NY Times: Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, 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. 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 to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care.
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.
Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, (and) 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 Obama does not share the values most Americans live by … 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.
Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semiretired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”
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.”
Tea Party supporters … say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good … while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress. 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.
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 … 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.”