The New York Times takes a deep dive into the lives and minds of Tea Party members in an interesting poll out this afternoon.
Tea party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, tend to be Republican, white, male, and married, and their strong opposition to the Obama administration is more rooted in political ideology than anxiety about their personal economic situation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll...
In some ways, Tea Party supporters look like the general public. For instance, despite their allusions to Revolutionary War-era tax protesters, most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools, do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost. They are actually more likely than the general public to have returned their census forms, despite some conservative leaders urging a boycott.
Their fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.
I'm sure the "wealthier and more well-educated" finding is correct, but it's definitely not the impression I got from the subset of Tea Partiers I met in Yakima over the weekend. For those folks, being angry at programs that help the poor more than they help the middle class and the wealthy seems, well, rather self-defeating.
Meanwhile, this finding seems like a delicate way of saying what Frank Rich and others have said far more directly: many in the Tea Party are motivated by feelings of racial anxiety (or, more bluntly, racism).
The overwhelming majority of Tea Party supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by, and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent, compared with 11 percent of the general public, think that the administration favors blacks over whites. They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.