In his latest column for The Wall Street Journal, William A. Galston uses Public Religion Research Institute data to discuss the break of those who identify with the Tea Party from the greater GOP population.
According to two benchmark surveys by the New York Times and the Public Religion Research Institute, tea-party supporters espouse an ensemble of conservative beliefs with special intensity. Fifty-eight percent think that minorities get too much attention from government, and 65% view immigrants as a burden on the country. Most of the respondents see President Obama as someone who doesn’t understand them and doesn’t share their values. In their eyes, he’s an extreme liberal whose policies consistently favor the poor. In fact, 92% believe that he is moving the country toward socialism.
Many frustrated liberals, and not a few pundits, think that people who share these beliefs must be downscale and poorly educated. The New York Times survey found the opposite. Only 26% of tea-party supporters regard themselves as working class, versus 34% of the general population; 50% identify as middle class (versus 40% nationally); and 15% consider themselves upper-middle class (versus 10% nationally). Twenty-three percent are college graduates, and an additional 14% have postgraduate training, versus 15% and 10%, respectively, for the overall population. Conversely, only 29% of tea-party supporters have just a high-school education or less, versus 47% for all adults.
Although some tea-party supporters are libertarian, most are not. The Public Religion Research Institute found that fully 47% regard themselves as members of the Christian right, and 55% believe that America is a Christian nation today—not just in the past. On hot-button social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, tea partiers are aligned with social conservatives. Seventy-one percent of tea-party supporters regard themselves as conservatives.
Be sure to check out the full article by heading over to The Wall Street Journal.