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.


NEXT: Michele Bachmann Proves She's an Anti-Science Idiot

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  1. Poll results like this come as no surprise when so-cons like Bachman rush to the front of the parade and pretend to lead it.

    1. Don’t forget socons like Ron and Rand Paul!

  2. My wife and I were discussing this last night. To the extent the Tea Party can stay focused on the debt they should be able to be a factor. Unfortunately, I think a lot of self-proclaimed leaders would like nothing more than to convert it into the old Moral Majority gang. If that happens or if those perceptions gain traction they’ll just fade away into irrelevance.

  3. The truth is the Tea Party Express stands for 5 simple fiscal principles?that is it.
    End the bailouts!
    Reduce the size & intrusiveness of government!
    Stop the out-of-control spending!
    No government-run healthcare!
    Stop raising our taxes!

    This group lost credibility with me when they co-sponsored the debate and excluded Gary Johnson. If they had no social agenda they would be behind him all the way.

    1. The issue with the Tea Party is that they try to align with the Republicum party. Traditional Republicumism favors fiscal conservativism and limited government; both key Tea Party issues. However the so com issues became aligned with the neocon issues; both are becoming a Republicum tenet of conservative philosophy as of late.

      The issue with Republicum Conservatism is that it is NOT conservative philosophy of limited governmental authority over the personal lives of the goverened. The real problem is when the conservative wing of the Republicum party was hijacked by the neocons. Neocons base their philosophy on government control of the lives of the goverened (fascism).

      For the Tea Party to be successful, they need to establish an independence from the Republicum Party and return to a true conservativism based on libertarian philosophy, not the control philosophy of the neocons.

  4. It’s kind of a catch-22 for the Tea Party front boys and girls. They are focused on the whole “we’re out of fucking money” situation and from what I’ve seen, they seem to do a fairly good job of towing the party lion.

    But they are activitists. They want to do something. Apathetic slobs, like me, don’t wrench control of state party machines or get elected – Activitists do. The whole ‘small government’ stuff get old so the media come to these activists with whatever in today’s atrocity file – a quick look says poverty. So it’s hard to just say “No money – deregulate.” Also it’s hard to keep your non-gov-debt opinions under control, and believe me, people remember when you randomly go on anti drug war rant three years ago. The Tea Partiers have the same problem with Jesus and the gey.

    1. Maybe we need an Apathetic Slob Party?

  5. Tea Partiers are loony. Enough said. Stop the romance already. They are not libertarian. They are a bunch of bigots that got their panties in a bunch over having a black guy in the White House. These same people, who ride around in Rascals (the motorized wheelchairs) that they got by wringing out their Medicare checks, never complained about goverment largess under the last president. Let them eat yellow cake.

    1. Judging from your opinion to demonize people you haven’t met in direct contrast to what they say about themselves and what they believe in private, you’re the one who is more like someone rushing to war and wanting to blame Islam (or the Jews, or whatever) for everything.

      Oh well, conspiracy theorists and demonizers are everywhere on all sides.

      1. That’s just what they want you to think.

    2. Even if you are right, they are still better than what we have now.

      Low taxes, low spending, emasculated federal government, what’s not to like?

    3. Just so you know, most Tea Partiers aren’t old retirees, most of them are middle-aged people who work.

      Go fuck yourself in your earhole.

  6. Pollsters and the media continue to promote the line that there is a box marked “economic issues” and a totally separate box labeled “social issues,” and that you can open one box without opening the other.

    As if the decreasing worker-to-retiree ration has nothing to do with social issues like birthrates, or spending money you don’t have and billing future generations has nothing to do with social morality.

    1. ^^THIS

      Or the freedom to buy and sell marijuana from each other is somehow separate from the freedom to use the marijuana.

      Or the sanctity of the abortion choice is somehow different from any other medical choice.

  7. judging by their fatz, looks like the teapartiers are focused…mostly on pizza. oh and hold the exercise

    1. If I bought you a gun, would you eat it?

    2. Enjoying Obama’s giz? Spit or swallow?

      1. Did someone say swallow?

  8. Fairly positive results for libertarians. People who are in and like the Tea Party overwhelmingly want to tone down social issues. People who don’t like the Tea Party suspect that it’s really about social issues.

    Both sides of that coin are pro-libertarian. Suspiciously so, really, considering the general non-libertarian opinions of the American people.

  9. Well, you also have to figure that if they are going to be cutting DC spending, some of what they cut will have an affect on social programs. For those who view social programs positively, this could easily be seen as focusing on a “Social Issue” primarily, not merely a fiscal one.

    1. Yes but they only support cutting (or cutting future spending) on things like SNAP, WIC, etc, but eliminate tax breaks for businesses!? Socialist how dare you!

      And forget about flat tax, you can’t use tax to make social change like giving tax breaks to religious groups.

      1. You don’t see a difference between cutting someone’s taxes and spending money on them?

  10. The TP debate audience response to Ron Paul when he brought up the issue of blowback was a huge tell for me. The TP faithful may say it’s about economic issues only, but there’s a strong undercurrent of socon and neocon principles there as well.

    1. Err, isn’t Ron Paul bringing up the issue of blowback bringing up something other than economic issues?

      It sounds to me like you’re the one who wants to change the debate to something other than economic issues. That’s perfectly fine, as I think that we can and should debate things other than economic issues, and change is good.

      But you’re being pretty silly if you think that a crowd not wanting to hear about foreign policy from someone who wants to radically change the status quo means that they’re not “about economic issues only.”

      It actually strengthens the case that they’re about economic issues only, and weakens your case to be about economic issues only.

