Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated
By Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan
April 14 (NYT) — Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.
They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”
And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”
The Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package, and its supporters have vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care. But the demographics and attitudes of those in the movement have been known largely anecdotally. The Times/CBS poll offers a detailed look at the profile and attitudes of those supporters.
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.
Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.
The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the 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.
Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington.
“The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands,” Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semiretired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview after the poll. “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”
They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy. More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us” when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.
Nearly 9 in 10 disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit. Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.
“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 nationwide telephone poll was conducted April 5 through April 12 with 1,580 adults. For the purposes of analysis, Tea Party supporters were oversampled, for a total of 881, and then weighted to their proper proportion in the poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all adults and for Tea Party supporters.
Of the 18 percent of Americans who identified themselves as supporters, 20 percent, or 4 percent of the general public, said they had given money or attended a Tea Party event, or both. These activists were more likely than supporters generally to describe themselves as very conservative and had more negative views about the economy and Mr. Obama. They were more angry with Washington and intense in their desires for a smaller federal government and deficit.
Tea Party supporters over all are more likely than the general public to say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good. But 55 percent are concerned that someone in their household will be out of a job in the next year. And more than two-thirds say the recession has been difficult or caused hardship and major life changes. Like most Americans, they think the most pressing problems facing the country today are the economy and jobs.
But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress.
They do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican. The percentage holding a favorable opinion of former President George W. Bush, at 57 percent, almost exactly matches the percentage in the general public that holds an unfavorable view of him.
Dee Close, a 47-year-old homemaker in Memphis, said she was worried about a “drift” in the country. “Over the last three or four years, I’ve realized how immense that drift has been away from what made this country great,” Ms. Close said.
Yet while the Tea Party supporters are more conservative than Republicans on some social issues, they do not want to focus on those issues: about 8 in 10 say that they are more concerned with economic issues, as is the general public.
When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.
And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.
But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”
Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.
Others could not explain the contradiction.
“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.”
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“About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us”
“I wish a buck was still silver and it was back when the country was strong.
Back before Elvis and before the Vietnam war came along.
Before the Beatles and yesterday when a man could still work and still would.
Is the best of the free life behind us now and are the good times really over for good ?”
— Merle Haggard
Do you think maybe ol’ Merle knew that the Reagan Administration was about to increase the fiscal deficits to new significant highs?
Conservatives are, well, conservative. Pretty consistent. Take away other people’s benefits but not mine. They are also confused in thinking that a balanced budget or government surpluses translate into private sector surpluses, when the accounting doesn’t work that way. Combination of ignorance and selfishness. Oh, yes, and the president doesn’t belong to a particular congregation, so he is obviously a Muslim. Right.
Oh please Tom Hickey. belief that government surpluses translate into private sector surpluses is not a “convervative” believe, it is a “everyone who is not MMT believe”
I have long said that both conservatives and liberals believe in the same counterproductive economic theories – the only difference is, conservatives are much more irresponsible about carrying them out, so they occasionally do the right thing for the wrong reasons…
Hmmm… Tom, you may understand MMT, but you sure don’t understand conservatives or conservative ideology. Most conservatives are far more concerned with the growth in government than the deficits per se.
Growth in government is not an absolute figure. It is proportional to the population. As population grows, so will the size of government. Owing to diminishing returns, the proportionality is not linear. Larger and more complex societies must commitment more resources to organizing themselves.
For example, a village of ten doesn’t need a cop. A town of hundreds does. A city of millions needs not only a whole lot more cops but more per capita. That greatly increases the size of government. This principle is generally not appreciated.
We don’t need big government or small government. We need the proper size government to get the job done, whatever the voters decide that is through their representatives.
Is there fluff in the system? Of course. That’s why we need to fund an agency or agencies capable of limiting it. I also agree with privatizing where it is practical and beneficial, but not just on principle. For example, I think that going to a mercenary military is poison for democracy.
When discussing growth in government, most people are not talking about it in terms of absolute dollars or absolute number of people employed. They’re talking about it in terms of how much of your life is the government responsible for or is in control of. There is a continuum that runs between unfettered capitalism and communism. I’m sure that both conservatives and progressives agree that the extremes are not acceptable. The argument is about where the sweet spot is.
