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Tea party more religious than U.S., less than conservative Christians

October 19, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Americans who identify with the “tea party” are more religious than the general population, but are less religious than conservative Christians, according to a new American Values poll.

The survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 11 percent of Americans say they are part of the amorphous tea party movement, compared to 22 percent of Americans who identify as Christian conservatives.

Nearly half (47 percent) of those who claim the tea party label also consider themselves Christian conservatives or part of the religious right, according to the survey.

White evangelicals make up more than one-third of the tea party movement, more than double the size of the second-largest groups, mainline Protestants and Catholics (14 percent each). A full 70 percent of the movement are white Christians.

The report said the religious profile of the tea party “differs only modestly” from the religious make-up of the Republican Party.

On three levels of religious engagement — literal views of the Bible, weekly church attendance and rating religion as the “most important” thing in life — tea partiers were more religious than Americans as a whole, but less than conservative Christians:

  • Literal views of the Bible: tea party 47 percent, Christian conservatives 64 percent, Americans overall 33 percent.
  • Weekly church attendance: tea party 46 percent, Christian conservatives 64 percent, Americans overall 36 percent.
  • Religion as most important: tea party 27 percent, Christian conservatives 39 percent, Americans overall 20 percent.

In other findings, while three-quarters of Americans said a candidate's religious beliefs would have no impact on their voting choices, nearly a third of evangelicals said they would be less inclined to vote for a candidate who holds different religious beliefs.

The survey of 3,013 U.S. adults has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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