Tea Party United by Politics, Demographically Diverse
According to two new surveys, the Tea Party movement is supported by 28% of Americans, half of its members are non-Republicans, and, aside from skewing slightly white and male, remarkably similar to the country as a whole demographically.
A poll of registered voters by the Winston Group, The Hill reports, finds that the “national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic” and that, compared to the population as a whole, “more likely to be male, slightly older and middle income. Almost half the members of the group reported getting their news about national issues from Fox News, 10 percent of respondents said that talk radio is one of their top two sources, which is seven-points higher than the average voter.” A Gallup survey of adults, Lydia Saad notes, finds the group to self-identify as 49% Republican, 43% Independent, and 8% Democrat.
Now, as Doug Mataconis notes, self-identification can be a dubious metric and it’s quite conceivable that plenty of those claiming to be Independent are reliable Republican voters. Indeed, according to both polls, roughly two-thirds of the Tea Partiers consider themselves “conservatives.”
Demographically, Partiers are much more like the country as a whole than many of us might have imagined.
They’re slightly skewed by gender, with a membership that’s 55% male and 45% female, versus 49% and 51% for the sample surveyed by Gallup. And 79% of them are non-Hispanic whites, versus 75% in the adult sample. But that’s not surprising, since conservatives tend to skew white and male generally.
In terms of age, education, employment status, and income, they’re virtually indistinguishable from their countrymen. Indeed, they’re ever-so-slightly more likely to have gone to college, to be employed, and to earn above $50,000 a year.
The divergence, naturally, comes on politics. Aside from being much more conservative generally than non-Tea Partiers, Winston found,
The group is united around two issues — the economy/jobs and reducing the deficit. They believe that cutting spending is the key to job creation and favor tax cuts as the best way to stimulate the economy. That said 61 percent of Tea Party members believe infrastructure spending creates jobs. Moreover, given the choice Tea Party members favor 63-32 reducing unemployment to 5 percent over balancing the budget.
It isn’t a “purely homogeneous” group, said Winston.
The group has a favorable view of Republicans generally but that drops from 71 to 57 percent if they’re asked about Congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats are viewed very unfavorably by 75 percent of Tea Party members — a uniquely strong antipathy. An overwhelming 95 percent said “Democrats are taxing, spending, and borrowing too much.”
The group also vehemently dislikes President Barack Obama — even more so than those who called themselves Republicans in the survey. Over 80 percent of Tea Party members disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, whereas 77 percent of Republican respondents said they disapprove of Obama. The Tea Party members are also strongly opposed to the Democrats’ healthcare plan, with 82 percent saying they oppose it — only 48 percent of respondents overall were opposed.
Gallup didn’t ask (or at least, Saad doesn’t report) about Obama. But 97% thought the healthcare bill was a “Bad thing” and 65% are “Pro-life” compared to 50% and 46% of adults generally.
UPDATE: I’m not sure I’d go so far as Ed Morrissey in arguing that these results belie the description of Tea Party followers as “racist, reactionary, [or] Birthers.” There’s nothing in these surveys that directly addresses any of those charges. And, indeed, my strong guess is that Birthers, in particular, are disproportionately represented.
But, considering that 28% of Americans support the Tea Party movement and only 26% oppose it, it would seem to be pretty mainstream. Or, at least, something decidedly more than a fringe group.
Photo by Flickr user Fibonacci Blue under Creative Commons license. Tea Party rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, 13 March 2010.