Who is the Tea Party?

Political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam report on what a panel survey of 3,000 Americans conducted in 2006 and 2011 has to tell us about the supporters of the Tea Party in The NY Times. Among their conclusions:

The Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party….

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

See here for the full article.

7 Responses to Who is the Tea Party?

  1. Roobah Fox August 18, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    That explains the Glenn Beck phenomenon, doesn’t it?

  2. HT TP August 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Is there no working paper? Really? The op-ed comes first now?

  3. Noumenon August 20, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I don’t understand why people think the Tea Party exists at all! Remember when the Washington Post tried to contact them and found they were totally unorganized and policyless? It’s not like MoveOn.org where you can actually tell who their members are and what they want. It’s like everybody just started using the name “Tea Partiers” instead of “conservative” for no reason.

  4. RC August 22, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Although I don’t have a full understanding of all the Tea Party’s positions on various issues, for the most part, I would have to say that i disagree with them. The Tea Party always seems kind of ridiculous to me, and i usually end up wondering how people end up supporting it. Of course, maybe I’ve mostly heard lies about what they do and don’t support, but things like having God in government doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

  5. A Tea Partier August 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm #


    The Tea Party is really the Tea PartIES. Every so often media outlets try and find “The Tea Party Leadership” (remember the Dick Armey stories?) but like you say, they’re trying to grasp water. Most Tea Parties are county- or municipality-based. It’s sort of like Al-qaeda or a franchise operation–lots of local groups that pursue similar goals without much (or any) top-down organization.

    I suppose it’s rather fitting: grassroots progressives like Moveon.org use a national hierarchy to organize themselves, grassroots conservatives use spontaneous order to organize themselves.

    If you (or the WP) actually want to meet Tea Partiers, I’m sure you can use Google and find your local group.

  6. Matt August 26, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    “What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party….”

    This doesn’t follow at all. The Tea Party can be a product of recent events in financial markets without their its having been disproportionately affected by those events.

    It’s hard to take the rest of the original article seriously when the author makes claims like this.

    • Matt August 26, 2011 at 7:45 am #

      *without its members having been disproportionately affected…

      Edited and forgot to re-read. Don’t judge me.