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. gary in san diego

    Amazing how many posters here equate god with christianity. Come on people were talking about a religion based upon a dead guy nailed to a piece of wood!

    October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  2. Daniel

    Without God, we will never have warriors to die for God and Country (pawns in chess) in a complex web of interconnected geopolitical dynamics. Somehow in the end, America's hegemony is always best served;)

    October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  3. t

    Christianity has pagan DNA. Literal translation of any religious text is absurd.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  4. nygirl

    Ladies and Gentleman, the American Taliban.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  5. Mark

    We are not, nor ever have been a 'christian' nation.
    Read your damn history, and not your churches version!

    October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  6. ickybogg

    Teabaggers wear "God" on their sleeve, not in their heart. No God in heaven condones this kind of behavior from any christian disciple who professes they love God but hate their fellow believer or unbeliever. Jesus loves all but hates the sin and he does not expects christians to go around beating those upside the head to accept Christ. Jesus won't force anyone to follow him, it's whosoever will let them come. Some of this conservatives are serving false God and bearing rotten fruit. As a democrat, I believe God and seek his face to turn our nation around. I just don't go around slamming people and sending everyone to hell if they don't believe the same as I do. Live the life and those will see the good works in you and know that God is real. These folks are serving false Gods & will use fear to lead the blind.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  7. B

    Look, there is no god. You and I both know it. You just won't admit it.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  8. Craig

    I don't care if most tea partiers think the moon is made of green cheese. If a million people do a stupid thing, it's still a stupid thing. I love our prospects this election year. We have the party that has no balls, the party that is under the delusion that giving rich people more money helps the middle class, and the party of insane, racist whackjobs.

    This country is so screwed.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  9. sanity

    It is the Democrats who are the party of the extreme religious. See below for a few points of proof. I hope you left-wing religious nuts don’t start a war!!

    A few points of proof:
    1. Fred Phelps of Westboro Church is a strong Democrat. So far, he has run for political office 5 times as a Democrat.
    2. On October 3, 2010, President Barack Obama spoke out about his Christian faith Tuesday, telling a crowd that "we're sinful and we're flawed," but have salvation through Christ. "I'm a Christian by choice. The precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead," Obama answered. "Also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings. ...We're sinful and we're flawed, and we make mistakes." We achieve salvation through the grace of God," he continued. Obama also pointed out that America is a predominately Christian nation, but said Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists all have their own path to grace.
    3. On May 8, 2010, - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she believes she must pursue public policies "in keeping with the values" of Jesus Christ, "The Word made Flesh."

    Pelosi, a Catholic who favors legalized abortion, voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion that was enacted into law in 2003.

    At a May 6 Catholic Community Conference on Capitol Hill, the speaker said: “They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.”

    “And that Word," Pelosi said, "is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.

    “Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”

    October 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • William Butler

      sanity – good points! And don't forget Obama's pastor of 20+ years (US of KKK-A!!!)

      October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Ralf the Dog

      Many Democrats have strong religious beliefs. Most Democrats think it is wrong to impose religious beliefs on others.

      I think that most Americans feel that Fred Phelps is not Democrat or Republican. I know very few people who think he qualifies as human.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  10. Anon

    Don't forget protecting ourselves from E.Coli by saying grace

    October 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  11. slag

    Separation of Church and State, please.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  12. relians

    yeah, and they want to bring back the crusades, the inquisition, and bleeding as a health remedy.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  13. Anon

    I love how people sport that we now have the first African American president. WRONG, he's only half black, so we're only half way there.
    That would have been a lot more than necessary 200 years ago for him to be in bondage. I think he qualifies.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  14. liz

    "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." – M Ghandi

    October 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • William Butler

      liz – that's a nice quote from Ghandi (who had good reasons to say it). But I guarantee you that most of the yahoos bashing Christianity on this forum would have the same people calling for the crucifixion if they had been alive 2000 years ago.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • peace2all

      @William Butler

      Hmmm that's a VERY big generalization and leap to think that just because a lot of people may not agree with the religion of christianity= crucifying jesus.

      You might want to think that one over a bit....


      October 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Joseph D

    Its called freedom of speech and religion. So why are people putting a lebal on what religion our country is and trying to force their beliefs down other people throats. I myself am christian but this conservative stuff isnt going to work in the 21st century

    October 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ralf the Dog

      Because some people have an all consuming hatred of anyone who is not just like them.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  16. Cameron

    Wow there are ALOT of hate filled contrarians neo-atheist here.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Chilton

      The Alot is Better Than You At Everything.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  17. John

    Unfortunately this is one of the CORE problems with the Tea Party.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  18. A fence straddling christian

    All that having two (or more) political parties does is slow the progression of our country. As long as there is a 'side' to arguments nothing can be achieved in a timely manner. I don't believe we should have two parties, but I don't believe that we shouldn't have a president. We need a leader to help push our country forward. We are also a participatory democracy, therefore, if you agree/disagree with a new idea, participate in it, cast a vote, and get crap done.

    I've learned from my government class that the political parties are more like a weird horseshoe. The independent party is at the very middle of the shoe, and the two major political partes are at opposite ends of the shoe. At the end of the shoe, the two tips get closer together. Therefore, the more extreme left or right winged we become, the more alike we are, and the more were likely to war against each other. Opposites attract, similarities repel.

    I can identify with the political party, but I chose not to really associate with a party because its stupid. Did I want Obama as my president? Know. I wanted an older individual with more experience to lead our country, and Obama appeared more like a celebrity on my tv ruining and changing the word 'hope.' It had nothing to do with his race, but his political experience.

    I love how people sport that we now have the first African American president. WRONG, he's only half black, so we're only half way there.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  19. Flora

    If a member of the Tea Party is a "Christian", then I'm a tree.

    The only thing Christian about them is... well, nothing. If they were true Christians the answers to all the above questions would have been a resounding "no". They're nothing but a bunch middle- to old-aged white people who were used to being the prosperous majority. Then the economy collapsed, and they're now going through what I like to call "Power Withdrawl". They're not getting everything they want anymore, so now they're going to kick & scream until they do.

    We house literally every race and religion under the sun, which is something you should be proud of. You can't just claim a country belongs to one religion simply because you want it to be. I'm a Chirstian too, but I'm content – even happy – to know that America is NOT a Christian nation (or any other religion for that matter). Hopefully, it never will be.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  20. Anon

    No, it's not that we hate Jesus Christ. It's that you think you are like him when it's the exact opposite that is true. Jesus helped the poor, lived in poverty, did good works. You think Jesus would be telling the immigrants to "Get the Hell out of my country?" What about all the families that are unwilling to adopt a baby that isn't white. That might be something Jesus would do, right?

    He even said, "it will be harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." Think about that when you are campaigning for your massive tax cuts for the rich.

    G*Ddamn hypocrites.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • William Butler

      Anon – you don't know the first thing about me. You don't know what (if anything) I give to the poor or if I have adopted a non-white baby. So you are just projecting an unflattering image on someone you've never even met, because it conveniently suits your purpose.

      And the same that Bible that talks about the rich man and the camel also commands us not to covet what other people have (that's the 10th commandment). It also says that "if any will not work neither shall he eat" (2 Thess 3:10). So if you want to start quoting the Bible I recommend that you study it and know what it really says.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • sanity

      Tax rate increases on the rich do not lead to more tax receipts–that is the whole point. The tax rate increases lead to less money for the government; hence, less for the poor. Take a look at the US states with the highest tax rate; they also have the lowest tax receipts. Why is this simple fact so hard for the left to grasp? Why not make the tax rate 100% if high taxes are so great?

      October 5, 2010 at 7:18 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.