Tea Party Snapshot: Why They Believe What They Believe

Do you ever wonder why people believe in the Tea Party ideology? I’ve wondered. And, I’ve spent time gathering information that may glean some light on why they believe what they believe. Most anyone who considers themselves left of center could take this information and formulate strategy and talking point to change some minds. The garden variety Tea Party member is a college educated white Christian male, making over $50,000 a year who owns a gun.

First, here’s what the number show about the average Teabagger?


90% of Tea Party members are white
Less than 1% are Black


About 40% are college educated


60% male
40% female


55% make over $50, 000/year
20% report making over $100, 000/year


93% report they are Christian
40% describe themselves as Evangelical
65% say they are Protestant
40% attend church services weekly


35% of all Party members live in the South
25% live in the West
20% live in the Midwest

Gathered Supporters:

Over 80% of Party members say they have never been to a Tea Party rally or been to a Tea Party website


55% say they are angry
95% say America is going in the wrong direction or down5 the wrong road
90% say they disapprove of President Obama’s job performance
25% of those who deem Obama negatively say the can’t pinpoint one specific reason; they just don’t like him 14
68% say President Obama has increased taxes
25% of Tea Party members say it is sometimes necessary to take violent action against the government
60% say they own a gun

More than half say the policies of the [Obama] 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. –http://www.newrepublic.com/blog/jonathan-chait/85144/what-does-the-tea-party-want

1In a nutshell, the average person who identifies with the Tea Party is a mad as hell white Christian married male, who makes above $50, 000/year and owns a gun. This hypothetical garden variety Tea Party member is a person who believes government is out of control and caters to special interest groups and lobbyists. It’s all about the money. They think government hands out too many welfare checks at the drop of a hat, using their hard earned money, in an effort to get reelected over and over again. They’re sick of it.

They believe they could actually get ahead and have a better life if government did away with social programs. After all, when’s the last time government actually made a difference. It could be handled better in the private sector anyway. The average person who identifies with the Tea Party doesn’t believe they’ve ever benefited from any government social program. They think too may people abuse the system and lie to get assistance. They also believe that if someone is on public assistance, they’ll stay there forever unless they are made to get off welfare and go to work. The best way to get people off welfare is to stop writing the checks. That will motivate them to 2go out and find a job.

“The reason is that the Tea Party is an oppositional movement, and oppositional movements only thrive when they’re in the opposition. They can talk all they like about both Republicans and Democrats being part of the problem, and being opposed just to “Washington,” but we all know that at its heart it’s about Barack Obama and everything he represents. If Hillary Clinton or another Democrat becomes president in 2016, most of the anger and resentment that gives the movement life will get transferred to that person, and it will continue.” http://prospect.org/article/why-winning-elections-last-thing-tea-party-w...

They don’t like Obama because he doesn’t look like them, act like them, believe what they believe, talk like them and simply has the wrong attitude and mindset because he’s not one of them. And, while the majority don’t necessarily think Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya—it wouldn’t surprise the average Tea Party member if one day they learned it was all true.

When it comes to political party affiliation, the average Tea Party member could care less. They think the Republicans have lost there way and have gone the way of the liberals. They believe there are too many Republicans In Name Only (RINOs). For too long the average Republican has done everything and said anything just to get elected or reelected. They simply don’t trust politicians.

3[5]They think Democrats are basically tree-huggers that love to tax and spend. They blame the Democrats for environmental protection laws that harm the private sector companies ability to make a profit and grow. If it wasn’t for all the fines and regulations, more jobs would be created and America wouldn’t be in the shape it is in now. Democrats find ways to tax when, in reality, what we need to do is to find ways to cut taxes. After all, if people had more money in there pockets, they would spend 17more, invest more and create more jobs.

When it comes to the media, most TP members get their information from Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Blaze and The Drudge Report. They believe most media outlets are liberal and slanted towards a liberal ideology favoring the Democrats, including CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. They report reading their hometown newspaper, but believe The New York Times, the Washington Post and others are left of center publications that look for liberally biased stories.

In general, the average Tea Partier believes most, if not all, of the above. Now, the question is why. Why are they mad as hell?

4Most Tea Partiers who report being angry also report carrying a large debt load. In other words, they’re just trying to keep their heads above water. They report having to work harder for less money while their number one asset, their home, has slid in value over the years. If they are lucky enough to have a retirement account such as a 401K, 40% report having borrowed at least once from the funds. Of those who have not borrowed from their retirement account, most report thinking they probably will be forced to do so within the next four years, if another Democrat is elected president. They say they are stressed because of finances and worry that their job may end and they will not be able to get another job quickly because of age and the economy. The number one comment told to me was, “I’m just not as young as I use to be…and I shouldn’t have to start over again.” Of the people who work for themselves, most report owning a small business in a service related industry. Of the people who reported working for a company, 55% reported being there more than five years and more than half report working for a company with less than 50 employees.

While making less money now than they did a few years ago, most TPM’s (Tea Party Members) also say they are spending a little more than they use to spend. Over 70% report they “probably” spend more than they can afford. They cite the reasons as a) the kids need more stuff because they’re getting older; b) they’re paying more interest on things like credit cards and personal loans, and c) the cost of living, from gas prices to insurance to the cost of food is higher. Interestingly, just as many women as men report their spouse or significant is the person in the household who has the hardest time not spending the money.18

But, at the end of the day, people who report siding with the TP, say they are mad as hell because they can’t buy what they want and sometimes have trouble just making ends meet. The feel they should not have to decrease their standard of living just because the government has too many people on welfare. And, that—overall—is why the TP wants less government, no welfare and zero taxes.


Forgive the appearance of self-promotion...

...but, I'd like to direct your attention to the two best of the two posts on a blog I started this past September. Both are apropos, in that, the earliest offers some insight into the psychology behind conservative ideology, and the last shines a light on the origins of and influences on the so-called Tea Party. The latter, I referenced in a recent reply to a scharrison post.

One thing I learned about hosting your own blog, is that you have to rely pretty much on word of mouth. And, since I am a “card carrying” introvert like james recently disclosed, my goal of offering an exchange of ideas as authoritatively as BlueNC was quickly abandoned for the very same reason I opened this self inflicted embarrassment with an apology.


"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

No apologies needed

I've learned that people come to BlueNC for the purpose of finding links to other sources, with a general preference for well-written materials that present cogent arguments or fresh thinking. Your posts do both. Please feel free to cross post as much as you like. If it's NC focused, we'll bump it to the front page for sure.


I'm all about the psychology

The mainstream media is quite often (but not always) a good source for factual, verified information, but by the time the vetting is done, it often leaves much of the story untold. I'm more concerned with "intent" than I am "effects", because knowing what motivates somebody is very often a better guide to future behavior than what they've actually done.

But figuring out what somebody's (maybe secret) motivations are requires you to move past the vetted and sometimes whitewashed details, and engage in a little reading of tea leaves. And that's where blogs and op-eds come in. Speculation based on a skeletal framework of reported facts viewed through the lens of known human behavior. Without that, we are stuck in a two-dimensional image.