February 23rd, 2011
05:15 PM ET

Tea Party support correlates to religious affiliation, survey finds

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

The Tea Party hardly claims to be a religious movement - it mostly advocates for smaller government and lower taxes - but feelings about the movement correlate to affiliation with certain religious groups, according to new survey data from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants are roughly five times more likely to agree with the Tea Party movement than to disagree with it, Pew found. American Jews, meanwhile, are nearly three times as likely to disagree with the movement than agree with it.

Tea Party supporters are "much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on ... social issues" like abortion and same-sex marriage, according to the Pew analysis.

"They draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants," the analysis said of the Tea Party.

Tea Party supporters comprised 41% of the electorate in November, previous Pew polling found, with the overwhelming majority backing Republican candidates, contributing to the GOP's House takeover.

The Pew surveys, conducted from November 2010 through this month, found that white evangelicals are the most pro-Tea Party religious demographic in the country. Forty-four percent of white evangelicals agree with the movement, while 8 percent disagree, though roughly half have no opinion or have not heard of the movement.

About one in three white Catholics and a similar share of white mainline Protestants also agree with the Tea Party, Pew found. Among those two groups at least one in five disagrees with the movement. Roughly 45% of white Catholics and mainline Protestants have no opinion about the Tea Party or have not heard of it.

Jews, black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated are the religious demographics least supportive of the Tea Party, Pew found. About half of Jews say they disagree with the Tea Party movement, while 15% agree with it.

Among black Protestants, those who disagree with the Tea Party outnumber those who agree with it by more than five to one, though 56% say they have no opinion or have not heard of the movement.

About two-thirds of atheists and agnostics disagree with the movement, Pew found.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity • Judaism • Politics

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. clearis

    ...this study is a joke, right?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • JH

      I really don't think its intentions were originally "noble". From the deep beginning, it's been manipulated, funded, been given talking points, had organizing retreats set up by, ALL of it, by the Koch brothers. Seriously. The history of their investment in this "movement" reads like a Hollywood conspiracy theory film. And all, from the beginning, to erode government oversight of industry, erode workers' rights, and to get people into office who will be sympathetic to big oil.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  2. Jay

    Big surprise here. The tea party thinks they can just continue supporting discredited Republican policies, but call them something different, and everything will work out fine... Kind of like people who support torture, but call themselves "Christians". It's like some sort of mental illness.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Steve

      Your not paying attention. The Republican have hijacked the Tea Party and distorted their positions into their own. Don't let the message get hijacked too. I myself have never voted for any Tea Party candiates who have run a a Republican. I vote only for Independant candidates. We as a people have forgotten we are a Democracy and have the power of choice. If you want to get the change from power based bailouts vote for a Tea Party Candidate, but only an independant, and get involved and insist they kick the Palins and Bachmans back to where they came from.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  3. scyeatts

    I kept reading this, thinking that surely there would be a surprise somewhere. Oh, well.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  4. smokinmike

    . . . the survey further finds that nine out of ten Tea Party members have eaten a mayonnaise sandwich in the last ninety days.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • scyeatts


      February 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  5. Alina77

    Tea Party f..up this country. It comes and tells you who to vote and what to do like people have no brains on their own. Then if things dont go their way they unleashing their Supreme bully's to do all the lies. I never trusted them, I dont like them.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  6. Bill

    There are two kinds of Republicans (and their Tea Party subset):

    1) the wealthy ones determined to protect and expand their riches, and who are remarkably adept at brainwashing using the ages-old tactics of manipulation via religion ("the opiate of the people") and fear, etc. These wealthy Republicans are the minority in terms of numbers but remarkably powerful.

    2) The ignorant majority of Republicans, who are manipulated by the wealthy minority via religion, and via fear (national security! immigrants! Obama is a Muslim! the sky will fall and God will zap you!)

    Of course this manipulated majority of Republicans doesn't realize it ... they are gripped by the fear the wealthy Republican minority controls them with, after all, plus it is a very hard thing to admit being manipulated ... so it is no wonder they are so LOUD and often vicious in their rants. (Whenever anyone gets loud and mean, you can be sure deep inside they know they don't even believe what they are saying ... or they could argue it well in calm and rational way.)

    Here is the BIG irony – this ignorant majority of Republicans ... and their children, and their children's children ... will be just as screwed as all "them damm liberals" by the manipulation and control of the wealthy and brilliant Republican minority.

    I am an independent, by the way. Though with different details as to why, the Democrats are just as ridiculous.

