Tea Party: prejudiced against marginalized groups?

I mentioned the study done on racism in the Tea Party in a previous post (Tea Party Racism & Milwaukee Socialism). I’m posting again the relevant part of that post and adding further information about the values and attitudes of Tea Party supporters.

The conclusion is that the Tea Party is mostly white males (although another study showed they were slightly more female) who have more wealth than most and higher education than most Americans (it sounds like the Pew Enterpriser demographic which is also the Fox News loyal viewership). So, the Tea Party supporters are mostly Americans who live a privileged lifestyle. This affluent class is critical towards government in that they blame the government for the problems on Wall Street (according to Pew, Enterprisers are the group that does the most trading in stocks and bonds). But this group (and conservatives in general) are only critical of government when a Democrat is power (whereas liberals are equally critical no matter which party is in power: Republicans Support Big Government… just as long as Republicans are in power).

Most important, this privileged class has little compassion towards those who were born with less privilege. Also, they see themselves as the dominant class, i.e., “Real Americans”. They are worried about losing their dominance with the increasing numbers of minorites, the increasing social liberalism of the young generations, and the growing acceptance of diversity (interrracial dating and marriage; atheism, agnosticism, and other religious “nones”; social justice Christianity; pick-and-choose religious sensibility). They have always loved big government when they were in power for most of the last several decades, but now they worry that the government might be helping the poor and needy… which really makes them mad.


Tea Party supporters are less likely than Americans overall to believe whites have more opportunities to get ahead than blacks.

Just 16 percent of Tea Party supporters say whites have more opportunities to get ahead, compared to 31 percent of all Americans. Seventy-three percent say both have equal opportunity, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.

Fifty-two percent believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Far fewer Americans overall — 28 percent — believe as much. Among non-Tea Party whites, the percentage who say too much attention has been paid to the problems of black people is 23 percent.

A majority of Tea Party suppers believe the Obama administration treats both blacks and whites the same way. But one in four believe the administration favors blacks over whites, an opinion shared by just 11 percent of Americans overall and seven percent of non-Tea Party whites.


A comprehensive poll conducted for the New York Times and CBS News and released late Monday CBS News/New York Times essentially found what anyone watching a couple minutes of news footage of a rally would intuit: the 18 percent of the nation that identifies with the Tea Party movement tends to be white, male, older than 45 and Republican. And also hypocritical: despite their anti-spending rhetoric, Tea Party supporters told pollsters that two of the federal government’s most money-consuming programs, Social Security and Medicare, are worth the cost to taxpayers (maybe not a surprise, given the Tea Partiers’ average age). 

Interestingly, despite the frequent framing of the Tea Partiers as a predominantly blue-collar, the NYT poll also found that they are wealthier and better-educated than the public as a whole. And half of them think the Obama administration’s policies favor the poor.

If you stopped there, you might think this is largely a class-based movement, built on the principle of “I got mine.” But there’s more to it than that: 25 percent of the movement’s supporters think that the administration favors blacks over whites (compared with 11 percent of the general public).

[…] The UW survey shows Tea Partiers’ concerns with federal government spending are bound up with fears of having to share “their” benefits with people who aren’t deserving – and who also happen to be non-white.


Yes, they’re white, older, male and Republican; 56 percent make over $50,000 a year and 12 percent make over $250,000. They’re more likely to rely on Social Security and Medicare than the average voter — and, no surprise, they tend to approve of those two programs.

[…] As my friend Digby points out, make that “way more likely: 52% of them think that as compared to only 28% of the general public.” (Digby delves into much more detail about the poll, here.)

[…] And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst? I’ve written before that I find it galling when the wealthy, white Pat Buchanan (who by the way spent much of his adult life on government health insurance) lectures me about being “condescending” to the Tea Partiers, as though they’re a grass-roots uprising of the vulnerable against the elites. That’s garbage: They are a well-funded uprising of the elites against the vulnerable. And they’d be nowhere if their mission wasn’t largely supported by the top of corporate America (and the GOP shadow government in waiting).The idea that the Obama administration’s policies somehow favor black people will come as a surprise to many in the black community who are concerned that the president hasn’t done enough to directly address the crisis of unemployment, especially among black men. I happen to believe Obama’s race-neutral employment policies, targeted to place, not race, are the way to tackle the problem. But I have an idea for Tavis Smiley, Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson: They should hook up with the Tea Partiers. That’s an audience that really needs to hear their complaints about how little Obama is doing for black people.


“The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.

It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.


“While it’s clear that the Tea Party in one sense about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,” said Christopher Parker, the assistant professor of political science at the UW who directed the survey. Among his findings:

  • Southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the Tea Party than whites in other parts of the U.S.
  • Conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the Tea Party.
  • Strong support for the Tea Party resulted in a 45 percent decline in support for health-care reform compared with people who opposed the Tea Party.
  • 30 percent of the 1,015 had never heard of the Tea Party. But among those who had, 32 percent strongly supported it.
  • 56 percent of Republicans who had heard of it strongly approved. So did 31 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats.
  • Whites who disapprove of President Obama are 55 percent more likely to support the Tea Party.
  • Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, 35 percent say they believe blacks are hardworking, 45 percent said they believe blacks are intelligent and 41 percent believe them to be trustworthy.
Tea Party Survey




For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

[…]  Overall, the average distance separating respective levels of tea party support, across various marginalized groups, after rounding, is 17% for blacks, 12% for immigrants, and 13% for gay rights, respectively.

Rather large differences also emerge upon consideration of liberty, equality, and perceptions of president Obama’s character traits. On questions that tap issues of liberty, the gap between true believers and those in the middle is greatest on the question of whether or not the “government can detain people as long as they wish without trial,” where true believers support the proposition by 25 points over those in the middle. The difference narrows to 8 points when people were asked to consider whether or not people with political beliefs at variance with the much of the country are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Overall, for this set of questions, the mean difference is 19 points, where “true believers’” preferences appear to run counter to liberty, at least relative to those in the middle (table of results: click here)

Similar results obtain for egalitarianism, where strong supporters of the movement appear less inclined toward equality. Consider the proposition where the distance between groups is greatest. When asked to opine on whether or not “we’d have many fewer problems in this country” if people more treated more equally, only 31% of true believers agreed, versus 55% of those in the middle, reflecting a 24 percentage-point difference. The smallest difference, a 17 points, emerges when respondents were asked whether or not “our society should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity in this country,” where 81% of those in the middle agree, versus 64% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference is approximately 22 points.

Finally, at least for this round of analysis, we turn to the way in which support or the tea party informs how people perceive the president. At its most narrow, 21 points separate true believers from those who dwell in the middle, where 65% of the latter see the president as a strong leader versus 44% of the former group. The gap reaches its widest point on the issue of whether or not the president is moral: 64% of those in the middle agree that he is moral versus only 32% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference between the groups, in the way in which both perceive the president, is approximately 26 points.




With its preference for small government and fiscal responsibility, the Tea Party movement claims to be conservative. Yet, their tactics and rhetoric belie this claim. The shrill attacks against blacks, illegal immigrants, and gay rights are all consistent with conservatism, but suggesting that the president is a socialist bent on ruining the country, is beyond politics. This paper shows that Richard Hofstadter’s thesis about the “paranoid style” of American politics helps characterize the Tea Party’s pseudo-conservatism. Through a comprehensive analysis of qualitative interviews, content analysis and public opinion data, we find that Tea Party sympathizers are not mainstream conservatives, but rather, they hold a strong sense of out-group anxiety and a concern over the social and demographic changes in America.

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