Tea Party Backers Wealthier & More Educated, Poll Finds

 By Kate Zernike & Megan Thee-Brenan

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.  And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”  

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

The Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package, and its supporters have vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care. But the demographics and attitudes of those in the movement have been known largely anecdotally. The Times/CBS poll offers a detailed look at the profile and attitudes of those supporters.

Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers.

They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott.

Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington.

“The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands,” Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semiretired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview after the poll. “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”

They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy. More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us” when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.

Nearly 9 in 10 disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit. Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.

“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted April 5 through April 12 with 1,580 adults. For the purposes of analysis, Tea Party supporters were oversampled, for a total of 881, and then weighted to their proper proportion in the poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all adults and for Tea Party supporters.

Of the 18 percent of Americans who identified themselves as supporters, 20 percent, or 4 percent of the general public, said they had given money or attended a Tea Party event, or both. These activists were more likely than supporters generally to describe themselves as very conservative and had more negative views about the economy and Mr. Obama. They were more angry with Washington and intense in their desires for a smaller federal government and deficit.

Tea Party supporters over all are more likely than the general public to say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good. But 55 percent are concerned that someone in their household will be out of a job in the next year. And more than two-thirds say the recession has been difficult or caused hardship and major life changes. Like most Americans, they think the most pressing problems facing the country today are the economy and jobs.

But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress.

They do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican. The percentage holding a favorable opinion of former President George W. Bush, at 57 percent, almost exactly matches the percentage in the general public that holds an unfavorable view of him.

Dee Close, a 47-year-old homemaker in Memphis, said she was worried about a “drift” in the country. “Over the last three or four years, I’ve realized how immense that drift has been away from what made this country great,” Ms. Close said.

Yet while the Tea Party supporters are more conservative than Republicans on some social issues, they do not want to focus on those issues: about 8 in 10 say that they are more concerned with economic issues, as is the general public.

When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.”

She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”


  1. Lindsey graham and McCain both need to outed.. Neither are really doing the bidding of the people.
    I hope the people in Arizona get it together and get rid of McCain

    Mark you sound like a looser- why would any one want to even check your blog out after such useless statements- why waste the time…

    Those kind of tactics won’t work any more young man- we have experience over you and have seen all that kind of attitude before… we won’t get mad we will get even, but keep it up, it is good practice..

  2. CW for whatever it is worth I have always had the deepest respect for your advice, looked forward to it, and acted on it! I enjoy your comments and all the websites you offer to help us all out on information and candidates! You are an asset to this site! You are a true Patriot and a very wise and knowlebgeable man! I just recently sent Mr. Hayworth another check and if Simcox can’t win then it MUST be Hayworth! He is a strong minded person and loves this country and I know he will serve the people more than a lot of the ones presently in D.C If you notice, I did not call him a RHINO becasue I don’t believe that is what he is or what he will be! BTW I have also sent my support to Byberg!

  3. Sorry if you are buying into the MONEY that McCain is spending to paint Hayworth as a Moderate.
    Dig deeper. Chris Simcox was portrayed as a Reactionary which he is. I am a Reactionary and we have a tendency to recognize each other. The political spectrum runs from Right to Left:
    Reactionary Conservative Liberal Radical
    The people representing the current administration are Radicals and to set the country back on an even keel we with need Reactionaries to do it.

    Chris Simcox realized he could NOT defeat John McCain and on March 5, 2010 asking his supporters to support JD.
    His summary included the statement:
    You can even bet that Barrack Obama wants McCain to win.

    So I URGE you all to consider the McCain apprentice Lindsey Graham continues the work while John McCain trys to rewrite his past. The complete Washington establishment is behind him. They know if he can be beaten any of them can and will fall.

    SO DO NOT BELIEVE for ONE second that JD HAYWORTH is the lesser of two RHINO’S

    THAT Folly is what the Washington Insiders are counting on.
    We are running against BOTH PARTIES ESTABLISHMENT and there is a difference.
    We need to know WHO will represent us after the election is over. We need to elect people that will CHANGE WASHINGTON FOREVER.
    JD HAYWORTH is ONE of those PEOPLE.

