Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

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.

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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.