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. Rita

    Look at all the pathetic haters that can't understand that beleiving in any religion is not hurting them at all. And not one of these haters can explain how anybody loses anything by choosing to believe. Even if heaven is not real, believers have not lost anything when they die by following a god they choose.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  2. DL

    As I have said many times before, "God save me from your followers". The real tragedy here is that the Republican party has been hijacked by those that wield religion like gun only when it serves their purpose. And true conservatives have been blinded and are following right in step. Just look at health care, poverty in America, environmental destruction, the list goes on and on and they are NEVER following the religious principles taught by any faith. They follow their own greed, and self satisfaction at the expense of everyone else. Personally, I don't ever want to stand before God and explain why I voted to let the hungry starve, deny people basic health care and engaged in predatory lending against the poor (which the Bible does discuss). And if you can justify that, then you seriously need to reevaluate your beliefs.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • Charles

      DL...i dont know what country you are from. But here in America people are not going hungry. Here in Houston there at 17 food banks plus countless churches offering food 24/7. Medicaid is provided for free to them. I cant help someone who does not want to help themsleves.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Andy

      Not only are people not going hungry, except by choice, but they also are the richest people "living in poverty" that the world has ever seen. The way poverty is defined in this country by politicians, it can never be eliminated, because the whole question has been turned on its ear. The discussion has become entirely about how much you have relative to how much someone else has, not whether you are actually poor by any sane definition. The only reason the "war on poverty" wasn't declared won long ago is because it isn't politically expedient to do so.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Phil

      Because we all know the entire population of the United States exists solely in Houston, nowhere else.

      Really, Charles? Really?

      Oh, and by the way, refrain from the usage of "those who help themselves" as that's assuming that everyone can, like apparently they can in Houston, physically/economically dispossessed and all!

      October 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Kris

    If we were a Christian nation, wouldn't that make us a THEOCRACY? We are NOT a Christian nation, we are a nation that has a population that is predominately Christian...

    Sal, if we got rid of all religion, then it wouldn't be a FREE country, now, would it? People like you are just as bad as the religious extremists and just as much of a danger.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Phil

      Ironic that in the Bible, in the Old Testament, were you to study from the Book of Judges to 2 Chronicles, you would see that the original people of the nation of Israel were in a form of theocracy but rejected it in favor of human represenstation, i.e., a secular mandate.

      Also, were we to rid ourselves of religion (again, you're really going to erase the belief systems of 2/3 of all mankind? Really?), that would have no bearing on the fact that even *IF* America were actually founded in the past as a Christian nation (which, ultimately, it is not, but I digress), you would have to hope that "science prevails" enough for a time machine to be invented and used to erase the religious foundation of America; otherwise, ain't happenin'.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  4. vel

    This seems to be another article stating the obvious. We have a group of people who want a theocracy built on a religion and god that they have created in their own image and based on their personal fears and desires. The only thing saving us is that Christians can't even agree on what a "True Christian" is (e.g. what parts of the bible are "really what God meant" and which aren't) and would fall upon each other like dogs if any of the sects got into power and started forcing their version on everyone.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  5. Pratt

    Is the author implying something ?

    October 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Ron

    From the article:

    Tea Party members are big fans of Sarah Palin and not so hot on Barack Obama.

    Okay well we know that they're not that bright right away. Now knowing they think America is a Chreestun nation just confirms.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  7. Sal

    I despise all these so evangelical christians because they are the biggest bunch of hypocrites in the country today. I actually hate those religious freaks! And the tea party is nothing but a bunch of right wing bunch of freaks. We don't want nor need a religious government! Religion is a crutch and a curse upon humanity and has been the cause of wars through out history. If the world was atheistic it would be a more safer and peaceful world! It's religion that has caused all the problems. Another reason why I hate muslims and islam is because their allegiance is to their religion, not to their country here in the United States and that's what makes those freaks so dangerous also! GET RID OF ALL RELIGION!

    October 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Charles

      I am a Freak. Thank me for praying for you.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tyler W.

      If governments were somehow able to "get rid of religion" the wars of our past would seem like friendly punches compared to what would happen. Religions have been behind many wars, but to say all or most is a bit of a stretch.

