More on Tea Parties and the Jews: new survey data complicates things

My story this week on Jewish Republicans and the Tea Parties is generating a lot of talk. And some of it is about stuff I missed, or didn’t get to because of space.

A number of correspondents challenged the claim by Tea Party activists that this is all about fiscal responsibility, not at all about the “values agenda” issues that have traditionally made most Jewish voters nervous.

A new poll supports their contention; according to the Public Religion Research institute, rank-and-file Tea Partiers are pretty much indistinguishable from the Christian right core constituency.

Almost half – 47 percent – of the Tea Party supporters surveyed- said they are “part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement,” and most said “they are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues.”

The survey directly challenges the conventional wisdom that this is “distinct from previous conservative movements like the Christian Right.”

The survey also refutes the idea this is entirely an outsiders movement; Tea Partiers “are largely Republican partisans,” according to the data.

This reminds me of something I had to leave out of my story for space reasons (curses on those editors and their “delete” keys).

Some political scientists argue that the Tea Party phenomenon, far from being an insurgency of political outsiders, is really just a new way of packaging Republican candidates for a time when the economy is a wreck and anger at government is running at flood tide.

“The anger in the Tea Party movement is not about the economy; that’s just the image they want,” said University of Florida political scientist Kenneth Wald. “This is essentially the same population that spent eight years demonizing Bill Clinton; it’s the the part of the Republican Party that denies the legitimacy of the entire Democratic Party and claim that only Republicans are legitimate to govern. It’s a manipulation to serve Republican partisan ends.”

Some Tea Parties are genuinely upset with some Republican politicians, he said, “but the money and direction are coming from right-wing corporate interests.”

True? I’m not sure; I’ve talked to Tea Partiers who sound like died-in-the-wool Republicans and Tea Partiers who seem to have contempt for the GOP establishment. I DO know a lot of Jewish Republicans are worried about what all this means for their efforts to lure more Jewish voters over to their side of the aisle.

Oh yes, one more thing about the Tea Party movement: for all the attention it gets and noise it makes, “Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement make up just 11 percent of the adult population – half the size of the Conservative Christian movement (22 percent).”

Obviously, we’re going to have to wait to see how this complex political dynamic plays out.

The poll also included these interesting tidbits: support for same-sex marriage is on the RISE, up 8 points from 2008. And “nearly 6 in 10 (58 percent) of Americans favor a policy that provides a future path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for several years.”

How, exactly, does this square with the rise of the Tea Parties? Stay tuned.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.