Tea Partiers Care More About Godlier Government Than Smaller Government

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One of our more colorful tea partiers. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

In 2006, long before costume shops first began selling tri-corner hats to early adopters of the tea party movement, professors David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam "interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans" about their "political attitudes." By re-interviewing many of the same people this summer, they were able to determine what type of person eventually became a tea partier. Some of what they found is about as shocking as an episode of Full House: Current tea-party supporters were likely to have been "highly partisan Republicans," and "even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president." One finding that is actually revealing, though:


Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

It's no coincidence that Rick "I'll Have God Fix All of Our Problems" Perry and Michele "I'll Have God Pick My Campaign Staff" Bachmann combined captured 60 percent of the tea party movement's support in the latest GOP primary poll. Of course, "more God" and "less government" are hardly mutually exclusive — in fact, some tea partiers, like Jim DeMint, see them as one in the same. Whoa, wait, we just had a thought: Would it be possible for God to make a government so small that even he couldn't fit inside of it? Sorry for blowing your minds.

Crashing the Tea Party [NYT]
Related: The Rise of the Budget Fundamentalists

This post has been updated from an earlier version.