      Everyone is a hypocrite. You are too. That is because we are all sinners. Now, there is a difference between purposefully doing something you say is wrong and having no regret, and doing something that you say is wrong and having regret for it. The latter is not being a hypocrite per say, it is more just human nature to sin. As much as you despise religions, they have done great great things for the world, and given hope to the hopeless. Be careful what you wish for.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Sen

      Religion and theology give people hope. The concept of religion in of itself is not a curse. It can be positive if properly managed. The actual problem is when you get issues with interpretation and blanket statements. If you think that killing, displacing or invalidating another person's opinion just because of a difference in belief structure then that is incorrect. Having a discourse about these differences and coming to the understanding that it is ok to 'agree to disagree' is fine so long as it does not affect social justice.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  8. Brickell Princess

    The problem with the Untied States is that there is a church on every corner but public schools can barely stay open. The problem is religion and all these religious nut jobs that infiltrate government and pollute our society and our systems with their ignorance. They are the ones that are handing the United States into the 3rd world. They are the ones that are destroying our progress and turning us into the slaves of other nations. If China truly is taking over the United States, then all the religious nut jobs are to blame. They handed us over by destroying our once great nation with their ignorance.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Charles

      California just built a 500 million dollar school. Meanwhile, in Montgomery Ala the middle school is still using window A/C units. Yea we mean Christians are behind the closing of schools.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Anti-Todd


      October 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  9. Tyler W.

    America is not a Christian nation. It was not founded on Christian principles, rather deist, enlightened principles.

    I'm a Christian. And these people make me shake my head every time they say things like this. Christians, for a while now, have been called intolerant, ignorant people. And groups like this spread this stereotype (which is almost NOT a stereotype it has become so true).

    Now do I believe that if you don't believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that he is your Lord and Savior you will go to Hell? Yes. I am condemning no one to Hell, but based on the Bible which I believe to be true, that is your fate. Obviously, many disagree, and many have their own beliefs. I am fine with that..I will try to minister to you, but in the end, you choose your fate. But back to the article at hand, to say America is a Christian nation is ignorant. And for us as Christians to think so can only hurt us.

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

      Well stated. I'm a practicing Bible believing Christian. That America MAY have been founded on Christian principles is correct. For anyone to claim that America is a Christian Nation is unbelievable. Even a non-christians do not need to do a thorough study of the bible to know that.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  10. PR

    It doesn't matter if they are hateful or not They are going to win this time as people are ANGRY with the administration. They already forgot how we got into this mess. Hey! it's no wonder! Didn't America vote for GW for the 2nd time too? We may want to change the name of this country to "United States of Amnesia".

    October 5, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • No Way

      No PR- they are NOT going to win! Their misplaced anger will backfire in their faces, because the american people are not stupid and they DO remember that is was the Republicans who got us into this economic nightmare in the first place!!
      Get out and VOTE Correctly. VOTE DEMOCRATS!!!

      October 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Arthur

    The Tea Party is just a wing of the Republican Party. If you want to know the difference between a Republic and a Democracy look it up. This will help you to understand what each party stands for.

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

      Time for Political Discourse 101!

      A Democracy is a political system based upon majority vote by its citizenry; a Republic is a political system based upon appointed officials representing its citizenry. The United States is a Democratic Republic as we, its citizenry, vote our representatives into office to represent us. If you want true Democracy, head on over to Switzerland, which, BTW, was also never identified as a "Christian nation" either.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  12. b.

    Sorry... Christians and Jews DO live with the moral and ethical dellima in this country...and do it with the understanding that there are many religions in America. Why can't everyone just shut up and do what is right and good? Understanding that standing up for ones beliefs is not a sin! All people disagree on different topics. That's what we ALL have to 'deal with'. But I will NOT be as a lamb led to the slaughter! Neither does that mean I will cause blood in the streets or call others 'names'. I'm a Christian. Would everyone please stop telling me who and what I am for believing that Jesus Christ is my Savior? I'll accept you when you decide to accept that all Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus,Atheists, Agnostics, etc. ARE NOT lumped into one catagory!

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


      October 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Vulpes

      "Understanding that standing up for ones beliefs is not a sin!" - Believe what you want to ... I hope no one here has a problem with that idea. The problem is those who would hoist their religious agendas on others.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  13. Andy

    Rather than focus on personal attacks... Let's question why the ideology currently practiced is not working

    I guess self-reflection isn't one of the qualities shared among this consenus

    October 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  14. Mark

    The media CONSTANTLY makes the Tea Party about religion.

    13 TRILLION in debt and counting. Talk about that sometime.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Vulpes

      Okay ... where is your survey to refute this claim.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Correlation is not causation.

      Just as America is not a Christian nation but is made up of primarily Christians, one could easily argue that the Tea Party is not a Christian organization but is made up of primarily Christians.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  15. Mark

    I may be off but I don't think polls would show this country as a Buddhist nation..

