Poll: Tea Partiers Say GOP Represents Their Values

People attend a tea party protest in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2010. AP

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

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More than four in five supporters of the Tea Party movement says the Republican Party represents their values at least moderately well, a new CBS News poll finds - evidence that there is less light between the movement and the party than some in the GOP have feared.

Seventy-one percent of Tea Party supporters say the Republican Party represents their values moderately well, and 11 percent say it represents their values very well. Just 17 percent say the GOP does not represent their values.

That's reflected in how they plan to vote in November: Eighty-one percent of likely Tea Party voters plan to cast ballots for Republicans seeking seats in Congress. Just five percent plan to vote for Democrats.

Still, members of the Tea Party movement do draw distinctions with the Republican Party. Eighty-four percent say there is at least some difference between the movement and the party, while just 15 percent see little or no difference. Republicans and Americans overall are less likely to see a significant difference between party and movement.

Likely Tea Party voters are more enthusiastic about the midterm elections than Americans overall: Three in four say they are more enthusiastic about voting than they usually are, compared to one in two Americans overall. Only 12 percent are less enthusiastic, compared to 30 percent of Americans overall.

They are also more interested in the races: Seventy-one percent say they are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, compared to 46 percent of Americans overall who say the same.

The poll shows that 18 percent of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters.

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The Tea Party's Impact on the Republican Party

Nearly 70 percent of Tea Partiers - but just 37 percent of Republicans - expect the Tea Party to be a long-term political movement. About half of Republicans (and one in four Tea Partiers) expect the movement to become less influential in the long run. Fifty-seven percent of Americans overall agree.

And while seven in ten Tea Partiers say the movement is making the GOP stronger, only 48 percent of Republicans feel the same. Twenty-eight percent of Americans overall - and 13 percent of Republicans - say the movement is making the GOP weaker.

Asked whether Republicans running for office are motivated by solving the country's problems or by obtaining political power, both Tea Partiers are Republicans are roughly evenly split. Among Americans overall, only one in four say GOP candidates want to solve the country's problems. Sixty-six percent say they are primarily interested in obtaining power.

Tea Partiers on the Issues

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By a slim margin, Americans overall are more likely to say the U.S. economy would not be better off without the bank and auto bailouts. Tea Party supporters disagree. Sixty-three percent say the U.S. economy would be better off had the big banks been allowed to fail, and 64 percent say the economy would have been better off had the automakers been allowed to fail.

Two in three Tea Partiers say they are less likely to support a political candidate who voted for the banking and financial industry bailouts.

Americans are split overall when it comes to whether tax cuts or deficit reduction should be the nation's priority. Not Tea Partiers: Fifty-six percent favor tax cuts, while 36 percent support deficit reduction.

Tea Partiers are also disproportionately opposed to the health care reform bill: Seventy-two percent strongly disapprove of the bill, compared to 27 percent of Americans overall. Three in four Tea Partiers say the bill was an attempt to expand government, not improve health care. Only 39 percent of Americans overall agree.

While a majority of Americans agree with the notion that it is the government's responsibility to take care of people who can't take care of themselves, that opinion is held by just one in three Tea Partiers.

At the same time, seventy-one percent of Tea Partiers say Medicare and Social Security are worthwhile programs, a view shared by Americans overall.

How America Sees the Tea Party

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say the views of the Tea Party are too extreme. Forty-four percent say they are not. One in five Republicans and three in ten independents say Tea Party views are too extreme.

Thirty percent of Americans say the Tea Party reflects the views of most Americans, while 41 percent say it does not. Eighty-two percent of Tea Partiers believe their views reflect the beliefs of most Americans.

Nearly half of voters say a candidate's Tea Party affiliation would not have an impact on how they vote. But such an affiliation appears to be a net negative: While 16 percent says it would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, 29 percent says it makes them less likely.

Three in four Tea Partiers say media coverage of their movement is too harsh, and only 19 percent say it is fair. Overall, however, 43 percent of Americans say the coverage is fair. Twenty-nine percent say it is too harsh, and 11 percent say it is too easy.

Who They Are and What They Want

Eighteen percent of Americans - including 35 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independents - call themselves Tea Party supporters. Sixty-three percent say they are not.

Four in five Tea Partiers prefer an outsider as their representative in Congress (versus 48 percent of Americans overall), and the overwhelming majority says the country is on the wrong track.

Asked what the movement's goal should be, 18 percent said change the direction of the country/take the country back; 17 percent said reduce the size of government/reduce government control; and nine percent said promoting American or traditional values.

Six in ten Tea Partiers are men, and nine in ten are white. Most make between $30,000 and $100,000 per year, identify as Protestant and conservative, and have at least some college education. They are spread around the country, though are most likely to be found in the South. Almost half are between the ages of 45 and 64.

Read the Complete Poll


This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,129 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone October 1-5, 2010, including 429 Americans who said they supported the Tea Part movement. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. For the sample of Tea Party supporters the error due to sampling could be plus or minus five points. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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