Progressives want to make the US look more like western Europe, which has far more government control. I believe the reason they want this is not primarily for the sake of efficiency, but rather to reduce inequality. Conservatives want to make the US look more like it did before FDR’s New Deal. I believe the main reason they want this is not primarily for the sake of efficiency, but rather to increase liberty.
My own view is that we already have too much government in the US, and I guess that makes me a conservative. But I care more about efficiency than either liberty or inequality. I think we would have a higher standard of living in the aggregate if we reduced the role of government in our lives. That does not mean I am willing to tolerate extreme inequality, just as I am not willing to tolerate a lack of liberty.
Well said, ESM. That sums up the differences. Now the question is the degree to which an understanding of MMT can assist us in finding what common ground there is in the middle for cooperation and compromise. Otherwise the US will be lurching periodically between McKinley and FDR.
MMT is policy neutral. Anyone wishing to apply MMT has to take the operational principles and apply them to policy-making. There are conservative/libertarian ways of doing this and liberal/progressive ways. To win elections, however, one side has to capture the center.
“That does not mean I am willing to tolerate extreme inequality, just as I am not willing to tolerate a lack of liberty.”
You are in a room with a guy with a 9mm, if you want to leave the room you have to give him some of warren’s business cards. You are a slave already and don’t realize it.
Do you know how hard it is to renounce your US citizenship and thusly US Taxes and US Laws? I am sure what we have today is not in the spirit of what the founders wanted, I think that if free men wanted to leave this government and its rules and go somewhere else, that was supposed to be an easy option for them.
Tom Hickey has it right, we need lots of small villages, these large cities with all thier resource demands just to support the administrative functions is bleeding humanity. In general I find myself happier in small communities than the stresses of dealing with large cities. Recently I was photographed and ticketed going through a stoplight where the yellow light had been intentionally shortened to increase revenues for the city. The city council was aware of this and was sued. Life is too short to have to constantly battle city administrators and thier minions who are constantly on the prowl for ways to hurt you. But you are a free man with lots of liberty eh?
I think the left/right continuum regarding level of govt intervention runs from; Total govt control of production and distribution of goods to the citizens (Left) to No central authority overseeing any markets and a complete laissez fare system (right). The absolute “right” system has no social support programs which provide any floor to the level of destitution. The ground level of absolute poverty would become the floor.
The truth is no one wants the far left part of the spectrum. I have never heard anyone in govt or the talkinghead -osphere advocate for the far left. I hear plenty of people who advocate for the far right. The whole discussion is about how high above ground level to build the floor.
Those of us who understand MMT know that providing a floor above ground zero for everyone is not only moral but is completely doable when you understand how a modern monetary system operates.
There is no reason at all (from a monetary standpoint) why the floor of society cannot be a house for everyone who works, food for all, health services available for all and 1st class education available. What ever level of spending this requires should/could simply be the new “zero point”.
I think even the more conservative of the MMTers could see the social value of such a floor. Maintaining a floor for aggregate demand would prevent swings in economic output, social disruptions and banking problems.
But as long as people have the mistaken notion that “THEIR” tax money is paying for the maintenance of that floor we will never get an intelligent discussion of how high to build the floor. And of course when a large element also suggests that the mere suggestion of floor building means that not too long from now the “government” will take over everything the battle becomes even more fierce.
I agree ESM well said.
I do wonder though, what is wrong with wanting to look more like Western Europe? I have not been there in long time (45yrs) and only know superficially from what I have heard form those who have visited but there is much we can learn from them. Our distorted notion and hyperinsistence on “freedom” has led much of our electorate to some very conflicting positions. I think in truth many European citizens are much more free than all but about 10% of our population. European govts fear their citizens way more than our govt fears us and we are much more heavily armed. Too many Americans have a false notion of freedom I think and a jingoistic/nationalistic side that distorts Americas true colors as a country. Most of us have no frikken idea what life in western Europe is like except what we hear from our jingoist news sources
Good points, Greg. These are essentially the things that FDR mentioned in his last state of the union speech as the floor to be aimed at. It also make economic sense in that it provides a floor under the economy that would moderate the swings of the business cycle even without an elr.
