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Tea party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, tend to be Republican, white, male, and married, and their strong opposition to the Obama administration is more rooted in political ideology than anxiety about their personal economic situation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters look like Republicans in many ways, but they hold more conservative views on a range of issues and tend to be older than Republicans generally. They are also more likely than Republicans as a whole to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.” And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”
In some ways, Tea Party supporters look like the general public. For instance, despite their allusions to Revolutionary War-era tax protesters, most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools, do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost. They are actually more likely than the general public to have returned their census forms, despite some conservative leaders urging a boycott.
The overwhelming majority of Tea Party supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by, and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent, compared with 11 percent of the general public, think that the administration favors blacks over whites. They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.
“The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands,” Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semi-retired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview following the poll. “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”
“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.”