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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. quivera

    Ric and Jay have a point. What happened to the "moderates" (never mind the hard-to-define center)? Im a reglstered Democrat but I wouldn't mind a Repulblican congress (House of Representatives) because when the checks are there, pragmatic legislation gets accomplished. (same way with Republican president/Democratic congress) I don't believe there will be a stalemate for the next 2 -3 years.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Pete

    Going to Church is lame. Sundays are for the NFL. Even God knows that.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • Steve

      hahaha, that made me smile.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Andrew

      AMEN!

      October 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  3. Brook

    As a Christian I cringe whenever I hear about how this country is a "Christian nation." What a load of B.S.! If this were a Christian nation, we wouldn't be so hateful to the poor and the foreigner, we wouldn't be so greedy, selfish, judgmental, angry & vindictive, and we wouldn't be so bigoted and prejudiced. Besides, being Christian is a personal thing, and NO nation on earth can be considered "Christian." God will not judge you by your citizenship on Earth, but in Heaven.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • William Butler

      Brook,

      So true. As Christians we need to do a better job of preaching the gospel and gaining more converts to Christianity.

      A study conducted by Arthur Brooks shows that conservative Christians are much more generous with their time and money (even to secular charities) than the average person. The study shows that the more secular and liberal one is, the less generous that person tends to be. So in order to improve the problems we have, we definately need more conservative Christians!

      October 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • Tea-ed Off

      William Butler,

      Would you please enlighten us as to the root of this study? I am a Christian who grew up Southern Baptist. My experience has not demonstrated that conservative Christians (and I stress conservatives) are more giving with their time and money. Living in Washington, DC, I see dozens of liberal minded people every day giving their time, money, and devotion to helping the less fortunate. All I've seen at TP rallies are signs ridiculing the President or social welfare programs. So please, tell me where to look to verify your claims since I don't see them carried out in real life.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • erasmus

      " I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ" .... Mohatma Gandhi

      October 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  4. bailoutsos

    shawn_the_bohn God is for suckers. @@@ Are you talking about a Catholic priest?

    October 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  5. Steve

    The problem with American politics is that people view it as a sport. Instead of cooperation, it usually disintegrates into "You guys suck." I think Obama is a good president at a time when we need a great president and that Democrats are spending too much, but I would easily take them over anybody trying to win voters with the slogan "Taking back our country" as used by most Tea Partiers. It is the same old rhetoric, just shouted by a different team. And I consider myself a conservative (not necessarily Republican) in that I want government to be less hands on, but I'm not buying what the extreme right is selling.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  6. William Butler

    The more things change the more they stay the same. From the very beginning Christians have been mocked and ridiculed. That trend continues to this day as the human heart is wicked and hostile towards God. Jesus promises blessings to His followers when they are insulted for His sake.

    You can see the anti-Christian venom dripping in many of these bomments. Jesus said that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34)

    October 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • latftp

      It's hard to mock and ridicule anyone who does not say ridiculous things. Such as this country is a Christian nation. See more ridiculousness from the Tea Party at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • Tea-ed Off

      While I agree that a number of comments are clearly bashing Christianity and other organized religion (which is uncalled for), I believe that more of them are bashing the Tea Partiers for having such a limited understanding of American history as to believe that our country is officially a Christian nation. Clearly, that is not what the founders intended.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  7. Eric

    Okay, so the worst kept secret is out for public consumption. The so called "Tea" Party is nothing more than angered Right-Wing Republicans. They are upset because their own party has people that are not conservative enough.

    The people that are on their target list are moderates. What they fail to understand is that moderates win national elections. Fringe element candidates like Angle, Buck, Paul, O'Donnell, and Miller may get elected, but at the cost of 2012.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  8. Pratt

    Can't you just smell their fear ! The immoral liberals are on the run. And I say immoral on a visceral level not a religious view. Tea Partiers are from all different aspects of society but share a common view. Liberals will cause end of civilization.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • Luke

      How exactly? Do you have evidence? Please lay out your foundation for use to read and analyze. Are you just spewing things to cause a reaction? I'd like to see your framework that a liberal view of society will end civilization. Stringing words together is rather easy by the way. Watch!

