October 24, 2013

Tea Party Republicans have a love-hate relationship with government

Tea Party Republicans’ overwhelmingly negative views of the federal government have been well documented. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 55% of Tea Party Republicans said they were angry at the government generally, about double the percentage as among non-Tea Party Republicans and Democrats.

FT_13.10.24_teaParty (1)But Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party like some federal agencies as much as Democrats do. In fact, two-thirds or more viewed four federal agencies or departments favorably – the Department of Defense (75% favorable), the Centers for Disease Control (72%), NASA (70%), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (67%) – we asked about it under its former name, the Veterans Administration. For all four, there were virtually no differences in the opinions of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party, those who do not and Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Yet Tea Party Republicans also gave very low positive ratings to many other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, which came under fire earlier this year for targeting conservative groups (just 15% favorable), the Environmental Protection Agency (22%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (26%), which is facing criticism for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Non-Tea Party Republicans, by contrast, had favorable views for most agencies, with the notable exception of the IRS (just 32% favorable). For Democrats, there was only a 20-point gap between the top rated agency (CDC at 79%) and the lowest rated agency (NSA at 59%). For Tea Party Republicans, the gap between highest (Defense Department at 75%) and lowest (IRS at 15%) was 60 points.

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Federal Government

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Dallas Dude3 years ago

    The EPA was a Nixon creation and now they detest their own creation? There is also a Medicare Part D which Bush Jr is proud of.

  2. Steve4 years ago

    My neighbor is a Tea Party Neo Conservative. He is a white working class guy who operates heavy equipment in highway construction projects.

    The irony is that he benefits greatly from numerous Liberal programs. In New York, he receives “Prevailing Wage Rate” on government projects, which provides much higher pay than he might normally make. He is covered by workers compensation and he often is out of work during the winter on unemployment benefits.

    He is supported by the taxpayers for four months a year, but complains about big government and “welfare bums”.

  3. chris4 years ago

    Steven Swain:I don’t think these Tea Party don’t like diversity of any kind. They see the government in a way that non-whites don’t. Non-white usually like more government than whites that’s why they vote for Democrats.

    Howard: The reason the Republlicans link up with the Tea Partiers is because they are in their party and if they don’t follow the Tea Partier’s lead they will get primaried by a Tea Partier. That’s why you have McConnell, Graham, and Alexander are getting primary challenges right now.
    No Gerrymandering has been going on for decades the Dems did it in the 1970’s and 1980’s to keep the US House it really wasn’t meant to benefit Tea Party Republicans over Establishment Republicans.
    These were cabinet departments that were surveyed not government programs like food stamps or corporate welfare or subsidy.
    I don’t think the Tea Party believe all of the Koch Brothers motives either or supposed motives.

  4. Go sox4 years ago

    They don’t know what CDC stands for, it’s that simple. I’ll also bet they thought FDA was FAA.

    The results make absolutely more sense now don’t they?

  5. Howard roark4 years ago

    So if this is true, and dems and pubs are more closely linked than pubs and tea party, why do we have teh HAstert rule and why do the pubs link to tea party rather than centrist dems? It appears that there is more in common in Congress on budget matters and tax policy if it were not for Grover Nordquist and the tea party and a decent budget and tax policy could move forward if belief and fear did not rule rationale thought. Did the pubs gerrymander create their own suicide rather than kill the dems?

  6. Stan4 years ago

    It should be clear to everyone, that the government has grown to unmanageable proportions, requiring vastly more money to operate than taxes can recover. It needs more than $120,000,000,000,000 to cover all of it’s promises (you can tax everyone in the entire world 100% and would not have enough). This has happened because the people we elect only care about buying their elections with their promises because this is the easy way to their desired result. At the federal level our elected officials should only be focused on keeping our nation protected from invasion and promoting commerce. If the other agencies must exist they should at least be periodically scaled back as time promotes gluttonous growth in which waste of tax payer money abounds. Further the existence of these agencies, especially those that regulate businesses, are creating so many regulations it is often impossible for companies to be sure they are complying, and doing so is raising the cost of their products or services to the point of losing business to companies that exist in a less suffocating environment. The overwhelming burden of regulation also prohibits the start up of new businesses due to the compliance costs. All of this amounts to less tax revenue for the government, exactly the opposite of what is needed.

    The TEA party members realize the federal government has become the very tyrannous leviathan that the founders of the nation were being so careful to avoid. We were to have just enough government to ensure our continued existence and provide an environment for the prosperity of the citizens. Let Freedom reign, not our elected officials!

    1. ahoy polloi4 years ago

      The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and ****general Welfare of the United States****

      Looks like the Founders disagree with you.

    2. Howard roark4 years ago

      I could buy this if in any of their rhetoric, and I mean any, I saw one mention of corporate welfare, corporate subsidy, farm bill (other than food stamps). I hear these over regulations of business and making things difficult for companies, but most companies are experiencing record profits and doing fairly well as is the stock market. I see no railing against drug company give aways in government policies that increase the cost of every medicine, where inhalers that go for $25 abroad cost $250 here. I think the tea party has believed the Koch Brothers and other corporate sponsors of the tea party to act in their own self harm in th ebelief of these “values” and “beliefs” that help these greedy people. Going totally left is not the answer and gov needs to shrink some, but not as the tea party leaders are getting the memebers to agree to.