    I wonder why anyone really who doesn't want to be a sheep, a follower, would ever be anything BUT an independent. It is impossible that any "groupthink" is EVER all right, or even close to all right. It's people's tribal mentalities, I imagine.

    And so it goes.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Chuck

      don't suppose it ever occurred to you that people may have decided to choose the lesser of 2 evils. Somebody is going to be in charge, doesn't mean they will do a good job, but someone is going to be running the show, by voting independent, in most cases, you may as well not vote. I would rather have some say in who is running the ship.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Steve

      I don't suppose it occured to you that by voting Republican or Dem you have no choice in the most important issue this country is facing right now. Both major parties accepted the idea of Keynsian economics. We were told their would be tanks in the streets if we did not act on this when Bush did this, and now are told Obama is a communist when he accepted Bush's policies.

      They both funnel Goldman Sachs and assorted other banksters into our monetary policies designed to funnel money back into our banking system instead of letting them fail and restructuring the debt. We the people have been left with paying off the banks debts and can not sustain economic growth until the debt is paid off far in the future or we simply let them fail and begin the rebuilding process.
      Voting for an independant Tea Party Candidate gives you a choice and tells those who put Red and Blue issues ahead of our most pressing issue to stick it. It is not a wasted vote. It is the most focused and spot on vote you can ever make..

      February 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  7. hobbes

    It's too bad the tea party got preempted by the nutty zealots of the right; it's original intent was noble. Well, it's stated original intent, not the actual crybaby "we lost so now we believe in this!".

    Now all it will do is serve to divide the republicans come the next several elections.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  8. Tim

    As someone pointed out, the protesters in Wisconsin are all white; how come liberals aren't commenting on this?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Matt T

      Change the channel from Fox news.

      Magically, Wisconsin is a diverse place again.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Mark

      Um... it's Wisconsin?

      February 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • JH

      LOL@MattT. Color. Black and white.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • AL

      As someone said change the channel. In every clip I have seen on the protestors there were representatives of all races.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  9. truth2power

    Tea Parties are for little girls.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  10. Steve

    I could not agree more about the Michelle (I can not tell the truth) Bachman and Sara Pallin. The only reason they found themselves associated with this party is because they had a big stage on which to speak. If they really believe in the movement, lets see them leave their Republican membership at the door. They are nothing but a Trojan horse to the business of the Tea Party. They walked lock step with the politics and policies which the Tea Party was formed to fight. The party needs a powerful voice to push them out the door.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Mark Fraser

    Gee, tell us something we didn't already know.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  12. mick

    Did we really need a 'study' to show this? Kind of a no-brainer don't you feel?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  13. AL

    The Tea Party posed as a populist movement but where are they now that the rights of workers is under attack nationwide? They claim to be for smaller government but are surprisingly silent during the present crises of government attacking the rights of working men and women. Their credibility has been damaged by their not defending the working men and women of this country.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  14. Lindsey

    Really? Because I agree with the Tea Party on almost all things, but I am NOT religious. The Tea Party is Republican's way of agreeing with Libertarianism without changing parties.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • JH

      You are exactly who the Koch brothers wanted in this movement; unfortunately they've tapped into the masses of movement conservatism (read evangelical) masses looking for talking points and organizers. Personally, I can't wait for someone to pull the curtain back for these folk and show them who the wizards are pulling the strings. The Kochs are true Libertarians, who advocate the legalization of drugs, etc. But they've paired it with a terrifying, old-school robber baron philosophy of run-amok capitalism at the expense of everyone but their company.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  15. Tim

    I have never met a violent or extreme conservative.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chuck

      Haven't been to Georgia lately have you?

      February 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Kai

      You must not watch the news, then.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • AL

      I appreciate your sarcasim

      February 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  16. AI

    What blithering nonsense. White/Black comes up continually, in an article allegedly about the correlation of religion and support or opposition to the tea party. This distorts the numbers, and deliberately so. The word "white" appears more than any religious affiliation.

    What is the point of that?

