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Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.

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Tea Party Conservatives and the Christian Right: One and the Same?

Posted: 02/24/2011 4:00 pm

A new report released by Scott Clement and John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life largely confirms the findings of Public Religion Research Institute's American Values Survey. PRRI's American Values Survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2010, debunked much of the conventional wisdom about the Tea Party when it showed that Americans who identified with the Tea Party movement were socially conservative, and had close ties to the Christian Right. PRRI's findings, which were released at a standing room only event at the Brookings Institution, received prominent coverage at the Washington Post, CNN, the Atlantic Monthly, and others.

Despite using a different definition of the Tea Party (Tea Party supporters), Pew's analysis of recent polling very closely mirrors Public Religion Research Institute's earlier findings:

On Social Issues:

While registered voters as a whole are closely divided on same-sex marriage (42 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed), Tea Party supporters oppose it by more than 2-to-1 (64 percent opposed, 26 percent in favor). Similarly, almost six-in-ten (59 percent) of those who agree with the Tea Party say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, 17 percentage points higher than among all registered voters. Tea Party supporters closely resemble Republican voters as a whole on these issues.

On the Relationship between the Tea Party and the Christian Right:

Americans who support the conservative Christian movement, sometimes known as the religious right, also overwhelmingly support the Tea Party. In the Pew Research Center's August 2010 poll, 69 percent of registered voters who agreed with the religious right also said they agreed with the Tea Party. Moreover, both the religious right and the Tea Party count a higher percentage of white evangelical Protestants in their ranks.

PRRI's American Values Survey found that 63 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party movement believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases and only 18 percent support same-sex marriage. Pew found similarly that 59 percent of Tea Party supporters say abortion should be illegal and only 26 percent favor same-sex marriage. (Note: AVS and Pew relied on different questions to measure attitudes on same-sex marriage). Finally, we found that nearly half (47 percent) of those who identify with the Tea Party movement also identify with the Christian Right. Pew found that 42 percent of Tea Party supporters agree with the conservative Christian movement.

The new Pew analysis further confirms PRRI's important conclusion made last October -- that the Tea Party rank and file are not in fact secular libertarians but are social conservatives largely drawn from the ranks of the Christian Right.

Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director, also contributed to this post.

 
 
 

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