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. peter

    my friend had a stroke and then he joined the tea party

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

    ...but I'm not Christian... Hope I'm still American...

    October 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  3. Bill

    What most on the right seem to forget is that many of the founding fathers were not Christian, they were Deists. A belief in God does not require Christianity.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Brian


      October 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  4. Mark W

    Teabaggers must be the funniest people in the world. They claim to be a Christian organization, but they're bankrolled by a pair of non-Christian businessmen (Koch bros.), support an admitted devil worshipper, and listen to the ravings of a mormon who half of them probably believe is going to hell. They claim to support small government, but want to expand the government so that it can dictate what we do in our own bedrooms. They claim to be "real Americans", but they don't hesistate to support treasonous, treacherous, pro-secessionist traitors like Jim DeMint and "Alaska Independence poster boy" Todd Palin. They claim to want civil debate, but the only thing they can bring to a debate are stale AM radio talking points about Pelosi and Reid (who they wouldn't be able to pick out of a photo lineup), and shreaking nonsense about Obama being a Kenyan Muslim Communist al-Queda sleeper sell agent.

    If this is the only thing Democrats have to worry about in November, I don't think Obama has much to worry about.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mandy M

      Really? What about all the other Americans who aren't Christian? The tea party is a joke. Honestly, with some of the stuff they come up with, I wonder if it is a hidden camera show. Tea party Americans are the most idiotic and arrogant people. People like them are the reason the rest of the world hates the US. Besides, I take coffee over tea any day.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  5. DisabledVet

    I am reading so many of these posts. Many of you people need to back and actually read about the history of this great country of ours. This country was NOT founded under the principles of IN GOD WE TRUST. In fact, that was not even the motto of the US until July 30, 1956. We did however start printing IN GOD WE TRUST on money in 1861. This country was founded on the principles of religious freedom. And for all the religious NUT JOBS out there, you are in the WRONG country to try to be forcing your beliefs on others. This country is equally diverse in all the religions, NOT just Christianity. Sometimes I wonder why I sacrificed so much for this country, when so many of you have no concept of what this country is about. I sacrificed for this country as well as my family as we have served in the military in my family for generations, so EVERYONE has the right to believe what they want. And I am sorry to break the bad news, but CHRISTIANITY is NOT what this country was founded on, it was added later because of the culture at the time. Today's culture is different and WAY more diverse, and we should start RESPECTING each other and our beliefs. Maybe if you people learn respect, then other countries wont hate us so much.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • William Butler

      I agree with you, but I think you may be aiming your comments at the wrong group of people.

      The angry atheists are the ones who are making demeaning, hate filled comments towards people of the Christian faith. If you think people should be treated with respect regardless of their religious (or non-religious) viewpoint, I would suggest starting with the all the obnoxious remarks from the liberals here.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Uhh...

      DisabledVet, I just want to thank you. I am not too big on war, even when it's neccessary, but I appreciate that there are people who think the way you do and that you will stand up for that. We're not all crazy, I swear...

      October 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • DisabledVet

      Well I am an agnostic liberal! Yet, I have no negative comments directed toward any one person. Everyone has the right to believe what they want, you DO NOT have the right to force that belief on to others. And that is where SO MANY Americans are getting confused. This country is NOT primarily Christian. Never HAS, NEVER will. I will do all in my power to keep it that way, that is what I served this country for. This country was formed because of religious persecution, and now we have our OWN people persecuting other AMERICANS.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Thank you for trying to inform those who need it the most and thank you very much for your service to our nation. It's really pathetic that some of us who admire and respect your contributions to our country are often those trashed as "unpatriotic".

      October 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • Dana

      Hear hear! And thank you for your service to this country.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • DisabledVet

      Thanks everyone, I am happy to serve. It is something that my family has been proud to do for many generations. And I know not EVERYONE is crazy...

      It is a hard thing to admit, but the crazy left and right along with the Tea Partiers are equivalent to the Taliban, Al Qaeda or Hamas. They are all the exact same. Left and Right wing radical factions with a loud voice that want the world to be THEIR WAY. How are all these people any different. I would rightfully compare Palin to some other religious radical in another part of the world. They think that just because they do under a different flag that their cause is more righteous that someone else's. I am sorry to break to all of you, but there is no difference. It is because of people on the LEFT and RIGHT radicals why we are at war. Accept that we are all individuals and have different moral and religious compasses that are NOT yours. And you will NEVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS change that. No matter how much protesting and griping you do!

      October 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  6. Cybersport

    This survey shows what is wrong with the Tea Party movement. America is NOT a Christian nation, thank God for that. it is a religiously neutral nation with a Christian majority.... The Tea Baggers believe if you're not a Christian you're a second-class citizen... That's sad and frightening

    October 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • William Butler

      Nope. The snarling liberals here believe that if you ARE a Christian, you are a second class citizen. Or actually they think that they you some backwards, stupid, ignorant hate-filled zealot and they have no reservations about expressing their opinions.