    February 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • AL

      To make the report more factual and accurate. You cannot talk about religion and politics without considering all of the other demographics.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  17. FrankM

    If the Tea Party had come out 10 years ago, when Bush was president, then I would say they are a legitimate group but my view is they are a bunch of Bigots, who hate the fact that that Obama is president. An educated man/woman would see through their facade and develop their own opinion on the matter.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • jimm

      Too bad the educated voters sat out the last elections. Shame on them.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Tim

      The tea party has nothing to do with race. They are reacting to the extreme spending spike that has occurred during the Obama administration. The deficit is 4 times larger under Obama.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • amused

      it's difficult at best to have an informed, educated opinion when we keep cutting spending on education.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Steve

      Actually they did form as a response to when Bush was president. That is why it is so absurd to let Palin and Bachman grab leadership. They were part of the problem, now they sell themselves as part of this movement.
      People forget Bailouts and Stimulous I and II were formed under Bush. Obama took on Bernake and all his bailouts from Bush and his banking friends and sold it as change. Either way we have no change with any one out there. Both parties hired the same economic advisers from the banking industry which said we need to bailout the banks and excuse their lawless security manipulation on the backs of the American citizens. Once again we need to rid the Tea Party of the Red and Blue baggage and then we really have something. Voting for a Republican Tea Party candidate defeats the movement. It is not change.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Chuck

      Holy Crap. I thought I was the only sane person that could see through the smoke.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Chuck

      @ Tim.. and the Easter Bunny is going to deliver Easter baskets.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Steve

      For Tim – Obama's deficit includes 2 wars that were put on the books in order to correctly balance the budget. That is why the deficit shot up. Explain where the Tea Party was during Bush's spending spree. It's not because we have a black Moderate President in power? While you're at it, explain why a good portion of the Tea Party people are driving Medicare-funded go carts yelling 'Keep your government hands off my Medicare!'

      February 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  18. trueness

    Tea Partiers, liberals, democrats, republicans,conservatives,socialist, communists...etc....THESE ARE ALL DISTRACTIONS!

    February 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • jimm

      Are you part of the Tea Party?

      February 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • John N Florida

      Here, you're going to need this.
      www dot bible dot ca/pre-date-setters dot htm

      February 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Chuck

      get a grip on reality dude

      February 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • more tea vicar

      Good grief.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Anonamoose

      um, ok, and I assume the buses will magically run on time without drivers and maintenance guys and parts and paved roads and bidges... yeah, good call. wackjob.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Anonamoose

      oh yeah, that "Yes, I am coming quickly" thing, referred to either right then and there (Paul believed he'd return in his lifetime) or perhaps on a geologic scale, say a couple hundred million years or so. Since they used Roman, not Arabic numerals, 1,000 or 2,000 (especially) has no real numeralogical significance in a non-temporal plane.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Sorry, that's not const-itutional. Also, there are drugs that can help prevent Jesus from coming too quickly.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  19. Lee

    And somehow this is news? I think anyone who's watched tea party gatherings at all would recognize it's nothing more than super right-wing religious garbage.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Tiffany

      Yes. No surprise here.
      The same old christian right crowd dressed up in a new dress.
      Finally people are openly talking about what has been so obvious from the beginning.
      And why defund and dismantle the national school system?
      It will be a lot easier to get jesus back into the classroom one school board at a time with no Federal interference.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • HA HA!


      February 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Buccakenji

      phock yew

      February 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  20. Mr.Grey

    This article and study serve no real purpose other than causing further division and prejudice. It shows that tea party members are likely to be Christian, nothing more. Any movement which pops up in middle America will likely share this quality, just as a party forming in the middle east would likely have an Islamic composure. At some point the bickering over religion must stop and this country will have to face the real issues which it has been ignoring for years.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • jimm

      Try reading it again...it links them to the relgious right...which makes sense.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Chris

      Im with you Mr Grey...all the media does is divide people. Their so blind they just cant see the truth....that all partys are wrong and crooked. The TEA party was started originally for one reason....to complain about taxes...just break down the name, they have it on their signs. Of course people are misguided and assume republic affiliation. In reality it wasn't supposed to be about party's.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Anonamoose

      Disagree, the Tea Party has nothing to do with taxes and deficits, that's just an angle. It has a lot to do with a black president. Where was the tea party when Bush was waging war on a credit card? Where were they when the republicans lost the Congress? We discovered them when Barack Obama ran for the White House. And Fox News had a new sidekick.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The "tea party" is all about dividing our country. Perhaps that's not why they started, but that it who they have become. I'm not sure why you are complaining.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I don't understand why people are whinning about the media and particularly CNN. The survey was done by Pew Research – not CNN! If a media outlet factually reports (in this case, gets the results of the survey correct) a survey and it makes somebody or a group look foolish (or not foolish), it is not the media outlet's fault!

      Polling is pretty much a science when done correctly, so given that you understand correlation vs cause and effect, there really isn't much to argue about. The survey results are what they are, whether any one of us likes the answers or not.

      February 24, 2011 at 1:00 am |
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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.