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. Samuel

    Vero, ma basta prenderci la mano ci sono tanti di quei doamnci e di combinazioni di tasti che mi sembrava di impazzire, ma era troppo bello sdraiarsi fra l'erba, mimetizzarsi, alzarsi un pochino per guardarsi intorno, avvicinarsi furtivamente dietro a un soldato e con la tecnica del CQC zack!! Era tuo! E lo potevi anche interrogare e spesso ti dava dei trucchetti

    April 1, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  2. Ann

    A Gallup poll conducted in May of 2011 asked the question, "Do you believe in God?" with a result of 92% saying 'yes'. http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/Americans-Continue-Believe-God.aspx. Other polls have been given over 40 years and the answer is consistent. We have opened our arms to all, but all should not take away, piece by piece, our heritage. Jesus never forced Himself on anyone, only to whosoever. The Bible says, Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

    July 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Artist


      A Gallup poll conducted in May of 2011 asked the question, "Do you believe in God?" with a result of 92% saying 'yes'. http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/Americans-Continue-Believe-God.aspx. Other polls have been given over 40 years and the answer is consistent. We have opened our arms to all, but all should not take away, piece by piece, our heritage. Jesus never forced Himself on anyone, only to whosoever. The Bible says, Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

      I am stil trying to see how your bible is relevent outside your church????? I wonder what percentage it would be is the question was more specific to jesus? There are thousands of gods so I am having a hard time in seeing the relevence of the survey to "christian nation"

      July 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • James Holt

      I would answer that question as yes. I believe in some kind of a God. That does not mean I believe in Jesus, your bible, or what your religious sect believes to be right and wrong. Freedom of religion is on of the fundamentals that this county was founded on. The freedom to believe and/or worship however you choose. Do your research and I think you will find that most of the founding fathers were not 'christians' in a sense. They would be more properly aligned with the philosophy of Deism. You can say this is a nation of "God" as god can be all encompassing. But nowhere do I see the words Jesus, or Christianity as something this county is founded on.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  3. Taog

    So, the government needs to get out of people's lives, except when it comes to people doing things with which you do not agree? I don't think that's really any better than the big government socialists. How about staying out of my pocket book AND respecting my civil liberties. Why can't either party adhere to that simple request?

    October 11, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  4. sheeple

    they would be better off in england, where there isnt this islamaphobia going around.

    October 9, 2010 at 5:48 am |
  5. NL

    Still looking for an answer to my question. Would the Puritans want to come to evangelical America as it is today, or would they be better off staying in England?

    October 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  6. Iqbal khan


    October 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  7. Iqbal khan

    Check these..

    October 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  8. Gary

    I am agnostic, I am also a strong supporter of the T-party. Americia was founded on many Judeo-christian values. I dont adhere to any religion. I am a Scientist and strongly believe in evolution and natural selection. I have no problem with the possiblity of Gods existence either. I think Americans want the government out of their lives and low taxes... we need to secure our boarders, protect American jobs.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • NL

      You may like Tea Party politics, but does the Tea Party like your agnosticism? Are you open about it amongst fellow supporters? We know that they are OK with witches, but do you think that an agnostic would stand a chance as a Tea Party candidate?

      October 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  9. I Agree

    @William Butler

    You are right. I recall this scripture..from below>
    21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you
    will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem , worship the Father.

    Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in
    Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
    21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you
    will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem , worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for
    salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will
    worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such
    to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in
    spirit and truth.”
    25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming”
    (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

    26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

    October 6, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  10. Letmuallin


    Just open the doors, let 'em all in. All people from all countries, let them come to America, land of the Free.
    Let all worship and build churches, mosques, whatever.
    Lets embrace all people, everywhere.
    We cannot discriminate, so that includes AlQueida.
    Lets invite the Iranians, and the whole middle east nations.
    When they all get here, lets let the atheists and other anti religious sects, shut down ALL religous things.
    No Gods, bible, qurans, etc.
    Just man, period. Oh, and Science.
    No biased, no bigotry, no discrimination.
    Then all will live in peace.
    There will be not retribution for any sin, as sin will be normal in society in which we live.
    Sounds like a plan,huh?
    Mayby people will allow people to marry thier dogs, cats, and other animals. After all, its a free country.
    We will,
    have a cleaner society, no sickness, no insanity.
    Everyone will have freedom, and freedom of expressions.
    We will all embrace one another.
    What a wonderful life we will have!

