In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Study: Tea Party Members Cultural Dispositions 'Authoritarianism, Fear Of Change, Libertarianism And Nativism'


"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," a statement accompanying the report reads, as the findings themselves point out a few disconnects between the what self-described members of the Tea Party say and their actual policy stances.

The report quotes one Tea Party activist as saying, "We don't want the big government that's taking over everything we worked so hard for...the government's becoming too powerful... we want to take back what our Constitution said. You read the Constitution. Those values - that's what we stand for," but that sentiment is not reflected in the polling data from the surveys. From the report:

In our follow-up poll, 84% of those positive towards the TPM [Tea Party members] said the Constitution should be interpreted "as the Founders intended," compared to only 34% of other respondents. Other respondents were also three times more likely not to have an opinion on the issue, highlighting the salience of the question for TPM supporters. Support for Constitutional principles is not absolute. TPM supporters were twice as likely than others to favor a constitutional amendment banning flag burning; many also support efforts to overturn citizenship as defined by the Fourteenth Amendment. That TPM supporters simultaneously want to honor the founders' Constitution and alter that same document highlights the political flexibility of the cultural symbols they draw on.

The TPM supporters' inconsistent views of the Constitution suggests that their nostalgic embrace of the document is animated more by a network of cultural associations than a thorough commitment to the original text. In fact, such inconsistencies around policy, whether on the right or left, highlight what many sociologists see as the growing importance of culture in political life. The Constitution - and Tea Party more generally - take on heightened symbolic value and come to represent a 'way of life' or a "world view" rather than a specific set of laws or policy positions.

Read the whole study here.

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