The Tea Party Poll and Its Implications
CBS and The New York Times recently collaboarated in a massive poll of Tea Party members, and have recently released their results.
We all knew for sometime that the Tea Party brought together a wide and disparate group of ideologies, from pro-business tycoons, Ron Paul libertarians, national security fanatics, and plain old racists. What we didn’t know was that the Tea Party has as little in common, ideologically, as the public at large:
Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott.
In fact, the only thing they seem to have in common is an intense distaste for Barack Obama The Person (as opposed to The Politician): They feel he doesn’t share their “values”, that he “disproportionately favors the poor over the rich and middle class” (something which his economic policies have definitely not reflected) and their chief concerns are, in order: The health care bill, “government spending”, and the impression that their feelings aren’t heard in an elite-run Washington.
One remarkable trend is the reaction toward his “socialism”, as they understand it. Fully 92% believe he is a “socialist”, or taking the country “in that direction”. The Times thinks that the theme of Christianity, and a perceived departure from “Christian morals” pervades throughout, as exemplified in this quote:
“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.”
The overwhelming likelihood of a Tea Partier to vote Republican should be of especial interest to the GOP – 90% will vote for a Republican in 2010. Contrary to theirname image, most of the Tea Party does not desire to become a Third Party, nor can it hope to supplant the ruling two (one).
More than three-quarters of them want “smaller government” – again, as they understand it – but curiously, many had no idea of what that implied. A significant paradox in the Tea Party is its reliance on welfare programs (particularly Medicare), while at the same time venomous dictates on the “size of government”.The article ends with one of the funniest quotes I’ve seen in a serious news piece for some time:
“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.”
A few conclusions follow:
- Even though the poll did not ask about the Wars on Terror (a startling omission), a plurality or even a majority of Tea Party members likely support overseas imperialism.
- The movement is totally confused as to the definition of “small government”, almost to the point of it being a meaningless propaganda phrase.
- The criticisms of President Obama are not compelling, and likely betray a deeper prejudice. His perceived faults are largely fictitious (“socialism”), whereas his true crimes (Wall St. – centered economic policy, aggressive war policy, dismal view of constitutional civil rights, etc.) go unmentioned.
- The Tea Party’s members believe in their party’s propaganda only to an extent, but most are willing to ignore their doubts for the sake of unity.
- They are, on average, far less radical than their worst elements, but are still motivated largely by anger.
- They are a major asset to the Republican Party.