      Can't you just smell their fear? The immoral Christian Right is on the run. And I say immoral on a visceral level, not a religious view. Tea Partiers are from all different aspects of society, but share one common view (what view?) Religious dogma will cause the end of civilization.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • William Butler

      That is absolutely true. I can't wait to come back here after the election and read the reactions from the anti-Christian bigots.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • latftp

      The only thing people are scared of is dunces, complete morons, getting elected. See the stupidity to be feared at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Pratt

      I said visceral. Evidence..plenty. Gay adoption, unrestricted baby killing, gay marriage, Illegals running rampant in our economy and govt., mandated healthcare 'taxes', suppression of 2nd amendment rights, out right war on religion, property taxes out of control, huge government, schools in chaos, criminal system packed full, hatred of rural Americans, anti business, anti wealth, anti everything capitalist.... I blame these things directly on liberals.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • Luke

      Pratt- Listing things you disagree with and assigning blame to a particular group isn't evidence. It is just blaming.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Luke

      Pratt – Again, you can't just string things together and say that it is evidence that civilization will end. It's rather easy to do from any angle. Watch again:

      Gay adoption, gay marriage, denying guns to people, being anti religion and proper regulations and sanctions on capitalism are advancing society. Without data or evidence to back up said claims, like your statements, these are weak arguments. Until you realize this, you will be a terrible debater. I asked for evidence, not accusations.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Langkard

      Hey, Pratt! Every accepted overtime pay? How about taken a paid vacation? Paid holiday? Even an unpaid vacation? Participated in employee profit-sharing? Have a retirement plan? Plan on retiring at all even? Health insurance? Ever called in sick for work and had a job still when you returned to work? If you can answer YES to any of the above, you, sir, are a socialist. Because not one of those things existed until socialist theory in the 19th century inspired trade unions to force companies to provide them. Stop being an ignorant hypocrite. It isn't flattering to you.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Pratt

      I believe what I said is evidence. Everything I said is a fact therefore evidence. So your idea of evidence is a website devised and slanted by liberals ? Your sincerity just isn't shining through. Lumping all Christians & Tea Party members together is also your form of fair and balanced ? Calling anyone a bigot because they disagree with you is your form of justice ? I think I'll stay where I am on this debate.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Luke

      Pratt – Where did I say any of that? I displayed how easy it is to string things together. You stated that liberals are causing the end of civilization. I need proof of how, for example, gay marriage ends civilization. I will also need to be shown how gun rights damper civilization – A counter argument is that most of Europe and the Far East have strict gun laws, and their civilizations are thriving. I will need evidence of how gay adoption will end society. Again, other cultures are thriving just fine where this is legal. Also, gays in the military in Europe are doing just fine. Bitterly ironic that the US calls for help from European allies that have legalized this years ago, but won't allow it in our own. I don't understand that one at all. I will need evidence and counter-evidence of all that you listed as dismantling society as we know it before I can take you seriously.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  9. graymi

    can we please vote the teabaggers off of the island and make them spend their lives floating around and preaching to people that care? that would be themselves of course. maybe if they had universal healthcare then they could all be properly medicated.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  10. Bryon Morrigan

    NEWSFLASH: Members of the Tea Party aren't likely to be well-versed in the study of either history or American gov't!

    But hey, why don't they read those fake history books written by David Barton, who only has a BA in "Religious Education," and let dropouts with NO education like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity dictate to them what to believe. It would blow their freakin' minds if they actually went out and picked up some books written by many of the NON-CHRISTIAN Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine...

    "[H]owever unwilling the partisans of the Christian system may be to believe or to acknowledge it, it is nevertheless true that the age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. There was more knowledge in the world before that period than for many centuries afterwards..." - Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason" 1:10

    October 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • Langkard

      Shhh, you're going to give them all cognitive dissonance. Idiots like Beck, who blathers on about Thomas Paine being his hero, while having no clue that Paine openly questioned the myths of Christianity in "Age of Reason" and was socialist before there was a word for it, advocating redistribution of wealth and taxing to provide a payment to the elderly and more in "Agrarian Justice". Most of these Tea Party sheeple are simply ignorant. Which makes them easily led by cynical politicians like Dick Armey and the other old school Republicans behind the Tea Party movement's funding.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
  11. Ian

    Way to push the small government thing by trying to get the government to establish a national religion.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  12. Rob

    This survey sheds a lot of light on why the tea party are islamophobes – because they're theocrats, so faith and law are intertwined in their minds. Thus they think tolerance of Islam will lead to the imposition Sharia law.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • Langkard

      Yeah, the Tea Party sheeple go on an on about Sharia law being imposed but have no trouble at all imposing the Christian equivalent on us. Blatant hypocrites.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  13. Yenruogis

    @andrew.peter
    "Would loving my neighbor mean to give him all my worth and me live in poverty?"