      So they booed someone who brought up a noneconomic issue, and basically none of the questions asked by the audience were about economic issues.

      Sounds to me like they are about economic issues only, unlike you. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      1. They didn’t boo bringing the troops home. They boo’d blaming the victim for 9/11.

        1. Exactly, and I’d’ve booed that too.

          This is the reason I’d like Ron Paul to do very well but some other Republican get elected. No matter how good Dr. Paul’s foreign policy recommend’ns are now — and they are excellent — I’m afraid that with that type of analysis, he could do something dangerously stupid in the future as president.

  11. “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

    Cicero, 55 BC

    1. Fantastic quote

    2. So you’re saying we’ve still got a while, then.

      1. Looks like it.

      2. Well, let’s see. The Republic fell about six years later (arguably sixteen years later with Octavian/Augustus assuming sole rule).

        1. I saw a video on youtube where George Bush made a crack about being a dictator. This proves he intends to cancel the election and seize total power.

      3. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and subsequently murdered in 43 BC. -Wiki

        Watch your back and stock up on ammo.

    3. Great quote, but the internetz say its from a fictional book based on his life & can’t be attributed to him.

      1. lolz it was the romanian tee party

  12. Ths ought to be a mesage to the GOP … focusing on social issues is a net negative that makes the general public less likely to vote for Republican candidates. When the focus is exclusively on economic issues, support goes up.

    1. And you know that as the election approaches they will forget about economic issues and focus on gays and abortions, then wonder why they lost.

    2. “I could not help myself. It is my nature.”

  13. They have no defined organization, so anyone can rush up to the front, anyone can make any claim. Look at so many social conservatives they supported in the last round of elections. Sure those politicians claimed to be small government, but they are not, they are only small government when it comes to the recent healthcare reform, the stimulus, bailouts, etc. But when it comes to forcing their religion on others, they are all for using tax dollars.

    I used to support the tea party, but I don’t see why when they put the likes of Palin, Bachman, Perry, Cain, and others all of whom have little intelligence or economic knowledge, and are champing at the bit to force their morality on everyone.

    1. I meant “put the like of … forward as future leaders”

      1. That’s the conundrum.
        People who love liberty tend not to seek the power to take away liberty.
        People tend not seek power for the purpose of dismantling it.
        Where do you find liberty loving people who would dismantle power to do what it takes to win elections?

        1. Libertarians need to get over their distaste for the political process to make any headway.

          All things are a matter of perception. We simply *choose* take the attitude that politics is hopeless corrupt and exclude ourselve from it. But there’s no necessary connection between A and B. We could as easily choose otherwise.

          It may be harder to win elections without political clients vying for handouts and offering their votes up for sale. But that too is a political matter that’s possible to change. It might just take a radically different approach to getting people to vote for you … promising not to give anyone any favors and living up to that promise. If you’re really consistent and the voters see that you’re consistent about it, it just might be enough to outweigh the free shit army.

          1. ^^^ this

            infighting for ideological purity has been the downfall for many a nascent political movement.

            I would rather have a 40% “pure” Libertarian candidate than a 0-5%er.

      2. Who says they are putting them forward?

        As you said, they have no defined organization, so his is this “they”?

        1. Shhh–plutosdad is only pretending to know anything about the tea party–if you ask questions, he’ll be exposed. just let him talk, okay?

    2. they are only small government when it comes to the recent healthcare reform, the stimulus, bailouts, etc which results in the spending of trillions and trillons of taxpayer dollars.


    3. Next you will be telling me that I’m a Big Gov. NeoKeynesian Statist.

    4. But when it comes to forcing their religion on others, they are all for using tax dollars.


      Oh, not spending tax dollars on abortion is using tax dollars to force your religion on others.
      Go back to Kos, libtard.

  14. There are significant numbers of libertarians in the tea parties. Yes, we have to swallow hard when louts like Jim DeMint say you can’t be fiscally conservative without being socially conservative. I fear at some point – probably the 2012 election – most libertarians will have to abandon the tea party. In the meantime, try being the face of the tp in your area,like bringing in a speaker to your meeting who is favorable to the Ron Paul view of foreign policy.

  15. Re: the Turing test from earlier.

    Apparently most of those who dont support the tea party dont have a clue what their arguments are.

    1. True dat.

  16. Not trying to knock your project, but I would bet that 100% of Americans think you can get any data you want from a poll. What will really matter is if any of those numbers hold up at voting time.

    Everyone knows what they want and believes their guy is just the one to get it done this time.

  17. “(NBC Bay Area) ? The Obamas seems to be making a habit of visiting the Bay Area.

    First Lady Michelle Obama visited earlier in the summer to raise money for her husband’s re-election campaign and the Democratic party.

    Now her husband is set to do the same thing.

    President Barack Obama will visit the monetary heart of Silicon Valley in two weeks for two private receptions at the homes of wealthy supporters.

    Mr. Obama will be the guest of honor at a reception at a private peninsula home on Sunday afternoon Sept. 25 followed by evening dinner in Atherton.

    The location of the early reception is the Woodside home Symantec CEO John Thompson and his wife Sandi.”

    Could this be Reason’s Sandi? I’m guessing she travels a great deal.

    1. I think it’s pretty obvious this is Reason’s Sandi.

  18. The tea party has high negatives because they are being blamed for the manufactured default crisis.

    The correlation with never voting for them and believing they care more about economic issues has to be just blind hatred and projection (like the people who claim tea party = neocon = George Bush etc) or ignorance of the economics-social difference. How can anyone say they care about social issues equally. Thats is absurd, whether you believe they greatly care about social issues or not.

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