    October 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  11. William Butler

    Essentially what happened here is that the tea party members were surveyed and it was found that they thought America was a Christian nation. And it is a Christian nation in the sense that Christianity is the majority religion and many of the founding fathers were deeply religious Christians.

    But for some fascinating reason, this story set off the atheists and the liberals (most of whom already deeply hated the tea partiers long before this story ever came out). And they used the occassion to take their usual obligatory pot shots at Christians and Christianity. It seems as though Christians are the one group everyone is allowed to nasty things about without any types of social repurcussions.

    As a Christian myself, I find this interesting, as Jesus predicted that His followers would be persecuted, insulted and despised by society. And if you look throughout history, you see that this is the case, starting with the Christians in the ancient Roman empire. Jesus also promised that Christians would be blessed every time we were insulted or persecuted for His sake. And I believe Him, which is why I usually go out of my way to make my faith known in forums like this.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  12. Wade Johnson

    Why is this even a story? Of course America is a Christian Nation! We are not a state run Christian Nation and we are free to believe what ever we want but when 80% of the nation is of the Christian faith no one can say we are not a Christian Nation especially considering we were founded on the Christian Judea believes and laws.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • NL

      From your neck down is about 80% of your entire body, but I would be willing to bet you wouldn't want to be called a brainless person, correct?

      October 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  13. nunya

    .....Does anyone else see where this "founded on religion" doesn't make sense? When the puritans came here, they weren't making a country. They were the reason why this land was found....BUT it took a while for them to get together, make a home here, and develop their "separation from church and state". Come on guys, stop twisting the facts to make them sound better.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  14. History buff

    In fairness to the tea baggers and other who claim America was "founded on religion", they are somewhat correct. America was settled for religious purposes. The Puritans were being persecuted by England for many years. So, they moved to Holland which was a bit more tolerant. In 1620 or so, a group of the Puritans returned briefly to England and agreed to settle in America for a corporation that wanted them to produce things for sale back to England. So, these persecuted Christians, hopped on boats and settled near Plymouth. And that is about as far as one can say America was "founded for religious purposes".

    October 6, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Don’t kid yourself, it was founded for imperialistic purposes, they just happened to be Christians.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • NL

      Ah, but would there be tolerance for Puritans if they found themselves within today's Christian America? Ironically, I think they would run away from the teabaggers and seek the greater religious freedom of modern day England.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  15. bobaloo

    Its time to keep the moozlyms out of America. They will just continue the war here eventually, just like everywhere else.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Your ignorance and hate is astonishing. Thank you for being an American.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  16. Michael

    I'm a white evangelical Christian, born and raised in the Southern Baptist Church, but I have to tell you.... the United States, though founded on some christian principles and heavily involved in religion during its growth, is not a Christian nation. I am all for spreading God's Word to those who will listen, and i'm all for Christian leaders in government; but I am not for labeling America as a "Christian Nation". It's just perposterous.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:58 am |
  17. J.

    Good idea Craig. Spit it out on her face.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:21 am |
  18. Sgt. Craig

    Can I spit it out on Sarah's face?

    October 6, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  19. Sgt. Craig

    Hey sir J. freedom of speech and religion means not trying to force religion down anyone else's throat. Glad you showed me how to suck it up.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:08 am |
    • Joe

      You suck it good. Suck it man suck it.

      October 6, 2010 at 3:16 am |
  20. Joe

    hey teabaggers!

    October 6, 2010 at 3:04 am |
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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.