A new University of Washington survey finds that among whites, southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the tea party than whites in other parts of the United States, and that conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the group.
“The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”says Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.
The tea party movement has emerged since President Obama entered the White House. Activists in the movement first opposed Obama’s economic stimulus plan before shifting to attack the Democrats’ healthcare reform plan.
More recently, tea party activists reportedly spat upon and used slurs against prominent African-American lawmakers at the Capitol as the House prepared last month to take its final votes that approved the healthcare reform legislation.
Conducted by telephone from Feb. 8 to March 15, the survey reached 494 whites, 380 blacks, 77 Latinos and 64 members of other races. The sampling error margin is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, the university says in a statement.
The survey found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.
High profile conservatives, including former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and former House Republican leader Dick Armey are seen as among those who influence the tea party activists.
Indeed, strong support for the tea party movement results in a 45 percent decline in support for health care reform compared with those who oppose the tea party. “While it’s clear that the tea party in one sense is about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,”Parker says.
He directed the Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics, a broad look at race relations and politics in contemporary America. The survey reached 1,015 residents of Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and California. All were battleground states in the 2008 presidential election with the exception of California, which was included in the survey to represent the West Coast.
The survey found that 30 percent of respondents had never heard of the tea party, but among those who had, 32 percent strongly approved of it. In that group, 56 percent of Republicans strongly approved, 31 percent of independents strongly approved and 5 percent of Democrats strongly approved.
Among whites who approved, 35 percent said they believe blacks to be hardworking, 45 percent said they believe them intelligent and 41 percent said they believe them trustworthy.
Whites who disapprove of Obama, the survey found, are 55 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who say they approve of him.
“Are we in a post-racial society? Our survey indicates a resounding no,” Parker says.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.