A CNN/ORC International Poll released Thursday indicates a divide in the GOP over the movement that emerged during the 2010 elections, with differences in demographics, ideology and temperament on everything from the deficit and Social Security to gay marriage and the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education.
"Demographically, the Tea Party movement seems to hearken back to the 'angry white men' who were credited with the GOP's upset victory in the 1994 midterm elections," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Ideologically, it effectively boils down to the century-old contest between the conservative and moderate wings of the party."
About 49 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said they support the Tea Party, while 51 percent said they either oppose the movement or have no feelings about it.
"Tea Party Republicans are more likely to be male, older and college educated, with non-Tea Party Republicans more likely to be younger, less educated, female and less likely to say they are born-again or evangelical. Both groups are predominantly white," CNN said. Half of self-identified Tea Party Republicans say they are "very angry" compared with only 29 percent of Republicans who don't associate themselves with the movement.
"One of the biggest differences is on the relative importance of jobs versus the federal deficit. Most Tea Party Republicans say that Congress and President Barack Obama should pay more attention to the deficit," Holland said. "Most non-Tea Party Republicans say that reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the deficit."
Science and social issues also prove divisive among Republicans, with nearly 60 percent of Tea Party GOPers saying global warming is unproven. Most non-Tea Party Republicans disagree.
"Tea party Republicans are roughly twice as likely to say that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and roughly half as likely to support gay marriage. Tea party Republicans are also roughly twice as likely to believe that the Social Security system should be replaced, and although most Republicans on either side disagree with the assertion that Social Security is a lie and a failure, Tea Party GOPers are much more likely to embrace that view," CNN said.
The poll, conducted for CNN by ORC International Sept. 9-11, surveyed 446 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP. The overall sampling error is 4.5 percentage points.
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