55 Percent of Americans Believe the Tea Party Is Focused on Economics; 27 Percent Believe Its Focus Is Both Economic and Social


Some of the largest and most prominent Tea Party organizations contend that their primary goal is economic in nature. The mission statement of Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest umbrella organizations, reads, "Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, Free Markets." Tea Party Express, who recently partnered with CNN to host a GOP Presidential debate, declares, "The Tea Party Express stands for 5 simple fiscal principles."

According to a recent Reason-Rupe survey, an overwhelming majority of Tea Party supporters agree. When asked if the Tea Party movement is primarily about cutting spending and limited government or if it was equally about economics and social issues, 74 percent of Tea Party supporters say it's about cutting spending. However, among Americans who do not support the Tea Party, less than half believe the Tea Party is only about cutting spending and 27 percent believe it is equally about advocating social issues. Another 20 percent say they do not know whether the Tea Party is primarily about economics or both social and economic issues.

One's perception of the Tea Party significantly impacts one's view of the Tea Party in Washington D.C. Among those who believe the Tea Party is primarily about economic issues, 47 percent believe the Tea Party has had a positive impact and 37 percent believe it has had a negative impact on Washington. In contrast, among those who believe the Tea Party is equally about social and economic issues, 65 percent believe the Tea Party has had a negative impact compared to 23 percent who believe its impact has been positive.

Among those who believe the Tea Party is primarily about economic issues, half would consider voting for a Tea Party presidential candidate and half would not. However, among those who believe social issues are equally important to the Tea Party, 62 percent would not consider a Tea Party presidential candidate, and only 29 percent would. 

Tea Party perceptions also correlate with favored approaches for dealing with the deficit. Among those who believe the Tea Party is primarily about economic issues, 43 percent favor the Congressional Tea Party Caucus' approach to oppose all new taxes, compared to 31 percent among those who perceive the Tea Party to be about social and economic issues. Interestingly, a majority of both groups oppose the Congressional Tea Party Caucus' approach to opposing bills that would raise federal tax revenues.

Click here for full survey results.

Survey Methods

The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Click here for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.