Tea Party and the GOP: Same Voters, Same Issues, New Name

October 5, 2010, 10:37 am | Posted by

Public Religion Research Institute released new survey data today containing numerous findings about the Tea Party and Christian conservatives, including the degree of convergence between the two:


Findings from the full poll report:

  • Nearly half (47%) of self-identified Tea Party supporters are also Christian conservatives, and 36% are white evangelicals. An even greater share of Tea Party supporters identify as Republican partisans – 76% identify with or lean toward the Republican party. (p.4, 9)
  • Conversely, only 23% of self-identified Christian conservatives, and 28% of white Christian conservatives, said they support the Tea Party. (p. 11)
  • Twice as many Americans identify as Christian conservatives than as Tea Party supporters (22% to 11% of the adult population). (p. 4)
  • Regardless of religious affiliation, Tea Party supporters are socially conservative rather than libertarian: 63% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and only 18% say gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. (p. 4)

These findings confirm my suspicion that the Tea Party isn’t all that distinct from the Republican base. “They don’t differ much from the Republican Party’s religious profile,” said PRRI CEO Dr. Robert Jones today, speaking at a panel discussion of the findings at the Brookings Institute. We’ll be pulling out other interesting findings here at Bold Faith Type today. Check back later for more posts, including additional charts!

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Have you had your fact-check break today?

October 1, 2010, 11:53 am | Posted by

When I saw the Wall Street Journal’s report yesterday morning that McDonald’s planned to drop health coverage of 30,000 employees because of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that plans spend 80 to 85 percent of premiums on health care costs, the first question that came to my mind was “is this true?” After a few moments of investigation I saw that the answer was “no.” Both the Department of Health and Human Services and – notably – a senior McDonald’s executive categorically refuted the story. From Politico Pulse:

Steve Russell, senior vice president and chief people officer McDonald’s USA, responds in a statement: “Media reports stating that we plan to drop health care coverage for our employees are completely false. These reports are purely speculative and misleading.” [h/t The Wonk Room]

The second question that came to my mind was “will those who fought tooth and nail to stop extension of quality, affordable health coverage to 30,000,000 uninsured people pounce on this story anyway?” The answer was “yes.” Over at The Cloak Room blog, Family Research Council Vice President Tom McClusky cited the discredited story as evidence in their ongoing effort to undermine the landmark law, writing, “Today we learn of one new company that the Democrats’ new health care law is hurting, workers making close to minimum wage at McDonald’s.” More than 24 hours later, they have not updated their report. When it comes to accurate commentary on health reform, FRC isn’t “lovin’ it.”

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Jesus Isn’t Enough?

September 30, 2010, 1:44 pm | Posted by

Earlier this week, Dan highlighted President Obama’s discussion of religion at a “backyard conversation” in New Mexico. His heartfelt confession of a deeply personal faith in Jesus Christ was the kind of testimony one would expect to connect with evangelical Christians–and put to rest questions about his faith.

As Kyle at Right Wing Watch notes, this hasn’t stopped Christian right leaders who are doing their best to justify continued attacks on the President’s faith. Tony Perkins, fresh off claiming Obama is “advancing the idea of the Islamic religion,” reacts by explaining that though he “may be a Christian,” it doesn’t really count:

He told the crowd in New Mexico that his “public service” is an “effort to express his Christian faith.” If so, then he has a vastly different understanding of biblical truth than I do.

For Perkins, who has a lengthy record of marrying Christianity to political conservatism, political and religious disagreements are inextricable. There’s no room for Christians across the political spectrum to disagree on the practical application of their faith because there’s only one Christian answer (Hint: It’s Perkins’s).

This logic gives Perkins a double-edged sword. When he wants to discredit his opponents’ faith, he does so under the guise of basic policy disagreements, and when he wants to attack their policies he speaks with the moral authority of a pastor. Conveniently, when others criticize his political positions, he cries foul and alleges religious discrimination.

It’s obviously too much to expect Perkins to cut it out, but it’d be nice if national news networks started treating him as a partisan operative instead of a religious leader.

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Pope Benedict XVI: A Tea Party Catholic?

September 29, 2010, 10:18 am | Posted by

As David Gibson at Politics Daily noted recently, some conservative Catholics are trying to use Catholic teaching to endorse the Tea Party.

“The pope and the tea party – these are not unrelated things. They shouldn’t be, anyway,” writes Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online. Lopez develops her position at HeadlineBistro.com, a Catholic site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus:

The tea party movement . . . isn’t an explicitly religious movement, by any strength. But if you talk to people who show up to the rallies, if you listen to some of the candidates who have showed up to run for office this year — to serve — it’s hard to escape this is a cultural movement of people who feel called to something greater than themselves. They dare to hope, to believe that we can be better than we have been. Of course, they dare to hope that we can be better when it comes to government spending, better when it comes to seriousness about homeland security, better when it comes to making people freer to make choices that are best for their families, and so on.

Lopez specifically touts Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio and House GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, both Catholics and Tea Party heroes, as “among those who give a most compelling voice to people’s fears about the future of the American idea, the experiment that Pope Benedict spoke with respect and admiration of when he came here to visit” in April 2008.

Making a connection between Tea Party principles and the words of Pope Benedict XVI is a stunning distortion of Catholic teaching about government. Catholic teaching is unequivocal about the essential role government has in serving the common good and warns about the dangers of markets that fail to protect human dignity. In fact, the pope’s latest encyclical calls for a fundamental rethinking of economic systems that solely benefit multinational corporations at the expense of citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable. Lopez also might want to dust off her Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

The responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the State, since the common good is the reason the political authority exists. The state, in fact, must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression…The individual person, the family or intermediate groups are not able to achieve their full development by themselves for living a truly human life…To ensure the common good, the government of each country has the specific duty to harmonize the different sectoral interests with the requirements of justice.

Sure doesn’t sound like a bold endorsement of Tea Party ideology or the warmed-over talking points about small government found in the Pledge to America.

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Obama: “Christian by Choice”

September 28, 2010, 5:55 pm | Posted by

At a “backyard conversation” with voters in New Mexico today, President Obama was asked a simple yet attention-getting question: “why are you a Christian?” Watch it:

President Obama made a very clear and personal confession of his Christian faith, describing the “humility” he feels as a sinful, flawed human being from “Jesus Christ dying for my sins.”

After reading several articles about the exchange, the emerging meme is that the question highlighted the President’s continuing difficulty getting across that he’s a Christian (despite his clear remarks on this topic in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). Commentators raising this should also note two things: 1) the question wasn’t “are you a Christian,” it was “why are you a Christian?” and 2) the reason for lingering confusion is a years-long disinformation campaign by right-wing pundits and demagogues.

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