March 28, 2011

New study shows tea party beliefs far beyond mainstream conservatism

Results from a new University of Washington survey show that tea party supporters drink a far different brew from other conservatives – a lot stronger and not name-brand stuff.

In other words, tea party conservatives differ from other conservatives. A lot.

Findings from the Multi-state Survey on Race and Politics at the UW amplify observations, voiced recently by mainstream conservative columnists such as Michael Medved and George Will, suggesting that the tea party is taking its philosophy in directions far more extreme than those of average conservatives.

“Our data suggests the concerns of George Will and other conservatives are well founded. [Former House Speaker Newt] Gingrich and [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabees attacks on the president, apparently designed to appeal to tea party supporters, are far removed from the conservative mainstream,” said Christopher Parker, a UW associate professor of political science, who led the survey.

Survey respondents identified themselves as liberal, conservative or moderate. To examine the suggestion that tea party conservatives differ from more mainstream ones, Parker partitioned self-identified conservatives into two categories: those who strongly support the tea party and those who dont. For analysis, Parker identified as mainstream those conservatives who do not strongly support the tea party. He then examined their responses to questions about President Barack Obama.

Among the results are:

  • 6 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama is destroying the country; 71 percent of tea party conservatives believe this to be true.
  • 16 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama is a practicing Muslim; 27 percent of tea party conservatives believe that.
  • 46 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama is a practicing Christian; 27 percent of tea party conservatives believe that.
  • 55 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama was born in the United States; 40 percent of tea party conservatives believe that.
  • 17 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama doesn’t have a valid birth certificate; 26 percent of tea party conservatives don’t believe he has one.
  • 40 percent of mainstream conservatives believe Obama’s policies are pushing the country toward socialism; 75 percent of tea party conservatives believe that.
  • 32 percent of mainstream conservatives want Obama’s policies to fail; 76 percent of tea party conservatives want this to happen.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 24 through March 12. Callers used both land and cell telephone numbers to reach 1,504 adults in 13 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin. The surveys margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent. Funding came from the Royalty Research Fund at the UW.

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For additional information, contact Parker at 206-543-2947 or csparker@uw.edu.