      Their real hostility is towards God. But because God is out of reach they have to settle for the next best thing and attack His people here on Earth.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Mark W

      Gotta love people who believe that those of us who don't want Christian dogma shoved down our throats are against their faith and want to see them destroyed.

      How about leave ME be. I don't want to be saved. Go to church, love Jesus, be happy! But don't use government as a vehicle to shove your faith down my throat, and stay away from my doorstep, I'm not interested in your literature. Kthx..

      October 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  7. William Butler

    How interesting that 2,000 years after Jesus death, He is STILL ticking people off.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Brian

      What was that quote from that Indian guy? "I like your Christ, but not your Christians." I think that about sums it up.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Mark W

      Jesus doesn't tick me off one bit, but his followers are a different story altogether.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  8. Zigman Bird

    Religion will bring this country down... many wars were fought because of religion. This country is going to hell! And that reminds me...why is nobody taking the side of the devil? It's always "God said this...and God said that" but nobody knows what the devil has said. And in reality, nobody really knows what GOD has said – Do they?? I mean people THINK they know what God has said, but do they really know??? The Bible is just a book. Much like Catcher In The Rye. Now THAT book never hurt anyone has it??

    October 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
  9. MS

    No Really?

    One of these days I halfway expect to visit your homepage and see the Headline "Sky is Blue Scientists say".

    October 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • Brian

      It very well may be, but the republicans would still fillibuster it...

      October 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  10. The Lorax

    My nation and country is atheistic. No religion shall touch my government, or my day or my rules. I reject it all and no one has any right to impose their religious beliefs on me. Remember that whole separation of church and state? Live it, breath it. No fanatics have the right to change that. We're a pluralistic society, get it? I think Iran might be the place for you if you like that fundamentalist lifestyle.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  11. MarkRH

    The rest of us hope Baggers keep offering up more candidates like Palin, Whitman, and O'Donnell so they'll take themselves out sooner than later. God and Christianity may have inspired their creation, but Darwin will ensure their extinction.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  12. Akira

    If the United States were truly a "Christian" nation, then our laws wouldn't have never been modeled after English Common Law, it would have conformed to Biblical directives. The Tea Partiers, and other Christian-right types have put forth a revisionist historical account of the Founding Fathers, claiming that they were all devout Christians, when they were actually Deists for the most part, and wary of religious influence on the State. Seems they weren't too far removed from Europe to forget that, if given the opportunity, the Church tends to monopolize everything it touches, including the State. And if they run the State, there would be no democracy, but a religious authoritarian rule where dissent is deemed "against God". It would be a tyranny, the very thing the Founding Fathers fought against.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  13. Mike E.

    Scary group of people. Basically a bunch of white bible thumpers (the token 1 in 1,000 black person says a lot) that want the ancient South to return again. They have changed their name but not their message. Having a black president brought them out of the woodwork. If it smells like cow droppings it probably is.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  14. BIlly G

    THank you, intolerant and bigoted faux-bible thumpers. You have derailed the Teaparty movement which was based on reforming tax and spending policies and have turned it even more extreme and right-wing than the Republican party has become. Thus, you have rendered the TeaParty as a fringe and impotent (in general election terms) force.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  15. Sun Stevens

    "Nearly half of Tea Partiers believe the Bible is the literal word of God"

    Seriously? I thought even priests realized that, at best, the Bible is man's interpretation of God's Will. I had no idea that anyone actually believed that God directed the writing. Kind of scary...

    October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  16. Alv88

    I always said I watch Comedy Central to watch my news and Fox News to watch my comedy.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  17. Todd Rules

    I'm still waiting for someone to get the Tea Party followers some SPELL CHECK skills.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  18. ralph

    what a crock .. many of the founding fathers were not Xtian .. they were deists, but not Xtian.
    "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man." Thomas Jefferson

    October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  19. Doug

    The tea party is part of the great Americans, you know the ones who want to debate, who want to work out solutions, not the ones who meet any comment or person they disagree with by being able to say only 3 words, you're a racist.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • Will

      Yelling "Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a Muslim Terrorist Nazi illegal immigrant from Kenya who wants to turn America into a COMMUNIST country" isn't a legitimate debate.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  20. The chosen wetback.

    I have a message for all you blind people: regardless of who wins the elections, either for senator or president or any BS in washington or governor of any state, we are still going down because while we were topping off our credit cards, other peoples in other countries were busy getting a high education. Korea, being a third world country is number one in Math proficiency and the USA is number 19. No matter who you follow, we are all going in the same direction, down. Unless of course you start doing something now for you own good and stop following any politician religiously and enroll your first class in college for the first time since the last time you dropped out.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:26 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.