    Absolutely! That's what Christianity is all about! If you have true faith in God, you will give all you have to help those less fortunate without question knowing God will provide for you! Your reward will be an eternity in heaven. Otherwise, yours is an empty faith. God does not want you going on cruises, having golf memberships and expensive houses while 23,000 children die every day from poverty related causes.

    Enjoy your pleasures now friend, see you in hell!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • latftp

      Sounds like a real loving god to me...

      See real hell at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  14. William Butler

    Pratt – right on. Their meaningless snarls are water off a ducks back.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • latftp

      More water than the duck's back can handle at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  15. Pratt

    Endless name calling, offensive comparisons, hate filled anti-religious rhetoric, ridicule of the Tea Party. Doesn't change a thing. We don't just fold our tent because you don't like us. We don't like you either. You are losing the battle and get more desperate every day.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • latftp

      The Tea Party is its own best ridicule, all anyone has to do is view their pictures to see how f'ing ridiculous they are. See for yourself at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • Pratt

      Have you seen a gay pride rally ? HA! If you want to talk about STRANGE behavior....I much prefer the Tea Party look.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Langkard

      Really? Odd, because the Tea Party is losing in many elections – try Arkansas governor, for one. Or Delaware senate with your nut case candidate, O'Donnell. The Tea Party (a wholly-owned subsidiary of various right-wing pseudo-conservative old school Republican PACs, like Dick Armey's Freedom Foundation) took control of the PRIMARIES. But facing the entire voting public, they're getting their butts handed to them. The right-wing, fringe, extremist ranting of the Tea Party sheeple works fine for the already right-wing leaning, extremist Republican primaries. It doesn't translate well when applied to the entire electorate.

      The Tea Party is losing the senate races in Washington, Delaware, Connecticut, California and New York. Reid in Nevada now leads Engel in the latest polls. Buck's lead in Colorado is slipping. Nearly across the board, Dems are picking up 6-7 percentage points in the latest polling. The Tea Party has peaked. They will probably still win Florida, Kentucky, WV, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but their numbers are slipping. Total for the senate, RealClearPolitics is showing 49 Dems, 46 Republicans and 5 toss-ups. It could go either way. So much for the Tea Party being all powerful.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Aaron

    America is not a Christian nation. It is a nation of total religious freedom.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  17. Stephen H

    I can't wait for the Republicans to take over in November!!!!!! Get the Deadbeats out of there. There is a God.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • latftp

      Yeah, see what the Tea Partiers are brewing at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  18. SaveUsJeebus

    This is the beginning of the end for the Tea Party. So far, they've been able to avoid issues involving morality and religion and stay focused on the economy. Soon they'll have to offer up their opinions and stand by them. The problem is they won't all believe the same thing when it comes to gay rights or abortion or immigration or religious freedoms or civil rights. These issues will rip them apart. The bulk of Tea Partiers will be very conservative, white Christians and the opinions that group has just don't fly anymore in America. When was the last time you heard anything from the Christian Coalition?

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

      The Christian Coalition is rearing its ignorant head again in disguise, in the person of Ralph Reed, Jr. who has somehow been transformed from right-wing religious bigot and unindicted co-conspirator of Jack Abramoff to respected commentator on the 24 hours news networks. How quickly people forget.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  19. DATDUKE

    Real men who stand behind what they really believe in should not be afraid to speak their minds. And should not encrypt the messages they use to express themselves. If you are a man you should stand and speak your mind no matter how hateful or hurtful what you believe in is. Today, there a lot of people who hid their messages and thoughts and these are neither men nor what they believe in genuine.

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

      Sigh, the 'no real Scotsman fallacy' again. Civil society requires you to be civil first. And you can't be civil if you're spewing hate. See examples of Tea Party hate at LATFTP dot com

      October 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  20. Sparky

    the same flippin idiots that whine about the government invading our lives wanna speak for everyone but themselves

    October 5, 2010 at 2:04 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.