      1. C4LCNCPLS4 years ago

        Most Tea party type people have no idea where the Kock Brothers stand on issues. They don’t even know what their business holdings might be. Most Tea party people see the country as heading for tyranny. Tea Party people are not friends to business or government. They want small government. No special interest in Washington and to break the love affair of government and business.

    3. Steve Cunningham4 years ago

      Requiring much more money than those who own the Congress are willing to pay, you mean. I believe that many of us are undertaxed, often severely so. I am retired on a fixed income, but I would be willing to pay more taxes to have safer food, safer transportation, better roads, and a better environment.

    4. Robbie Loucks4 years ago


      You lost all credibility there, bro.

  7. Stephen Swain4 years ago

    It occurs to me that these Tea Party people just generally despise the idea that government should do anything that benefits people who are different than they, politically, culturally, ethnically or in any other way. I do not know what the demographics would look like for these people, but I suspect they are mostly white, mostly in the south and in the rust belt, they either are or were pretty comfortably middle-upper middle class, and that their worldview was hatched during the Leave It To Beaver era, when Eisenhower was president.

    These are not people who appear to be at all comfortable with diversity of any kind. They are very fearful of change of any kind, and they are actively resentful toward the rest of the nation’s people for “threatening” their way of life.

    It’s hard to have a reasoned conversation with these folks, in general. That’s a pity because they are going to have to adjust, just as the rest of us are having to do. All this resentment and foot-dragging only makes the process more painful, time-consuming, expensive and destabilizing. What a pity!

    1. Felix4 years ago

      Excellent comment, thanks!

    2. Thomas R4 years ago

      It’s not an especially original observation and doesn’t even seem to fit the study. (The Federal Reserve and the Department of Homeland Security disproportionately helps minorities? Okay maybe, but how?)

      The study seems to indicate, to me, that they have more of a “mostly dislike” relationship to the government. Other than things involving defense and soldiers they come out noticeably lower than the other two on almost every agency. (And libertarians sometimes are okay with defense) Only exception to that looks to be the CDC. But even with the FDA, where the Tea-Party had a majority favorable, it’s a notably smaller majority.

      From my perspective it would be nice if they were fearful of change, but I think this and other things support more the idea they strongly want change or even radical change. That they distrust institutions that have been established for decades or even a century or even wish to sweep them away. That they want radical/reactionary change on a libertarian/paleo-libertarian basis. (Paleo-libertarian being more “Little House on the Prairie” type libertarianism than Ayn Rand) The Eisenhower years were an age of strong Unions, high taxes, and involvement in the internal affairs of other nations. They don’t want that I take it.

    3. OspreyDave4 years ago

      Frankly, I think their discontent goes far beyond the government alone. I live in an area where people will tell you they simply resent anyone “telling them what to do”. In fact, they look for any opportunity to use that phrase. It seems to be more an emotional reaction rather than fact-based. They often make up examples or exaggerate situations into worst-case scenarios to justify their resentment. They’re actually quite boring people to be around, because their discussions are so predictable.

    4. C4LCNCPLS4 years ago

      They come from all walks of life. From all parties. They are from all races.
      If, you had attended the Sept 2009 Tea Party Rally in DC where over 1.2 million showed up, you would have been surprised at how many Americans from all walks of life came together.

      In July 2013, I attended a Black American Leadership Alliance rally in DC to support their efforts to stop immigration reform and there were many Tea Party people who went and supported the black community in their effort to save black jobs in America. These Tea Party people were both democrats and republicans. You see in many blogs where people say the Tea Party people are racist or anti-American when in fact, that is far from the truth. You have been led to believe what the dividers want you to believe. The only way the people can fix this country is if the people come together and the elitist who control this country know they must keep the sheeple divided or, they are in big trouble.

      The elitist are succeeding but, the Tea Party will win in the long run as their ranks keep growing as government and business continually screw the American people helping to grow the Tea party movement.

  8. NatureGuy4 years ago

    What was not discussed in this article was the actual basis for the Tea Party adherents’ replies….. I suppose it would be correct to assume that, given their usual “beliefs” over actual facts, the basis for their responses has to be anchored within their religious fundamentalist beliefs.

    1. Gerry4 years ago

      I suspect that the Tea Leaf-It-To-Beaver Party actually got its start in the intense, shrieking anger over the fact that the conservative were soundly defeated in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections. Much of the corruption and abuse of American’s rights that we supposedly see in the current government really took off during the Bush administration–when the conservative hardliners were calling the shots.

      We progressives were warning folks back in the early naughtsies that the Patriot (so-called) Act was a slippery slope. The neo-cons pooh-poohed the idea. It’s laughable to hear them shrilling away about the NSA now.

    2. Thomas R4 years ago

      Unless you mean the religion of Ayn Rand I don’t think religion really explains this level of distrust of non-military government agencies.

  9. Lloyd J4 years ago

    What percentage of all Republicans consider themselves Tea Party Republicans?