  4. I know J.D. Hayworth and he is not a true comservative! He is more…well, I don’t know if you can call him a moderate conservative….maybe a little more to the left of that! Like CW has said, a bad Republican is better than voting for a good DEMON RAT! I know he is against AMNSEStY for illegals and he is for repealing the healthcare bill. I am not sure where he stands on Cap and Trade. I still like Simcox and have given him my support.but I have also sent my support to Hayworth as well!

  5. CWJ, after reading the article and about 100 comments at your link on the Arizona primary between J.D. Hayworth and Juan McCain, it appears that Hayworth isn’t a much better choice. It appears the lesser of two RINOS again. Sad!

  6. That to should be TOO which is about the third or fourth mistake today, Shoot and Shot.
    Oh well………………………………I am sure y’all have learned to read what I mean NOT what I write?

  7. Killing them with kindness is a good way to get shot in the back :(
    Sorry I been in to many battles.
    I leave forgiveness to GOD to sort out. :)

  8. CW I agree with you! Mark Montgomery is obviously an Obamanian lost in the swamps of his progressive thoughts! There is a saying—keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer! Kill them with kindness—maybe they will come to our way of thinking! Watch the DEMON RATS campaign and how their progressive ways all of a sudden become hidden.

  9. Mark Montgomery NYC, NY 10036 boboberg@nyc.rr.com
    This guy is a Progressive agitator whose main purpose is the spread LIES.
    I save my BLESSINGS for those who deserve them.
    Vengeance is MINE saith the LORD. LORD the time has come.

  10. Mark Montgomery:

    You have a right to state your opinions! Thank God, in America we still have the right to FREEDOM OF SPEECH! Many of our true heroes throughout the years have fought and died for that to always remain a reality in America! We are fellow Americans and for that reason I LOVE YOU BROTHER, but you are WRONG about the Tea Party movement! They are Americans that do not like the direction this President and liberal Congress are taking this country! They are not racist, and will not be violent! They jusst are not being silent anymore! God Bless America! And even though I don’t agree with your comments…………..God bless you, Mr. Montgomery!

  11. Oh man…I have a pretty good grasp on what is going to happen in 5 years….I predicted the housing and economic melt down to the year and also told my family 5 seconds after the first plane hit the tower that we would be at war in the Middle East for the next decade. I am not physic…I just observe the climate and fill in the gaps…much like a successful investor. I don’t like what I see in America when it comes to stability. I don’t like how the news media tries to down play the Tea Party movement and how the liberals label them with all kinds of belittling remarks…that then gets rebroadcast nightly adding fuel to the fire…Much like Mark Montgomery’s comments. The demographic of people in this movement aren’t the type to run to rallies for causes at a moments notice…This has been stewing inside them for a long time…even decades. They are serious and like the article stated they are not dumb people and they have money. We are creating the perfect climate to lead us into a very bad direction. I think if we keep this up it will make the 60’s look like a scrap-booking convention. Yeah maybe even pockets of severe violence or God help us even worse.

    I think we need to give these people a platform and stop the negativity and have some dialog. I mean how much is it going to help their cause? Everyone knows what the Tea party movement is about, why not have some logical discussion on some of their issues? I mean 20% of the American public means around 60 million people are extremely upset with how things are going. Stop the name calling and start some dialog…They are going to be heard…the easy way or the hard way.

  12. The tea-baggers are a sad group of old, white, rich, malcontent republicans who hate blacks, asians, hispanics, the middle class and the poor and can’t stand the fact that we have a black president. When they howl “take back America!!!” they mean take it back from minorities. Luckily the middle class and the poor far outnumber the tea-baggers so thiey won’t have much effect in November. Mark Montgomery NYC, NY 10036 boboberg@nyc.rr.com

  13. I tell you what is every government employee would take a 50% cut in salary they can cut my Social Security Benefits by the same.
    That’s a real sacrifice, since I already earned my pay once and am giving up what I already earned.
    It is the same OLD story………………………………………………FEAR tactics.
    Worrying about Social Security is a JOKE if this administration continues to spend and borrow your Social Security checks will NOT be worth the paper they are printed on.
    Now I assure you of ONE THING, the last place you will find people capable of explaining the Tea Party are employees of the NYT and CBS.

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