Everyone should be able to understand that running an output gap even for a short time is both highly inefficient and very costly in terms of foregone opportunity. Moreover, a chronic output gap, as indicated by ~5% unemployment when frictional is only ~2%, really adds up over time. In comparison the deficits required to establish such a floor are quite in line with economic benefits, not to mention the immeasurable human benefits in enhanced quality of life.
Tom Hickey: “Conservatives are, well, conservative. Pretty consistent. Take away other people’s benefits but not mine. They are also confused in thinking that a balanced budget or government surpluses translate into private sector surpluses, when the accounting doesn’t work that way. Combination of ignorance and selfishness.”
In the political history of the U. S. there is a strain that combines social liberalism with fiscal conservatism, including Bill Clinton and stretching back at least to Andy Jackson. The belief in small government goes back at least to Tom Jefferson, who was a radical Leftist.
As for balancing the budget, most people think that that is a good idea, not just for households but for governments, as well. Almost every state in the U. S. has balanced budget legislation of some sort, even constitutional amendments. What they do not know is that, in our modern economy, we get our money by creating debt. Back in the gold standard days, we kept our money is Fort Knox. A fair number of people understand that we now have fiat money, and they do not trust it. It’s not “good as Gold.”
I think that it is both inaccurate and counterproductive to characterize fiscal conservatives as ignorant boobs.
Not sure why you can’t seem to resist name-calling and taking cheap (and often off-base) political shots. Warren tends to keep this fairly non-partisan which is one of the reasons I visit.
Jason, i do my best not to belittle or insult anyone. If I have offended you or others, I apologize. However, I have reviewed what I have written here, and I don’t know what you are referring to. Please let me know what you are objecting to, and I will rephrase in the future if it is inappropriate.
I call people and positions “conservative” or “neoliberal,” and those are not pejorative terms the last time I looked. But please suggest alternatives to “conservative,” “neoliberal,” “libertarian,” and “right,” if you consider then pejorative, and we can go from there. I get it that “wingnut” and “moonbeam” are offensive to right and left, respectively, and don’t use terms like that in polite discourse.
For the love of God Tom Hickey, can you please keep your political opinions off this blog.
there are a million other places where you can spew your left wing nonsense. But there are only about 3 other places for discussion of MMT.
Uh, Zanon, Warren is running for political office. So I don’t thing that political implications of MMT of off topic here (unless Warren lets me know otherwise).
Well for one your statement above, “conservatives…take away other people’s benefits not mine”. Perhaps you should balance this by stating, “liberals support public education and abhor school choice but put their kids in private schools” or “Democrats hate war except when a Democratic president wages it.”
Many of us come here to avoid this sort of simple-minded political name-calling. The political implications of MMT are not inappropriate here, but your simplistic characterizations of conservatives are. For yet another slightly more nuanced view of the Tea-Party see http://reason.com/archives/2010/04/16/24-hour-party-people
Most Conservatives (all those in Tea Party) are being deceived that is for sure. On their radio shows and websites, they all sell gold, are very ATTRACTED to gold. They swallow the Peterson “debt” dogma “hook, line and sinker”. Their 2 leading AM radio icons, Limbaugh and Hannity, are lets just say: Less than “intellectual”. They think the mortgage market meltdown was caused by affordable housing initiatives instead of fraud. They think the OPEC oil market is a “free market”. They think unfettered commodity speculation (ie hoarding) is a “free market”. They think we are borrowing from the Chinese. I could go on…I’m very frustrated with “my people” right now.
Received this from Sarah Palin this week:
Via her intuition, she looks basically in paradigm here wrt to taxes,etc. She knows something is wrong.
More calibration of her above intuition on taxes.
Now here she goes into the mode that Tom has touched on wrt who pays what, implies “freeloading”, lower income households get “free money”, although she doesnt propose per se, I interpret that she advocates overturning these policies.
