1Survey’s surprising finding: tea party less popular than atheists and
In an op-ed article in the New York Times, Robert D. Putnam, a professor of
public policy at Harvard, and David E. Campbell, a political scientist at
Notre Dame, say they have collected data indicating that the tea party is "
less popular than much maligned groups like 'atheists' and 'Muslims.'"
But Campbell says the tea party was really an afterthought in their research
."We didn't go into this study to look at the tea party," Campbell said in
an interview with The Ticket.
The professors were following up on research they conducted in 2006 and 2007
for their book "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us" and
decided to add the tea party and atheists to their list of survey queries.
By going back to many of the same respondents, the professors gleaned
several interesting facts about the tea party.
One of their more surprising findings, Campbell concedes, (and one drawing
national attention) is that the tea party drew a lower approval rating than
Muslims and atheists. That put the tea party below 23 other entries--
including Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Republicans and Democrats--that the
professors included on their survey of "a representative sample of 3,000
By examining which respondents became supporters of the tea party, Campbell
and Putnam's survey "casts doubt on the tea party's 'origin story,' " they
write in the Times--though, in fairness, it's perhaps difficult to
generalize on the movement's origins from a poll sample of 3,000 respondents.
Early tea partiers were described as "nonpartisan political neophytes,"
Campbell and Putnam write, but their findings showed that tea partiers were
"highly partisan Republicans" who were more likely than others to have
contacted government officials.
"They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans
, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama
was president, and they still do," they went on.
In addition to being socially conservative, the study found a close tie
between religion and the tea party, whose supporters seek out "deeply
religious" elected officials.
"This helps to explain why candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry
are just as much about the public presentation of themselves as religious
people as fiscal conservatives," Campbell told The Ticket.
Campbell said Tuesday that he does not regard his research as politically
motivated. "I don't have a particular dog in this or any other political
fight," he said.
"We actually didn't go into this study primarily to look at the tea party,"
he told the Ticket. "The primary purpose of the study is to update what we
learned about religion in America."