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. bigfruitbasket

    God spoke the Bible in English? Did He "spake" the Good Book in King James Elizabethan English? I must have missed the translation from Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English. These Tea Baggers never cease to amaze my by their sheer and utter stupidity.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  2. Re..andrermusa

    You can't read can you. Here go this this site http//:www.hooked-on-phonics.com/

    October 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Will

    The irony is that this group is being bankrolled by the Koch brothers, who are as kosher as they come.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  4. Yenruogis

    William Butler,

    23,000 children die every day from poverty while you waste time bickering on the computer.

    See you in Hell my friend!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  5. Adam

    I would say that the US is a country founded by people who held Christian values, and populated largely by Christians... but it is not a Christian nation. We have no official state religion and that's the way that our religious founding fathers wanted it. I say we stick to their plan on this one. Everyone is free to practice their religion without fear of reprisals. Period. One is not favored over another.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  6. andrermusa


    October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  7. Jonah a Whale ate me!

    Well here we are again. I said this about a month ago in a blog. It wasn't hard to see that they were all white at these rallies, just go back and look at archived pictures. Any ways, If people want to get together and say that things are getting out of hand that is fine with me. Especially if these people believe in talking bushes, people getting consumed by "large fish" and living, and a guy turning water into wine and also lie to their children about a fat man breaking into their homes and leaving presents just to break their dreams of that fat man being real years later. Tea Partier's need to grow up, stop lying to them selves and their children before anyone else will give a hoot about what they are saying!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  8. DALE

    Morons coming together to root for moronic uneducated propagandist like Glenn Beck. Only in America.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • Mike E.

      Couldn't agree more.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  9. Whoami Whereami

    I am a Hindu immigrant from India. I have been working hard and paying my taxes for the last 12 years. I volunteer in my community, I vote, and I try to be the best citizen that I can be. I was inspired by the talks during my oath ceremony about all the great people who became citizens of this great nation which was the land of the free and brave.
    I teach my kids to be good and patriotic citizens and to be proud to be Americans. I teach them the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. They ARE Americans.
    I feel a bit confused now...

    October 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Will

      Don't take the Tea Partiers seriously.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  10. John - Altanta


    This "study" is irrelevant because the Tea party's message is all about taxes and spending, not social "

    Boy do they have this idiot fooled! Wake up George, you have been played!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  11. ChristianReader

    Jesus used allegory and parables to communicate morals and values – why would any Christian assume the rest of the Bible is a history book or encyclopedia of facts boggles my mind

    October 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  12. Daniel

    If Christians have a monopoly on all things "good" against "bad" then there is no wonder why the Tea Partiers think America is a Christian nation.
    Eliminate God, strip people down to their most bare essentials, food-water-breath-sleep (just like animals), then you will quickly see how all humans are the same, and all warfare is created by superficial religious icons.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  13. Brian Thetford

    OK so where is the news in this story? Depending on which poll you look at 75% – 80% of people in the nation self identify as Christian......Why would people not assume we are a nation of Christians? Yes we can have all types of discussions about how most do not really know what a Christian is, but at the end of the day they self identify as Christian. Making this county overwhelmingly Christian. So what about the Democratic party, or the Republican party?.....poll them you will find them self identify as a Christian majority. You can say what you like, but just because we do not call English our official language most people still speak English. Just because we do not, cannot, and will not ever support one religion, that still does not change the fact that Christianity is the religion of the country....yeah, I know, let the flaming begin!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Will

      There's a difference between "being Christian" (the majority of Americans, including myself), and believing that government should be used to implement Biblical Canon Law (read: Christianity's version of Sharia). I'm a small-government conservative - which means small government PERIOD - which the Tea Partiers are against on a social level.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Matt

    I truly and utterly hope there is no god. And I hope the Tea Partiers and hateful religious people everywhere, in their last breath, come to this realization. I hope they realize that all their bigotry and hate served no higher power. I hope they realize that gays, immigrants, illegal immigrants and people different from them everywhere approach the same void that they do–and maybe, for a split second, they realize that we are all on this Earth together and should treat each other with respect and dignity.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • William Butler

      In that case, I seriously recommend talking to the extremely obnoxious atheists who hold nothing back in making all kinds of nasty remarks about people they don't know because those people happen to believe in a particular religion.

      As far as wishing that there was no God, well, there is an old saying that says "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride..."

      October 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • Matt

      All that an no critique or mention of that comment's premise: everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  15. the dude

    And in other news the sky is blue.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  16. chaosandcalamity

    Deism DOES NOT equal Christianity. At all. Therefore, if the Founding Fathers were Deists (and they were), how and more importantly why would they found a Christian nation?

    They wouldn't. Reason over religion was their main goal.

    And I bet these are the same people who think that Jesus was Christian. (Hint: He wasn't. He was Jewish)

    October 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  17. Langkard

    The various Tea Party groups are nothing more than confused, ignorant people being led around by cynical neocons looking to make a fast buck. The three leading organizational and fundraising sources for the Tea Party groups are FreedomWorks, dontGo and Americans for Prosperity. FreedomWorks is run by former U.S. congressman Dick Armey and is chock full of mainstream republican operatives, who almost all worked at one time or another for the Republican National Committee. dontGo is run by Patrick Ruffini, a long time Republican National Committee insider. Americans for Prosperity is nothing more than a political front for the Koch brothers and is staffed with a who's who list of neocons. That's who organizes and raises funds for the various Tea Party groups, who cover their ears, eyes and mouths like three little monkeys and ignore the origins of their own supposedly independent movement.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Michael

    Tea Party protestors are telling America to get back to God, and they're also the same protestors who love yelling the 'N' word at their rallies and against other rallies.
    They are very misled as individuals, and especially as Christians.
    Jesus would not want them to follow him at all – not with extremist views like theirs – incapable of being sympathetic to others.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • William Butler

      Breitbart offered $100,000 to anyone with video proof of the n-word being shouted at a Tea party rally. If you have the goods, then by all means step up and claim your reward!

      Otherwise your lies and slander are just convenient ways to demonize those you disagree with because you don't have any good arguments for your side.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Sal

    Tea Baggers or "skum" baggers? Is there really a difference between the two? I sure don't see it.......

    October 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  20. OtherSilentBob

    A nation of Christians does not make this a Christian nation.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:13 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.