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. jimmieshoe

    "When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” – Sinclair Lewis 1935

    October 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Luke

      You should Google a picture of Mrs Palin wrapped in an American Flag and wearing a cross. It's bitterly ironic.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  2. Art

    So if America is supposed to be the religion that our "forefathers" were, then, how come we don't have any more Puritans? Remember, they WERE the ones who were escaping the persecution of European religion!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  3. Scary

    And that reason alone is enough to make sure they are not allowed to serve in a government position where they have the ability to make or enforce laws. KEEP CHURCH AND STATE SEPERATE!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • Sanity

      Does that include stopping Democrats from making political speeches in black churches on Sundays? It happens all the time.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • Luke

      Depends on the message, of course. If I were to run for office and go to a black church to talk about fiscal responsibility and progressive social norms, avoiding the idea of religion altogether, would that be acceptable for you?

      October 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Scary

      you can make ploitical speeches where ever you like. I dont want religeous speeched in government or in law making decisions. Right and Wrong are not just based on religeous morals. People who think that by not following a religion means they are free to do unspeakable things are the ones that need religion. If you dont do harmful things to others just because you fear the reprocussion from god, then please please dont give up your beliefs. Those of us that are smart enough not to harm others out of our own sense of right and wrong, dont need the fear of a fictional being punishing us for all eternity

      October 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  4. Vince

    Whenever I hear Christians talk about wanting to return the nation to "Christian Values" in society, law, and such, it always makes me laugh a little beacause I think of the country of Iran. Iran is a perfect contemporary example of a nation ruled socially and legally by its religous beliefs and Islam's verison of the "holy book". I see the irony in the example and its amusing....unfortunately, it goes over most Christian's heads.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • jimmieshoe

      No, I think they know exactly what they are doinng and take the Iranian theocracy as a model.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • Toph

      A quote from John Adams (The former President

      “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion”

      Can not be any more clear than that. Tea Partiers don't like history or facts. Only what their own perceived reality is.

      This country desperatly needs a third party, but these loons are not it. People that believe in banning books and witchcraft are not what we need in office.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  5. Jim Jim

    I am my own God.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  6. Jack

    I have been to many tea parties, because I am a libertarian, and this movement stemmed from the Ron Paul movement, and they are not for liberty or freedom like they preach, and their message is not about conservative economic policies. Over around the 10 ones that I have attended (not the same groups, but all around the state), I have heard them bash Hispanics, blacks, gays, Muslims, and Arabs (clearly not knowing that you don't have to be a Muslim to be an Arab). These people don't gather to talk about how to turn the economy around etc. They gather because they hate Obama, plain and simple, and use the movement as a platform to gather with the other bigoted, close minded, racists.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      That's right, Jack. And let's remember ......... the KOCH brothers........ created & fund the "Tea Party". Thanks for being honest.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  7. svscnn

    Wonder how long it's going to take before some careless, but otherwise "serious" journalist accidentally refers to them as "tea-baggers" now that the term has been so widely adopted.

    Just a matter of time.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  8. jimmieshoe

    What are the TPers motives ?
    “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” Bishop Desmond Tutu

    October 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  9. Guest

    Tea party sounds an aweful lot like the KKK the more I hear about them

    October 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  10. Bob

    OK America – are you sufficiently scared yet?
    these are not opinions of liberals- these are pronouncements from the members themselves when asked.
    Anti immigrant or minority
    Believe the Bible literally ( too bad they don't live it)
    Like Sarah Palin for some reason or is it without reason
    They've forgotten that a country cannot be a religion and that we were founded on the principal for freedom.
    Is this what you want form YOUR America? Remember to VOTE

    October 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      I am voting, Bob. Thanks for the reminder! We've got to get the vote out.


      October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Doug

    I believe Article XI of the Treaty of Tripoli clearly indicates that our "fore fathers" did not consider the U.S. to be a "christian" nation.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  12. Char

    CNN is like the DOJ, They dont report news unless it concerns a minority.
    Wheres the headline about the one nation rally and who attended it and how they left it? They only make something a headline when its 90% whites not 95% blacks. reverse racism AT ITS BEST

    October 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • SLOhioan

      So was your favorite pokemon Charmander, Charmeleon, or Charizard?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  13. Tim

    Tea Partiers do not like immigrants? I didn't know they were all native Americans!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Char

      They dont like illegal immigrants. Quit comparing illegals to the ones who did it by the book its a insult.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • Reggie

      The native Americans didn't like immigrants either
      but they came with gund

      October 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Tree

      Char, what about all the original european immigrants? Did they fill out paperwork with the native americans who were here? The first couple waves of european immigrants would be illegal immigrants by the standards we set today. I have ancestry which came after the US immigration poplicy was more formalized and some which were came over here and just settled, before the country as we know it was unified.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      @ CHAR: The Native Americans did not have an Immigration Office when the pilgrims arrived. We are ALL ILLEGAL! We took this country away by KILLING and shedding the blood of millions! A Christian Nation? Tragically.......NO.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • steven harnack

      Hey char, up until the first world war all anyone had to do to become an American was to get here so don't pretend that your ancestors did anything any different that just walk across the border.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Matt

      So Char, I guess the so-called "illegal" immigrants should make their own government and then do it by THEIR book. You completely missed the point of his statement... If Native Americans had made a law against immigration (and been able to enforce it), you wouldn't be here today.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  14. Am I Racist?

    After reading this article, I'm starting to wonder if I am...

    October 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • ScottK

      Racism – a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  15. jj

    And you can tell it's true, because all the Teabaggers act so Christian-like!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • Darryl Blackshear

      No they act like teabaggers! Not christians!!!!

      October 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  16. Thomas

    The United States founded on christanity?

    The Barbary Treaties 1786-1816 The Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796

    Article 11

    "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. "

    Signed by the President of the United States and ratified by the US Senate. You can't get more official than that.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • Luke

      They just ignore it. Makes their argument easier. Or they just resort to saying the country was founded by Christian principles rather than the religion itself. The counterargument, of course, is to prove that Christianity was taken from Jainism, Buddhism and Paganism. But then we start over again and they ignore religious history.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • jimmieshoe

      Don't try to confuse me with facts . . . my mind is made up.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • ryan

      there a reason the founding fathers Put a seperation of church and state clause in the bill o rights.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • b.

      Judeo-Christian tenets. READ!

      October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  17. John

    The TEA PARTY are a bunch of nut cases,and they are lead by bigger nut cases. I'm a Independent VOTER.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  18. ryan

    Ya and most islamic extremeists call us the great devil do be beleive them?

    October 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jack

      Pretty much, yeah.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  19. CTO

    @HeyZeus I think you may be forgetting about The Crusades, no? Denmark is one of the least religious countries in thw world, they also rank as one of the happiest. In fact, generally the more religious a country is the more turmoil they have. Look at what Americans do to each other simply because to choose or choose not to believe in a magic invisible man in the sky. Hell, I'd say the Middle East is one of the most religious places in the world and look at where they are.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Luke

      A perfect example, but the Christians just ignore you and say that Christianity is different or better. In other words, they have an answer for everything despite facts proving otherwise.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  20. steve

    Jesus was a Jew.what color do you think He is?

    October 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
    • Luke

      I don't know. Tell us.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Jim Jim

      The color of dead.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • Darryl Blackshear

      Actually ancied jews looked more like blacks than anyother race....

      October 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
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About this blog

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.