Who makes up the Tea Party Nation?

A new poll shows that Tea Partiers really, really hate Obama -- and think their movement represents most Americans


April 15, 2010 8:16PM (UTC)

This article originally appeared at Digby's Hullabaloo.

The New York Times and CBS just released a pretty comprehensive poll on the teabaggers. It probably won't surprise you much.

They are extremely negative and angry. And they really, really hate President Barack Obama.

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Here's the NY Times summary:

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

[...]

Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

Way more likely. 52% of them think that as compared to only 28% of the general public.

Nearly 9 in 10 disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit. Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.

“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

(I was pretty stunned to see that over half the public believes Obama is moving the country toward socialism. I'm beginning to think he might as well do it.)

But if you look at that comment by Mayhugh, you can see that "socialism" is all caught up with "the M word," which is really just another way of saying you know what.

I looked through the poll and jotted down some observations:

Here's an interesting factoid that tracks with my intuition about these people: they blame George W. Bush and Wall Street far less for the economic situation than the rest of the country does. They hold Obama and congress mostly responsible. But then, if you listen to wingnut gasbags and FOX news crazies all day, that's what you would think.

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Any illusions that these people are angry at Wall Street or big business needs to be dispensed with ASAP. They don't blame the money people at all.

88% of them think the government's stimulus program has either had no impact on the economy or made it worse.

Their biggest concerns are government spending, health care and "government not representing the people." Twice as many of them say they have heard "a lot" about the devil deficit as the rest of the country and 76% of them believe the government should reduce the deficit rather than help create jobs. If forced to choose between cutting taxes and reducing the deficit, they choose cutting taxes 49% to 42%. Only 6% hold the Bush administration responsible for the deficit while 25% hold Obama responsible and 37% blame congress. (The rest think it was a combination.)

74% think the economy would have improved just fine without any government interference.(Since they think the economy sucks, this reinforces the idea that they blame the government for the bad economy.)

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They say the don't like the GOP 54% to 43%. But 92% of them despise the Democrats.

Only 37% don't like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., which is sort of surprising (31% like him and the rest don't have an opinion.) A whopping 57% like GWB. Most of them don't know much about Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. He only gets about 20% approval. They love Glenn Beck (59%) which I think tells you everything you need to know about this group. But it's Sarah Palin they truly love: 66%, although only 40% think "she would be able to be an effective president" which indicates some sexism underlying her appeal for the majority of teabaggers who are older white men. (I would bet anything that that 40% is mostly women.)

73% think Obama doesn't understand their needs and problem and 75% think he does not share the values most people live by. That's in contrast to 39% and 37% of everyone else who feels that way.

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49% of the country thinks Obama is somewhat or very liberal, while 86% of teabaggers

Here's a shocker: Only 58% of Americans think Obama was born in the US as opposed to 41% of teabaggers. The rest either think he was born in another country or don't know. (It's possible that some of these people don't understand the significance and simply heard something about Indonesia --- or think Hawaii is a foreign country.)

64% of these fools believe their taxes have been raised.

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80% think you shouldn't raise taxes on people who make over 250k a year in order to help pay for health care. (That's opposed to only 39% of the public as a whole.)

They really don't like poor people. 73% of them think that government benefits encourage people to remain poor (73%) while only 33% of the country as a whole believe that.

They track closely with the rest of the country on legal immigration but a lot more of them think that illegal immigration is a huge problem (82%).

They are full on global warming deniers. 66% either think it doesn't exist or won't have an impact.

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41% believe in civil unions and 40% think there should be no recognition for gay couples at all. Far fewer believe in gay marriage than the country at large.

A higher number of teabaggers than the public as a whole believe that abortion should be illegal and more of them than the rest of us think it should be more strictly proscribed. Only 20% think it should be generally available.

They like guns quite a bit more than most people.

25% of them think that violent action against the government is justified.

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Among the public at large, 58% think Roe vs Wade is a good thing and only 34% think it was a bad thing. Only 40% of teabaggers think it was a good thing while 53% think it was a bad thing.

Here's the corker:

Regardless of your overall opinion, do you think the views of the people in the tea party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans? 84% of the self-identified teabaggers said yes. Only 25% of the general public agreed.

78% of them said they hadn't donated or attended a rally. 68% haven't even visited a web site.

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Where are they getting their information? 63% of them get their TV news from FOX. 53% believe that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are news shows.

They are less concerned with their personal economic situation than the rest of the country. Far more identify as upper middle and middle class than the rest of the country. Way more of them are retired and on on social security and medicare. (Interestingly, more are on social security than medicare, so there seem to be a fair number of them on disability.)

There are a significantly higher percentage among them of married, church going, born again Christians than in the public at large.

75% are over 45 and almost all of them are more educated than the public at large. 89% are white (1% black, 1% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 6% "other".) 56% say they make over 50k a year. 12% say they make over 250k a year.

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59% are male.

66% say they always or usually vote Republican. The rest are lying.

I just don't know what to say about this:

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

The most charitable thing to say about this is that at least some of these people are just looking for some meaning in their lives and this movement is giving it to them. (I would guess that there are a few on our side who were drawn to the progressive movement for the same reasons.) They pick the teabaggers because it's their natural tribe. It's like my sister-in-law once explained to me: "being a Democrat would be as if I were a cat having my fur rubbed backwards." So I get that.

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There's nothing particularly surprising about the rest of them either. These people are nothing new. They have different iterations, but when you get right down to it they are, quite simply, the far right. They hate poor people (especially blacks) and they hate government that helps poor people (especially blacks.) They are deluded about taxes and spending and are paranoid about the government being infiltrated by "the other." They believe they are the only "true" Americans and alternate between insisting that their "traditional values" are best represented by the Bible or the Constitution, both of which they believe they are ordained by God to properly interpret. And they do not really believe in democracy which is really why they hate the government.

When they lose they stage a national hissy fit of epic proportions and persuade the Village (where they are perceived as the personification of the heartland of America) that they are something very important. Now that they have their very own TV and radio networks featuring crazed right wing demagogues 24/7, they are more successful on those terms than ever. But they are nothing new, nothing new at all. They are mostly a bunch of cranky, white men with money who are trying desperately to hang on to their privileges. Same as it ever was.

They are what we have called "Republicans" for at least the last 30 years.


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