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. Brian

    Sorry, America is not a Christian nation. Give it 40 years and organized religion will be nearly non-existant. I do not know anyone under the age of 40 that goes to church, and no one under the age of 18 that goes voluntarily. This would certainly be a welcomed change in my book. Imagine, everyone thinking with their heads and not basing ideas off of a 2000+ year old fairy-tale.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • William Butler

      Nope, we're not going away. You guys have tried everything from feeding us to the lions to saying all kinds of nasty things about us on the Internet! Christ promised that His church would never die out. But keep trying, because the more you persecute, the more we grow!

      October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Brian

      William – I personally don't care what you people do. If praying at night makes you feel better then more power to you, just as I would hope you don't take insult to when someone doesn't believe as you do. I just wish your praying would be left out of OUR politics, and I do indeed forsee that happening. Attendance to church is down some 40% in the past 50 years. More and more churches are shutting down due to lack of parishoners. Just a scientific observation.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • William Butler

      Brian, I think you've got it backwards. The ones who are thin skinned and easily offended are not the Christians. Take a look through these messages and you'll see what I am talking about.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  2. The Patriot

    "Fiscally conservative, social liberals like me will be the new (old) Republican party. I can't wait!"

    You are a Liberal and will always be a Liberal. Period. You will never be a Republican.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Daniel

      oohh, I love a good back and forth like this.
      Just be sure not to throw in the terms "racist" or "hijack" into the conversation.
      It brings up bad memories.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • RinoVT

      You are right, way right of me.

      That's OK, I'll live with it.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  3. JiminNM

    Liars, cheats, takers, users, perverts, incompetent, unethical, immoral, criminal, adulterers, and similar don't like the true Tea Party because they don't want to have to compare themselves to someone with better values.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Brian Thetford

      Liars, cheats, takers, users, perverts, incompetent, unethical, immoral, criminal, adulterers,........wow you just summed up the majority of all political parties!

      October 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  4. Daniel

    How else is Glenn Beck able to make his billions of dollars? If anything, he is a very smart business man, doing what the capitalist economy demands of him – make tons and tons of money off of a bunch of stupid, vulnerable, unsuspecting people.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  5. Fr33d0mhawk

    This is no surprise, its the same lie the GOP has been telling for years, that conservatives are for smaller government, if you consider the Taliban government small in scope and reach, then I guess that is small, but its still infinitely larger than liberal government. The Teaparty is merely the Christo-Taliban which is why they carry assault weapons along with protest signs that promise, "Ballot box or bullet box", or "Brown or Browning", or like McVeigh wore the day he bombed OKC, "Im Going to Water the Tree of Liberty". Even Teaparty senatorial candidates are threatening "2nd amendment remedies" if they don't win elections, sedition and treason of the highest order, yet Teapartiers wrap themselves in the flag, disgusting.

    This poll should have asked, "Was David Koresh the resurrection of Christ? Was Tim McVeigh a Patriot?" the overwhelming response by Teapartiers would be a resounding YES. I know, I have heard Teapartiers at protests threaten to murder everyone left of Limbaugh in a Hitler style holocaust, only they don't call it terrorism, they call it war. Thank FOX News and Rush Limbaugh for creating the Teaparty terrorist movement.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • William Butler

      Actually, McVeigh was an atheist. But don't let any facts get in the way of your anti-Christian snarling. It's quite entertaining!

      October 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  6. The Patriot

    Reading a book right now called "American Taliban" by Markos Moulitsas.

    Stop right there you looney lefty. You call Tea Party members crazy, yet you are drinking the DailyKooz? LOL ROFLMAO

    October 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Somehow I just know that you have every book Rush or Beck ever wrote . . . and that you shouldn't be allowed to say kooz.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  7. Dan

    I supported the tea party rallies when they started with Ron Paul, but it's changed from a fiscally conservative movement to a socially conservative movement using the same stupid fear of everything non-Christian. The study should divide between legal and illegal immigrants. I support legal immigrants, but not illegal immigration. Republicans and Democrats in Washington have ignored illegal immigration for the last 30 years.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  8. The Patriot

    Of Course its a Christian Nation!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • John - Altanta

      If this where a Christian nation there would be no conservatives.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  9. Carmen

    Great. Now we have to deal with radical Muslims as well as Christians. Just fricken great

    October 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  10. A Better Party


    October 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  11. William Butler

    Tea-ed Off,

    Not a problem. Just google "arthur brooks who really cares" and prepare to have your preconceived notions blown to smithereens.

    Despite their reputation as “caring,” political liberals give less of their income to charitable causes than conservatives.

    People who mistrust big government give more of their money and time as volunteers to take care of the poor themselves.

    People who are religious give more across the board, not only to religious causes but to non-religious charities as well.

    Americans give far more money and volunteer much more frequently than Europeans.

    For two otherwise identical families earning $49,000 in 2000, the religious one gave $2,210 vs. $642. But religious people don’t just give to their churches and synagogues. They are more likely to give to nonreligious causes as well, whether it’s the PTA or the symphony, and they are twice as likely to volunteer.

    According to Professor Brooks: “If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent.”

    October 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • JiminNM

      Liberals want to steal and redistribute to feel good about themselves and are unwilling to give their own money and time to causes they supposedly support.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      And when did YOU last give blood or money, Willie?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Quinn

    It just goes to show that people who watch Fox News will believe anything.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  13. Cupcake

    the U.S. is a Christian nation... and thats the problem

    October 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  14. Cuttingtorch

    Reading a book right now called "American Taliban" by Markos Moulitsas. You would be surprised how close the Teabaggers (right-wing in general) resemble the Taliban. Teabaggers worry me and they think they speak for the entire nation. I would organize rallies if I could, but alas, I have a job.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      I like the way they have split the GOP into Dumb and Dumber parties.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  15. Michael

    I'm a white, male, Christian ... and I am NOT a member or believer in the tea party movement. Tea party people are in love with themselves and their judgmental way of life.

    Jesus said, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

    October 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  16. drinky

    I would have a tough time caring less about what tea baggers think. I'll see if I can...

    October 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  17. RinoVT

    I'm a legal immigrant from the UK. Long time US citizen. Tax payer, small business owner. 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 3:00 pm |
  18. Reality

    As noted previously:

    Let us look at the Research for Public Religion Research Insti-tute, a nonprofit group headed by Dr. Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, "director of research", before putting any credence to their survey statistics. As per their IRS Form 990 for 2009, they are only starting up this non-profit, have no as-sets and apparently no money. The same form states "there was no activity in 2009". The only conclusion is that Jones and Cox (listed not as the director of research but only as a key employee on the form) have conco-cted their survey in order to generate donations.


    October 5, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  19. Ian

    The Tea Party can Banter on all they like about this being a Christian nation when we are CLEARLY a relgiously diverse one. To say any different is a slap in the face of all the different creeds and faiths that have helped our country grow in to what it is today.

    After all, one of our Amendments IS to be allowed to practice our faiths (or lack there of) as we see fit.

    Try aruging around that amendment Tea Party and watch as our very country shreds apart due to your over zealous behavior.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  20. Enough nonsense

    How does religion fit in Taxed Enough Already? Not in my Tea Party.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:53 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.