Last year, I wrote a piece for the Daily Caller suggesting that libertarians and economic conservatives would be unwise to align with the Tea Party. My point was that what underlines the Tea Party movement is social conservatism.
In short, the Tea Party isn’t a movement full of supporters of gay marriage, immigration reform, etc, I suggested.
Last weekend, academics David Campbell and Robert Putnam disclosed in the New York Times some of their long-running research into national political attitudes. They used interviews with 3000 people going back to 2006 to identify the type joining the Tea Party. Their research enabled them to “look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later.”
And what did they find? Their analysis cast doubt on the idea that the movement was fueled by “nonpartisan political neophytes”. In fact, Tea Party supporters were highly partisan Republicans. ”More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. 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.”
The academics conclude: “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.”