The Tea Party and the Religious Conservative Movement
By Deal Hudson
A host of commentators on the Tea Party phenomena have mindlessly described the participants as exclusively concerned with fiscal issues. Anyone who has attended one of these events knows better.
Those who attend Tea Parties across the country are solid, middle Americans, from blue collar to white collar, all united not only by a concern for the profligate spending of the federal government, but also by the equally irresponsible social agenda of the Obama administration.
Here are the results of a major polling study of those who attend the Tea Party demonstrations. Called the American Values Survey: Religion, Values and the Mid-Term Elections; this poll was conducted in early September using a sample of 3,013 adults – that’s three times the normal sampling of a national survey.
Guess what? The survey showed that compared to the general population the Tea Party movement is “more supportive of small government, is overwhelmingly supportive of Sarah Palin, and reports that Fox News is the most trusted source of news about politics and current events.”
We didn’t need a survey to tell us that, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.
More importantly, however, are these findings:
- Nearly half (47%) also say they are part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement.
- Among the more than 8-in-10 (81%) who identify as Christian within the Tea Party movement, 57% also consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement.
- They are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and less than 1-in-5 (18%) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
I’ve always considered the Tea Parties to be a natural extension of the religious conservative movement I chronicled in my book, Onward Christian Soldiers: the Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2008). I think this survey proves it, beyond any doubt.
The media in ignoring the social conservative dimension of the Tea Party is, once again, trying to ignore the continued power of the people of faith in American politics.
Deal Hudson is President of Catholic Advocate