Study reveals cultural characteristics of the Tea Party movement

August 22, 2011

American voters sympathetic to the Tea Party movement reflect four primary cultural and political beliefs more than other voters do: authoritarianism, libertarianism, fear of change, and negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration, according to new research to be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“Our findings show that the Tea Party movement can best be understood as a new cultural expression of late 20th century conservatism,” said Andrew J. Perrin, an associate professor of sociology in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, and lead author of the study, “Cultures of the Tea Party.”

Findings are based on two telephone polls of registered voters in North Carolina and Tennessee (conducted May 30-June 3, 2010 and Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2010), and a set of interviews and observations at a Tea Party movement rally in Washington, N.C. Nearly half of poll respondents (46 percent) felt favorably toward the Tea Party movement.

Researchers found that respondents who felt positively toward the Tea Party movement held the following primary cultural and political dispositions more often than other voters did:

  • Authoritarianism: respondents believe that obedience by children is more important than creativity, and that deference to authority is an important value.
  • Libertarianism: respondents believe there should not be regulations or limitations on expressions such as clothing, television shows, and musical lyrics.
  • Fear of change/ontological insecurity: respondents sense that things are changing too fast or too much.
  • Nativism: respondents hold negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration.
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Study co-authors are: Steven J. Tepper, an associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University; Neal Caren, an assistant professor of sociology at UNC, and Sally Morris, a doctoral student in sociology at UNC.

About the American Sociological Association

The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.

The paper, “Cultures of the Tea Party,” will be presented on Monday, Aug. 22, at 2:30 p.m. PDT in Caesars Palace Las Vegas, at the American Sociological Association’s 106th Annual Meeting.

To obtain a copy of the paper; for more information on other ASA presentations; or for assistance reaching the study’s authors, members of the media can contact Daniel Fowler at pubinfo@asanet.org or (202) 527-7885. During the Annual Meeting (Aug. 20-23), ASA’s Public Information Office staff can be reached in the press room, located in the Sorrento Room of Caesars Palace, at (702) 866-1916 or (914) 450-4557 (cell).

For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Dee Reid, Director of Communications, UNC College of Arts and Sciences, at deereid@unc.edu or (919) 843-6339.

Contact: Daniel Fowler
pubinfo@asanet.org
202-527-7885
American Sociological Association


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