She thinks progressive tax code, tax rebate assistance to lower income households are “insane”. Implies flat tax.
Then the pitch.
To any individual who believes that the government is going bankrupt, funds are derived from tax dollars collected and is deathly afraid of deficits, the appeal from Palin makes perfect sense and MMT advocates who don’t understand this need to or an individual like Warren will never get elected.
To these people especially, it is worrisome in a democracy that 50% of the people in the country pay no taxes (yet vote). The half that does pay taxes understands perfectly well that politicians will continue to buy votes by creating more and more programs for those who pay little or no taxes while looking to raise revenue from those who do pay taxes.
Neither side of the divide understands MMT so while the talk of new taxes and higher taxes enrages one side, the other side delights in higher taxes and class warfare. This is a prescription for disaster and the most important things that can be done is to explain MMT to the masses.
Agreed, Jason, but even with an understanding of MMT, the kerfuffle isn’t over. Deficit spending creates a government claim on real resources and the amount and allocation of those resources is still going to be contested by the various parties and interests. But at least the debate will be based on operational reality and policy that can actually work if the principles of functional finance are adhered to. But at least we can dispense with the fantasy and craziness that is divisive and unproductive.
“it is worrisome in a democracy that 50% of the people in the country pay no taxes (yet vote)”
I don’t know if this is your own view or you were describing the view of others, but it’s important to realize that that’s simply not true. There is a significant % that do not pay the federal income tax by virtue of not earning enough to get over standard deductions and exemptions, true.
But the federal income tax is only 1/3 of all taxes paid. The vast majority of the other 2/3 of all taxes hit lower and middle income earners–which make up most of the 50% the quote is referring to–much harder than it hits the upper income groups.
Part of the great misinformation campaign–purposely or not–has been to equate the federal income tax with “taxes” and to treat these “50%” as if they don’t actually pay taxes. This misunderstanding has been mirrored in actual tax policy. That is, while the US has reduced federal income tax rates (and capital gains, and taxes on dividends) compared to 30 years ago, other tax rates (e.g., payroll, sales) have risen on average compared to 30 years ago. And due to the misinformation, the lower and middle income earners that rightly feel overtaxed lend their support for reductions in federal income taxes that will only marginally help them.
None of this is to suggest that the federal income tax isn’t overly burdensome for those that do pay it. It may be and the burden should perhaps be lessened or even abolished altogether (along with payroll taxes), even as the reason they pay most of this particular tax has much to do with the increasingly unequal distribution of income (lower tax rates x a lot more income equals more taxes paid). But to suggest the other “50%” don’t pay taxes is scandalous, and to not recognize that this other “50%” has actually seen its burden increase in the past 30 years is just more of the same misinformation.
“But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress.”
No shortage of blame to spread around to all three.
The best article I’ve seen written regarding who the Tea Party really is and how it thinks.
A special treat for you guys on Tax Day, obama and bidens tax returns – how does your tax returns measure up?
On another note, Obama came to Nasa today and told us he was going to send men to mars in his lifetime while shutting down the shuttle program and laying a lot of us off.
I am with Warren on this, I don’t think the private sector can take up the slack right now, we need lots of government investment in space – star trek is never going to come true with the current administrations economic policies. It frustrates me to no end to see this nation subsidize banking and finance sectors, corn farmers, and real estate sales people when I think our space program should get 10 times the government subsidies than it is getting.
“A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government.”
Oh, I think she is perfectly qualified. She will do exactly as she is told by those who pay her way in–assuming they choose her. If she doesn’t do as she is told…well, we know what happens in that case.
“Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.”
In case anyone needed this pointed out.
God forbid the government help the poor. The middle class and rich are not being helped? Can’t they find a legitimate target to direct their anger?
What are these guys really drinking?
Warren you taken on a Herculean task.
Spoke at a New Haven tea party rally today and a Dem town committee meeting in Glastonbury.
Gave the same basic talk to both, of course.
I can pick up a few supporters here and there but working for more media coverage to reach the opinion leaders. AP story coming out this weekend which may help get that going.
