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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. Anywhere but here

    I am a true original tea party member and a defender of the capitalist system that could care less about abortion. If there is market for it and it's not breaking any law, so be it. That is the capitalist way. When did the religious right highjack the Tea Party. The party is taxes (Taxed Enough Already) not about religious nonsense.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  2. Common Sense

    Although not Christian myself I agree we were founded as a Christian nation despite "seperation of church and state" 99% of the people were Christian and all the Foudning Fathers were Christian.What we were founded as and the mess we have become are two totally different subjects.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  3. MattL

    How un-American, to tie the country to a specific religion goes against one of the key purposes of it's founding.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  4. rm

    If this news is accurate it is bad news indeed for the Tea Party. That's really too bad because their fiscally conservative ideals are spot on with me. But I'm not religious and don't want to have anyone's religion rammed down my throat. The only difference I see between religion and secular politics is that religion claims its authority is divine, whereas secular politicians generally avoid that claim. So for the Tea party to align itself with the Christian political movement is to me very disappointing.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  5. Charles

    John k...face it we are. Happy to go live in Cuba or someplace else where there is no religion. I will even pay for all your moving expenses. It would be a business write off for me.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  6. SoS

    It never ceases to amaze me how much bigotry, arrogance, and ignorance is espoused by the more left leaning people who comment on these boards.

    How can people who call the TEA Party racists so easily label a group of people based on the actions of so few? That makes you a bigot and a hypocrite.

    How can people so angry at conservatives for being wealthier on average than liberals be so arrogant and condescending, and then turn around and claim the same thing of the TEA Party?

    How can these same left leaning commentors ridicule TEA Party supporters for a perceived lack of education because of their faith, when the truly ignorant are the ones doing all of the above the above?

    I am an independent voter who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats. I once called myself a liberal, but as time progressed, I realized I was in the company of the kind of people the liberals were accusing the conservatives to be.

    This is sad state of affairs. Those of you demeaning others for any reason should be ahsamed of yourself and you are the reason people are leaving the Democrats. If you really want to be heard, then stop your hypocrisy and your childish namecalling. One of the biggest and strongest arguments the Republicans has right now is that the vast majority of people voting to the left can not intelligently argue any of their policies so they resort to personal attacks. Rather than attack people for actually knowing what they are talking about, why don't you do the same? If you left leaning voters and independents who vote that way would simply educate yourself (strange that I have to say this since they all claim to be so smart) you might actually be able to make a point that people would listen to. Instead, it's hate filled rambling and insults.

    It's time to grow up people. If you can't act like adults, you probably should waive your right to vote until you can.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • MattL

      "How can people so angry at conservatives for being wealthier on average than liberals be so arrogant and condescending, and then turn around and claim the same thing of the TEA Party?"

      Because people on both sides are.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Charles

      They are called H.A.T.E.R.S. Hating anyone that ever reached success.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • Phil

      What an interestingly large wave of non-sequitur, unprovable commentary based solely on the enormous canvas you use by which to draw your own conclusions based upon.. what.. social hearsay at best?

      Wow, I didn't know grownups could do that! Maybe I should divorce myself of logic and reason too, not to mention morph from the original intent of the article beforehand, and then I can vote! Hooray!!

      October 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • SaveUsJeebus

      So the good people posting here and offering their opinions, derogatory or otherwise, should shut up....but it's okay for you to say whatever you want and tell us all to grou up?!? Oh, physician, heal thyself.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • RinoVT

      I'm a legal immigrant from the UK. The war du jour when people of my age went in the army was between Protestants and Catholics in Northen Ireland. The conclusion I came to was that people with strong religious beliefs end up being war-mongers. I was a Thatcher and a Reagan voter, even Bush for a while. However, I can no longer vote Republican as long as the religious right rules. I see the far right ignoring that Bush et al cost the nation one trillion dollars for the "war in Iraq". I see them ignoring the fact that TARP, auto company bailouts and the near depression were the result of Bush policies. Don't they remember McCain halting his campaign to fly back to Washington? Who was President then?
      I believe, however, that it's all working out for the best. There will be three parties soon, Democrat, Republican and Tea Party. Fiscally conservative, social liberals like me will be the new (old) Republican party. I can't wait!

      October 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • SoS

      @Phil

      Perhaps your biases are getting in the way of the logic you claim to be using. Had you comprehended the meaning of my comment, you would realize I am referring to a large number of posters on this very board. What I say is very provable. Simply scroll up and read the comments. If my pointing out the hate spilled garbage being spewed forth by the people here offends you, then maybe you are guilty of the same. I'm not saying you are but I see no reason why a tolerant reasonable person would feel compelled to defend those who clearly are not.

      @SaveUsJeebus

      I am telling no one to shut up. In fact, I am trying to help those sad individuals who think attacking other people is the right thing to do. If you think your beliefs are the right way to go, then providing logical arguments supporting your beliefs in a civil and adult fashion should serve you well. Those people who are swayed by you will hopefully do the same. I would also hope that you would encourage others to do the same, rather than attacking someone who offered a suggestion out of goodwill like you just did.

