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Fact Sheet | “Teavangelicals”: Alignments and Tensions between the Tea Party and White Evangelical Protestants

[11.07.2011]

What You Need to Know

I.  THE TEA PARTY AND EVANGELICALS. There is a large constituency overlap between the Tea Party and white evangelical Protestants.

  • Overlapping Identities: Nearly half (47 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement also identify as a part of the religious right or Christian conservative movement. [PRRI, November 2010]. Fully three-quarters (75 percent) of those who identify with the Tea Party movement describe themselves as “a Christian conservative.” [PRRI, August 2011]
  • Libertarianism: Despite conventional wisdom, only about a quarter (27 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party consider themselves libertarians. [PRRI, August 2011]
  • Relative Sizes: About 1-in-10 (11%) Americans say they identify with the Tea Party movement, compared to 21% who identify as white evangelical Protestant. [PRRI, September 2010]

II.  SOCIAL ISSUES. A plurality of white evangelical Protestants say the Tea Party shares their values, and the Tea Party and evangelicals are closely aligned on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

  • Nearly half (49%) of white evangelical Protestants say the Tea Party shares their values, compared to 39% who say it does not. [PRRI, PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, November 2011]

A. ABORTION

  • Support for Legal Abortion: Less than one-third of white evangelicals (32 percent) and Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement (29 percent) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to a majority (53 percent) of the general public. [Source: PRRI, September 2011]
  • Abortion and Voting: Roughly 6-in-10 white evangelicals (63 percent) and Americans who identify with the Tea Party (58 percent) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported legalized abortion. Among Americans overall, 36 percent say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate. [PRRI, July 2011]

B. SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

  • Support for Same-sex Marriage: Only 25 percent of Americans who identify with the Tea Party and 19 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to nearly half (47 percent) of the general public. [Source: PRRI, July 2011]
  • Same-sex Marriage and Voting: Roughly 6-in-10 white evangelicals (62 percent) and Americans who identify with the Tea Party (58 percent) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported same-sex marriage. Among Americans overall, 33 percent say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate [PRRI, July 2011]

III. THE ROLE AND SIZE OF GOVERNMENT. Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement and white evangelical Protestants both favor smaller government.

  • Role of Government: Less than half (47 percent) of white evangelicals and Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement (40 percent) agree that it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. Among Americans overall 60 percent agree that it is the government’s responsibility. [Source: PRRI, August 2011]
  • Size of Government: Eight-in-ten (80 percent) Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement and two-thirds (64 percent) of white Evangelicals would rather have a smaller government that providing fewer services, compared to only half (50 percent) of the general public. [PRRI, June 2011]

IV. ECONOMIC INEQUALITY. On some economic issues, white evangelical Protestants hold different values than those in the Tea Party movement.

  • Minimum Wage: Less than half (41 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement favor increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour; however, a majority of white evangelicals (61 percent) and two-thirds of the general public (67 percent) favor increasing the minimum wage. These numbers remain virtually unchanged since 2010. [Source: PRRI, September 2011]
  • The “Buffett Rule”: Seven-in-ten of the general public and nearly two-third (65 percent) of white evangelicals support increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year, compared to only four-in-ten of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement. [PRRI, September 2011]

V.  THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION, THE TEA PARTY, AND SOCIAL ISSUES. Both the Tea Party and white evangelical Protestants are older than the general population.

  • Age Gap: The Millennial generation (18-29 year olds) is significantly underrepresented among white evangelical Protestants and among Americans who identify with the Tea Party. Only 13 percent of both evangelicals and Americans who identify with the Tea Party are 18-29 years old. Among all Americans, 21 percent are 18-29 years old. [PRRI, August 2011]
  • Young Republicans and Same-Sex Marriage: Nearly half (45 percent) of Republican Millennials (18-29 years old) favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 17 percent of Republican seniors (65 and older) and only 28 percent of all Republicans. [PRRI, Combined datasets July 2011 and August 2011]
  • Young Evangelicals and Same-Sex Marriage: Four-in-ten white evangelical Millennials (18-29 years old) favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 11 percent of evangelicals seniors (65 and older) and 20 percent of evangelicals overall. [PRRI, Combined datasets July 2011 and August 2011]

VI. Tea Party members are less averse to a Mormon serving as President – and more opposed to President Obama – than are white evangelical Protestants.

  • In 2010, voters who identify with the Tea Party were significantly more likely than white evangelical Protestant voters to report that their vote in the midterm election was cast mostly in opposition President Obama (37% vs. 25% respectively) [PRRI, November 2010]. Tea Party members are also more likely than white evangelical Protestants to hold unfavorable views of President Obama (83% vs. 67%). [PRRI, September 2011].
  • More than 6-in-10 (61%) of voters identifying with the Tea Party say they would be somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon serving as president; less than half (47%) of white evangelical Protestant voters say the same. In late 2011, more than 6-in-10 (61%) Tea Party members reported having a favorable view of Romney, compared to only about half (49%) of white evangelical Protestants [PRRI, September 2011]. However, after Romney became the Republican nominee, his favorable rating among white evangelical voters has risen strongly to 67%. [PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, May 2012]

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.