If you think the time is right, I will send a letter to the editor of the town paper here in Cheshire. As you probably know, Cheshire residents fit the description of the typical Tea Party supporter. Hope you don’t mind if I draft something and send it to you before submitting. Any other help you need let me know. After several years of following your work (not to mention Bill Mitchel, Randy Wray, etc.) it’s hard to believe we have a (good) chance at a Senate seat. Best of Luck.
I went to a tea party rally today. Do thier policies of smaller government also mean smaller national military? I am concerned that with 1 billion chinese and 1 billion indians with thier tata motors that oil prices are going to rise and make mike masters sweat again. If we reduce government, reduce national deficit spending, won’t our military have to shrink? How does the tea party soccer moms round up the kids and go to the shopping mall everyday when gas is 10 dollars a gallon or more? I don’t see the long term energy strategy of the tea party people, can someone illuminate me? I am certain an extremely powerful military is why our oil is relatively cheap and our standard of living so high, how do 300 million keep 2 billion chindians at bay without a strong military? I also just attended a conference on israeli water resources, again I am sure a very powerful national military keeps water flowing. Expensive water and expensive oil will make many tea partiers go from middle class to poverty no?
If we really need to spend $500B/yr in order to have cheap oil (and I think you’re right about that), then that is a huge externality that needs to be paid for by a domestic tax on oil. Also, the rest of the world is benefiting from our military, so the question is “how do we make the rest of the world pick up part of the tab?” I’m not sure how to do that, but at the very least we would take back some of the profits of the oil exporting countries by enacting a heavy tax on oil consumption. That tax could then be redistributed as a rebate for each American resident or a population based distribution to each state.
From my persective, the Tea Party is about the actual and currently planned enormous growth in government generally. Most of these people suspect, correctly in my opinion, that the current government is taking advantage of a temporary financial crisis in order to expand government permanently.
The defense budget is not really relevant to the issues at hand. It is not larger than it used to be as a fraction of GDP, and more importantly, the plans on the table will make it a smaller fraction.
seems to me the tea party doesn’t have actual answers, just concerns, with a lot of contradictions.
i offer an agenda to cut fica taxes without cutting social security and medicare, and back it up with the nuts and bolts of monetary operations. they all seem to like that.
The timing is right for such a platform Warren. As I’ve said before, I believe the Tea Party is less concerned with the deficit and more concerned with the burden of taxation and the intrusion of government. If you can present your ideas as a way to fend off the coming push for a VAT, so much the better.
From a theoretical perspective, I prefer a VAT to an income tax, but I also understand, as most economic conservatives do, that the choice is not between having an income tax OR a VAT, but rather between having an income tax OR an income tax AND a VAT. In addition, experience in developed nations as shown that increasing the VAT rate is much easier politically than increasing the income tax rate.
You should definitely keep your idea for a national real estate tax under wraps. Although it is a good one, it will never fly politically (especially since the amount of real estate owned by tax-exempt organizations is enormous).
The faster you get your book out there and promote it, the better. Voters are completely clueless about MMT, but then again there are few introductory books that allow people to discover and learn about it so they can’t be blamed.(Please make sure you release a Kindle version too! 🙂
just got some copies back from the printer, now working on kindle and net sales.
Absolutely correct… I should have said income taxes, not just taxes. However, the point remains. Fifty percent of the populace pays no income taxes so this is still a recipe for class warfare and demagoguery.
Yes. But a big reason why it can lead to problems is most do not recognize that the federal income tax is 1/3 of all taxes, and that this 50% is paying a significant amount of the other 2/3. For instance, they pay a higher % of their income in payroll and sales taxes than the higher income earners do, and those together rival the federal income tax in terms of total $ collected.
best to think of/compare compensation net of taxes rather than gross less taxes.
market theory would tell you the net is what drives things like job choice, etc.
there is no ‘natural amount earned’ or anything like that from which taxes are subtracted. the ‘economic force’ driving wages and job decisions regarding compensation is net compensation if ‘market forces’ are at work, as they sometimes are.