. It's all about their money.

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

      You are correct.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Tom S

      Right on the button.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      CokeParty,

      "Maybe I have it wrong but didn't our founding fathers come here for freedom of religion"

      Minor sticking point: If you are talking about Jefferson, Adams, Madison, etc. as "founding fathers", please know that they were all born and bred here. The first immigrants from Europe arrived about 150 years prior to the founding of the U.S. Those immigrants came for a variety of reasons, religious freedom being only one. They fled oppression of all sorts, and many simply came for business opportunities.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Charlieg

    The people in the US are statistically Christian & White .
    The government by law is all inclusive.

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

    "Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives."

    –John Stuart Mill

    October 5, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  19. Tree

    I am not a christian, but I still am an American. (I am an atheist, still have yet to see any evidence to believe in any one person's supernatural belief system) The founding father's of our country attempted to distance church from state, because they realized that religion/spirituality is a personal segment of one's life. Fact is, even the christians of our country can't completely agree on christianity. It saddens me greatly when people say our great country is a christian country.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      Yes, "Tree" it saddens me too. Especially since I am a Christian. I do not see any evidence of Christian Values being lived out by the GOP/TeaParty.

      Hate is not a Christian value! Peace.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Tom S

    This just in, the teabaggers are a bunch of bigoted, falsely self-righteous morons, film at 11.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:54 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.