      Again, for those of you thinking I am mistaken, simply scroll up and read the bigoted comments. There is no denying they exist, and the content of their posts suggest they are left leaning voters. Just remember that when you demand the TEA Party clean house of the bigots they attract, you have the same problem on your side of the fence too that seems to be conveniently overlooked.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  7. John

    They are a movement of Christian Republicans. Not Independents or moderates.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  8. John K

    Believing that the U.S. is a Christian nation is about as outrageous as believing that Egypt is a Muslim nation.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Vulpes

      More so.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  9. Luis Espinal

    A person who believes Adam and Eve rode on top of a Dinosaur or who think the world was created in 7 days should never be fit to hold a political position. But then again, s* happens and we are where we are now.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Here, here!!

      October 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Andy

    I guess my comment meant nothing... Well you people have fun

    You people meaning the ideology that believes in the "equality" model... Understand you will one day learn that business has built this country... Government needs business to run haha

    I'm sorry this misconception is sodureted in your brain chemistry

    October 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  11. Fideaux

    Declaring the US a Christian nation (theocracy) will be considered a formal declaration of war.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Stephen H

      Haha. Now that's funny.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  12. Sal

    TO KRIS, you just don't see the problem with religion today?? You must be one of those religious nuts I speak of then.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Jacob

    the Tea Party should probably go found a new country then.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Charles

      Jacob....if you want to seperate this country please do so. I would love to live in peace and love among others who only want the same. We are such bad people.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • John

      Charles: So you'd support slashing big government spending in the Defense Department?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Kimo

    I've read a number of posts saying that the Tea Party is for fiscally responsible government and that it is not about social issues. That is simply not true. How you spend the taxpayers money, and what you consider necessary expenditures, depends entirely on your social view. More importantly, you can't even begin to say what programs are necessary without being well educated in the issues and that is where a lot of tea partiers fail, they simply do not know what they are talking about. We may all hate to see bailouts to the uber-wealthy for example (I sure do) but how many teabaggers are experts in economics? Common sense does not cut it any more than common sense can tell you whether or not there is a worldwide increase in global temperature of 4 degrees or whether or not evolution is a valid theory. Common sense is what people say they have when they are uneducated.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Willful blindness at it's finest. Six in ten say Fox News is their most trusted source of news? That statistic makes me want to cry.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • DearyPie

      @Kate..Because they are entertaining. Unfortunately, many people mistake entertainment for information. There in lies our problem.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Charles

      Are there other news channels? Face is FOX is number 1. The last person who said something about FOX, i fired them. I love the control i have over people.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Andrew

      @Charles:

      Um... bravo? Thank you for painting yourself as a narcissist who cannot handle working with people that happen to have different opinions than your own. Typical Tea Party supporter ladies and gentlemen.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  16. boydanb203

    God must be tired of this by now....Teaparty is a nuts case party, less govermnent, but let me tell you how do live your life....we really need to be destroyed (the whole planet) and start over again...

    October 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  17. Charles

    Let me finish with this.

    One nation under GOD.

    God Bless, I got to back to work.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Phil

      Psst.. you forgot "..with Liberty and Justice for All". You do know what "liberty" means, right? Or "justice"? Or.. "all"?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  18. Papa_K

    Considering the fact that the first REAL Americans of this country were the native American Indians and this was their country at first then shouldn't our weird religious beliefs be theirs?

    October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Charles

      actually American Indians were not the first to be on this land.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
    • vel

      wow, charles, you claim to know things that no archaeologist knows, that Native Americans weren't the first people to populate North America. It would be just peachy if you shared your secret information with the world. Might win a Nobel prize, eh? This nonsense sounds like it's right from the creationist book of making up "facts".

      October 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Vulpes

      It's unfortunate that the far right acts like that. It is because I say so
      (Creationism, The United State was founded as a Christian Nation, Obama is Muslim ...) When there is lack of actual objective evidence they make some up and call it truth.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ...but they were just immigrants from Asia.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  19. cindy

    Do your research and you will find this nation was founded with Christianity. Look at the minuments in DC, read quotes froim our Founding Fathers, read all the state creeds. Our founding fathers' had a strong belief in God and Jesus Christ.
    Do your research and then say it isn't so.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Cindy: There is not legitimate history professor (or anyone who has actually done research into this matter) that finds what you say to be true. The revisionist history that Glenn Beck puts out is just wrong.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  20. Kevin

    The Tea Party thinks that the US is a nation of Christians... They are completely wrong. The United States of America is a land of many people and many religions. For one group to say that the whole nation is one religion is an all out lie. Although the majority of Americans are Christian/Catholic, it does not mean that the whole country is Christian/Catholic. This story just shows that the extreme right and left of the political spectrum are the true idiots of this country. This is because they are not trying to help one another, they are trying to divide the country into democrat and republican. (This is one of the reasons why I am an Independent.) We are one nation and in times of need (like right now with poverty and other negatives of society) are suppose to come together and help those in need, or at least that is what I think that should happen, but people don't. Also I think Fox News is full of crazies.

    Although I am catholic I have begun to try to learn about different religions and how they can relate to Catholicism.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Most citizens of the US identify with one or another version of the Christian faith. To say most members are Christian is a factual statement.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:18 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.