How Far to the Right Is the Tea Party?

As we have suggested in numerous posts about the Tea Party movement, hardcore Tea Partiers in Texas appear increasingly linked to the religious right. A new survey from the University of Washington’s Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality also shows that hardcore Tea Partiers in Washington state — identified in the survey as “true believers” who strongly approve of the Tea Party — are significantly more conservative than voters generally. And it’s not that they are more conservative just on issues such as opposing taxes and “big government.” The survey shows that Tea Partiers are just fine with intrusive government so long as government is doing what they want.

Here are some selected survey results regarding core Tea Partiers — the “true believers”:

  • 52% believe that lesbians and gay men — “compared to the size of their group” — have too much political power. (The percentage of all voters who agree: 25%)
  • Just 18 percent agree that gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right ot marry as straight couples. (All voters: 41%)
  • 74% believe it isn’t the government’s job to guarantee equal opportunity for blacks and other minorities. (All voters: 52%)
  • 73% disapprove of efforts by the Obama administration to engage with countries with predominantly Muslim populations. (All voters: 33%)
  • 88% approve of the new immigration law in Arizona, which requires police to question people they suspect are illegal immigrants for proof of legal status. (All voters: 52%)
  • 63% support racial profiling of Muslims and Middle Easterners in airports (All voters: 43%)

A New York Times poll in April found that Tea Party supporters tend to be wealthier and more educated than the general population. That poll also showed Tea Partiers are significantly less likely to support gay marriage, much more likely to oppose abortion and think the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision was a “bad thing.”

Interestingly, the New York Times poll showed that large majorities of Tea Partiers support Social Security and Medicare: 62% of Tea Partiers (versus 78% of all respondents) agree that the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs. Yet 92% of Tea Partiers (versus 50% of all respondents) also say they want a smaller government providing fewer services than a bigger government providing more services. (So long, we suspect, as the services they get aren’t cut.)

This is not a surprise to anyone who has been to a Tea Party event: 53% of Tea Partiers (versus 19% of all respondents) describe themselves as “angry” when asked about “their feelings about the way things are going in Washington.”

So where does that leave us? Bruce Bartlett, a former official in the administrations of President Reagan and the first President Bush, wrote this today as he reviewed the University of Washington survey:

What I think this poll shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define TPM [Tea party movement] members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the TPM is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that TPM members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it’s in support of their agenda.

5 thoughts on “How Far to the Right Is the Tea Party?

  1. I’m reminded of the Tea Party sign of a few months ago : ” Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

  2. An important factor would be the relationship of TPM membership with the population density geographically by zip code, precindt, county or congressional district. In short how “Red” is their stomping grounds?

    It is normally presumed that urban districts are blue, while suburban and rural districts are red. Odd that we call the right red.

  3. What I find personally striking and disturbing is that 52% of Americans do not believe it is the job of government to guarantee equal opportunity to minorities. But perhaps the phrasing of the original question had some impact.

    I mean, what greater purpose could the Constitution have than creating equal opportunity for all citizens, so that none are unfairly disenfranchised?

    If nothing else this poll strongly suggests what many of thought all along: the TPM is comprised of far right social conservatives. So far to the right as to probably qualify for racist.

  4. In the 1960s and 1970s, a member of my extended family would have probably fallen into the core Tea Party group, were he alive today. He was a Christian who did not like black people, thought anyone who protested the Viet-Nam War was a traitor, believed that people should be forced to have a short haircut and be clean shaven, and believed that anyone who had a sexually transmitted disease should be forced to carry STD identification papers that were to be presented upon demand when applying for a job. His reasoning: Anyone who is immoral enough to have sex out of wedlock and get an STD will almost certainly steal from your cash register. Finally, on more than one occasion, he opined that what this country really needed was a “benevolent dictator.” By that, he meant a dictator who would by force round up boys with long hair and beards, take them to the nearest barbershop, and hold them down while the barber clipped and shaved them.

    Basically, I think Ronald Reagan associate and friend Jack Matlock was right in the quote I posted earlier in the week. The issue here is not whether the core Tea Party people are on the right or on the left. The right and left really do overlap, as Jack said, and their chief shared characteristic is that they are both by nature TOTALITARIAN in their worldview—and that is what makes the core Tea Party people so dangerous. Right wing totalitarian. Left wing totalitarian. Either way you look at it, they are totalitarian and a danger to the constitutional principles that began in Philadelphia in the hot summer of 1787.

  5. I know some tea party members here in Texas and by and large I find them to be very uninformed and to have very poorly formed opinions with little substance to their arguments. Once engaged in a debate the typically resort to name calling and Fox news sound bites. The fact of the matter is, that it is human nature to look for someone or something to blame for all the problems and issues faced in this world and this life. I am constantly faced with people (even in my own family) who want to always blame someone else for their problems so they don’t have to face the reality of the situation which is usually much more complicated and complex than they want to deal with. After having tried to have a few conversations with these TPers I have given up and just walk away when they start their rants.