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Poll: Who Are the Tea Partiers?

Americans who call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement express strong levels of anger toward Washington generally, and great personal antipathy toward President Obama specifically, a new CBS News/ New York Times poll shows. They are more likely to call themselves Republicans than independents.

Despite those strong views, for most Americans the movement remains relatively unknown: most haven't heard of the Tea Party, and those who have are still unsure about its stances.

Americans who call themselves "Tea Party members" in this poll:

• Mostly consider themselves Republicans – not independents - and most view the Republican Party favorably (62 percent).

• Are overwhelmingly negative about President Obama personally (80 percent); Americans overall are more favorable.

• Are more likely to think President Obama is working mainly on behalf of the poor, and not the middle class.

• Express nearly three times more anger toward Washington (45 percent) than Americans overall (17 percent).

• Are more likely to believe President Obama has already raised taxes, while most Americans do not.

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Tea Party supporters hold an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Mr. Obama (80 percent), while Americans overall are slightly positive about him personally, even if not all of them approve of his job performance.

Tea Partiers also express much higher anger toward the government in Washington. As many as 45 percent say they feel angry about the government, compared to just 17 percent of Americans overall.

One-third of Tea Party identifiers think the Obama administration favors the poor, compared to just 18 percent of all Americans. About half of all Americans think Mr. Obama is working for the middle class or all classes equally.

Most Tea Partiers hold favorable views of the Republican Party (62 percent); they are nearly twice as positive as Americans overall (35 percent). And Tea Partiers are much less favorable about the Democrats (9 percent) compared to Americans overall (42 percent).

Tea Partiers are not enthralled with Congress -- they rate it nearly as badly as Americans overall do, giving it an approval rating of 18 percent. As many as 92 percent of Tea Partiers think the government generally is run by special interests, not for the benefit of the people.

While Americans blame the Bush Administration for the deficit, Tea Partiers don't; they're more likely to point to the Obama administration (19 percent) or Congress (33 percent).

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And 44 percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama has already raised taxes this past year, while most Americans think the president has kept them the same.

Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party members are mostly from the South (37 percent) or the West (29 percent), and are older (59 percent say they are over age 45, compared to 50 percent of Americans.)

Tea Party identifiers are overwhelmingly white – 95 percent are white, compared to 77 percent of Americans.

Tea Party members' income and education is comparable to that of all Americans: they are as likely to have college educations (26 percent) and earn over $50,000 per year (51 percent) as Americans overall.

The Tea Party Movement and Americans Overall

A majority of Americans still say they do not know much about the Tea Party movement; 55 percent say they have heard not much or nothing about it.

Even among those Americans who say they have heard about the Tea Party, four in 10 still admit they know little or nothing about what it stands for.

The Tea Party movement gets mixed reviews from those who have at least heard of it, but 55 percent are still unsure about it. Forty-two percent of Republicans who've heard about it have favorable views of the Tea Party movement, but 56 percent are still unsure.

Among those who've heard of the Tea Party movement, only a third thinks it reflects the views of most Americans while 42 percent say it does not.

Overall, 18 percent of Americans considers themselves a "member" of the Tea Party. (This is a self-identification not related to whether they have attended any rallies or events.) Tea Party ranks are dominated by Republicans: one-third of all the Republicans in this poll identify themselves as Tea Party members, as do one in five independents.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1084 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone February 5-10, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line 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.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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