    October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Vulpes

      One more time ... this is not a country of ANY one religion, but a country of many religions Christian being the predominate one.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Tim Doogan

    Ooh, maybe these old, white, stubborm Tea Partiers will secede from the Union! They can keep their massive corporations that keep the people down, then the liberals can finally start up the Socialist paradise they've always dreamed of.

    Seriously, though, it's as if this nation is becoming an Israel and Palestine, and the whole thing is fueled by Liberal white guilt and white Christian Conservative stubbornness.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Charles

      Socialist paradise......really? Who is going to work? If you dont work you dont pay taxes. You go to jail. Aint you read Obama's book.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • Tim Doogan

      Just being sarcastic, you can relax 😉

      October 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  17. David

    "Only about one in 10 Americans identifies as a member of the Tea Party"

    That seems like a pretty big chunk of our society that is aligned with the Tea Party. Right or wrong, they are appealing to the masses.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • The Masses

      The masses, here. To correct your insinuation, DAVE, there aren't any Tea-Baggers among our ranks, thank goodness. We're using our brains, intelligence, and faith to vote DEMOCRAT this November instead of being allowed to be brainwashed by small-minded archaic-thinking anti-civil rights Conservative wackos whereby voting Republican in November would return our country to making the rich richer and alientating the middle class and the poor (See the G. Dubya Bush era). What rationally thinking human being would NOT vote Democrat this November?

      Democrats speak their own minds. Tea-Baggers cowardly speak what they're (mistakenly) told to say. BIG difference.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • Vulpes

      6% of American have a mental illness. The percentage of criminal is around 2% – 4% (depending on definition). For perspective.

      October 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Nonimus

      10% self-identify as Tea Party.
      ~40% of eligible voters voted in 2006, the last mid-term election.

      So assuming Tea Partiers can and do vote. That's 25% of the votes cast for Tea Party candidates from the start. Not insignificant!

      October 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Just for perspective....

      2006 percentages from http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2006G.html

      October 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  18. BioHzrd

    We didn't need a study or phone survey to tell us that. Hello Common Sense.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  19. R.Torres

    So basically the Tea Parties are a bunch of bible hugging misfits with ties to the whole White Power thing? A bunch of hypocrytes, biggots, repressed, anal, psychopaths, and lets not forget crazy. Not that I don't mind christian folk I just hate them when they're in my face. America is a culture pot not some one religion sector of the world. The same goes for other religions especially the one that hates gays (don't they all?) and believe that's the reason why the soldiers are dying? STTTTTUUUUUPPPPPIIIIIDDDDDDD Misfits. Squash them all! >:}

    October 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  20. Average American

    MAINSTREAM AMERICA: DON'T BELIEVE THE RIGHT'S HYPE!!!!! The Democratic Congress needs ALL of your votes this November to prevent the Conservative brainwashing, lying, pro-big business, anti-women's rights, anti-environmental, and archaic belief system from taking over our government by returning to the dark G.W. Bush years and worse!!! The Democratic Congress needs much more than 2 years to correct all the wrong that was done by G. Dubya's boys and their Conservative Congress. LADIES (and gents): join emilyslistdotorg !!! Join and/or donate to democratsdotorg !!!

    October 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Charles

      anti-women's rights..........? Its that a joke? Stron women are always being put down by liberal. Face a black man was elected over a women.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • Johnson family

      I AGREE!!!!! Listen up, America.....do not let the dark Conservative machine erase all that the current Obama administration has corrected from the previous Bush administration!!!! VOTE DEMOCRAT THIS NOVEMBER and save our nation from everything that our current US Congress has accomplished in just 2 years! DON'T let the Conservatives gain control of the U.S. Congress where the Right will ONCE AGAIN alienate our allies and the rest of the world, reverse scientific and medical advancements, take away women's rights, reverse clean energy initiatives whereby causing devastation to the world environment and ecosystems, and worse yet...go back to making the rich RICHER and the poor POORER!!! Join: emilyslistdotorg & democratsdotorg ............VOTE DEMOCRAT IN NOVEMBER !!!

      October 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Right is Wrong

      I totally agree. The conservatives, mainly the religious right oppress women by not allowing them to make choices about their own bodies and lives. The bible was written by men to control.
      OH -they are for women's rights all right...Their right to do laundry. Their right to stay in the kitchen, Their right to take care of their HUSBANDS...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:30 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.