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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. Alley

    So much for the separation of church and state.... Avoiding religious persecution.... I could go on!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  2. Katie

    Tealiban LOL.

    Christian or not, we don't have to combine our laws with Christianity. That's terrifying. The point of America is to be TOLERANT and FAIR towards ALL people. Yes the majority of this nation recognize themselves with some branch of Christianity, but definitely not EVERYONE. And the branches of Christianity are so distinct and divided within themselves that one cannot truly pinpoint a belief for this nation.

    Look. If you give respect to yourself, your family, your fellow man and to all living things in nature, conduct good karma and don't judge anyone or anything based on beliefs, appearances, etc., then you're a good person. You don't have to call yourself a Christian for that if you don't believe in the fate, nor do you have to read the Bible or go to church.

    I love this nation in the sense that it can tolerate anyone or anything.

    May the Tealiban fail to rise. ❤

    October 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  3. Katie

    Tealiban LOL.

    Christian or not, we don't have to combine our laws with Christianity. That's terrifying. The point of America is to be TOLERANT and FAIR towards ALL people. Yes the majority of this nation recognize themselves with some branch of Christianity, but definitely not EVERYONE. And the branches of Christianity are so distinct and divided within themselves that one cannot truly pinpoint a belief for this nation.

    Look. If you give respect to yourself, your family, your fellow man and to all living things in nature, conduct good karma and don't judge anyone or anything based on beliefs, appearances, etc., then you're a good person. You don't have to call yourself a Christian for that if you don't believe in the fate, nor do you have to read the Bible or go to church.

    I love this nation in the sense that it can tolerate anyone or anything.

    May the Tealiban fail to raise. ❤

    October 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Buster Bloodvessel

    If lying about your political enemies and tapping your feet in the bathroom stall are Christian values, then I'll go worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  5. Katie

    Tealiban LOL.

    Christian or not, we don't have to combine our laws with Christianity. That's terrifying. The point of America is to be TOLERANT

    October 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      The ones near me believe that we are only hours away from having the Quran replace our entire legal code, and that only wholesale murder and armed insurrection can prevent it. Oh, and they also think the government should clean up the Gulf at any cost, and be financially responsible.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  6. Gary

    Jorge (October 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm) is right on the mark regarding the Tea Party movement's public message. To those who automatically react to the Tea Party without knowing much or anything about the movement itself, I would argue it's worth doing some research. Publicly, the Tea Party, as a political movement, is committed to fiscal responsibility and small government principles. The survey may as well have asked the respondents what their favorite breakfast cereal is, but the resulting poll data would have nothing to do with the Tea Party's political agenda.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  7. Ron Nospam

    All the more reason to hope these zealots only steal GOP votes!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  8. redrose999

    These people are not Christian at all. They completely forgotten Jesus's words. They are the Christian Reich, worshipers of hate and intolerence.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  9. TR

    how do most of you manage to mix immigrant with illeagal alien? big difference........

    October 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Justin

    Why the distinctions with race in these surveys? If you want equality for all "races" stop alluding to us as "white" or "black." From a biblical perspective, there really are no race divisions, just people and we are all brownish. Let's just leave it at that.

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

    Christians, what a joke,when god gets done with this country.For everything we have done.ThE GOVERNMENT is the devil at work.So many people hurting and struggling pay chek to pay check.And the government is still trieing to figure how to take more.The simul. program only helped the money people,and the working man going to pay for that,when is the working man going to get relief.We helped the rich get relief to make millions like they have in the past.I"ve been a dem all my life,and i"m sick of all government.Because it should be about the people.IT"S TIME FOR THE PEOPLE TO TAKE CONTROL,THE GOVERNMENT IS ONLY GOING TO KEEP US DOWN UNDER THER THUMB. IF YOU DON"T BELIEVE THAT JUST LOOK AROUND YOU i"m not a racial I I just look around.We can fight a war we shouldn"t be in,give aide to all these other country and we can"t even take care of our own.one example is katrina.People loseing jobs, homes and two months before election .LETS START A JOB PROGRAM,ARE THEY SERIOUS.No they just know how the american people are,give them peanuts and they will vote us in.I voted for him and he turned out to be a joke.I"m done with voteing first time in thirty years, because they are going to do what they want.

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

      I read somewhere that randomly capitalizing words strengthens arguments. Good job there. Might I suggest you try inserting random exclamation points too? This will aid in hardening your statements and catching the reader's eye. This is sure to make you right. The early writings of Thomas Jefferson capitalized at least 12 words and contained no more than 25 exclamation points. Work on it and you'll be as persuasive as he one day.

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

      Trying to read your post is like translating a foreign language.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Yeah, Luke's right! Put in a bunch of commas and apostrophes because that will make you seem SMART!

      October 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  12. PaganPantheist

    Ummm...no this is a secular Nation, not a Christian nation. The majority of the population may be Christian, but they are NOT the only religion here thus calling America a Christian nation is misleading and leads down a dangerous path of theocracy. Of course, the Tea Partiers are showing their theocratic colors.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
  13. Art

    Well, I THOUGHT that the TEA party was about freedom and such, but, apparently, they don't tolerate non WASPS. Too bad, I guess Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, and the Amish need not apply.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  14. John

    The Tea Party really scares me! Seems to mirror the rise of the National Socialists in Germany in the '30's! Sounds SO similar, labeling "loyal" and "Disloyal" citizens... those who the "majority" should fear and hate! We've seen it all before!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  15. Mesa Mick

    These Teatards continue to spread lies about this country yet they have the nerve to call themselves Americans. This is not a "chrizz-jun nation" like these Talibangelical freaks keep bleating. If it were, elected officials would be sworn in with their right hand on the US Consittuion and would be taking an oath to uphold the bible.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  16. Chips Handon

    You can't really rail against big government if you're still leeching off Medicare and Social Security...

    October 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  17. Danmj2

    I like how all the librels on here think they are right about everything. Heck why do we need any other point of veiw, they got all the answers. It's funny how they bash anyone who does not share the same beleifs as they do. If you go to church, you must be wrong. Funny how they have all the answers and all the political pull right now, and our country is at its worst.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  18. Jack

    Whoa! Somebody took the word, "Tea Party" and that was origin by the Boston Tea Party in 1773. That should be violation of the copyright law and shouldn't be using it. Must be from some uneducated Republican got that idea and executed it...shame on you Republicans what a cheater!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  19. JWR

    If most Tea Party members believe America is a Christian nation, then why don't they act like it. No where in the Bible did Christ teach lying and name-calling. No where did He teach to portray someone whom you disagree with as offensive caricatures. No where did He teach hate. The Tea Party group are really "counterfeit Christians". They are the most dangerous of hypocrites. They are just like the Pharisees and Sadducees whom John the Baptist referred to as vipers in Matthew 3:7.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  20. Jennifer A

    Surprise, surprise. A group founded on Christian rhetoric stubbornly ignores the fact that their beliefs are in no way aligned with Christ's teachings.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:26 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.