Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics - Who are the Tea Partyers?

So I was wondering who made up the bulk of the Tea Party movement. From what I gather, it should be a lot of middle aged housewives. From what I gather, the Tea Party members are religious fundamentalist, socially conservative, fiscally all over the place, and dumb uneducated. Most of these aspects tend to be proxy's for female middle aged votes, but to my surprise it appears from the only Gallup poll I found that the members tend to be quite average, but a bit older and more males. So what gives?

There's a lot of stuff to know about statistics in general and questionnaires in particular. Any statistician must take care in designing the study to avoid that horrible word in statistics which screws everything up: Bias.

There are many sources of bias and equally many ways of dealing with it. Unfortunately, there are two things which statistics can't correct for:

-People lie

-People are dumb


I think the Gallup poll suffer from these issues since the questions were asked over the phone.

Problem 1: Who picks up the phone? I would assume in religious fundamentalist families it's the man of the house. Presto bingo, more males. It's possible they corrected for this, they often do, but did they in this one?

Problem 2: People lie about their age. It's endemic and almost hopeless to correct for, since noone wants to be old. Hopefully the question asked is "What age will you turn this year?", but I don't know.

Problem 3: People lie about their income.. oh boy do people lie about their income. I know Gallup corrcts for this, but I don't know how accurate it is. Gallup probably doesn't know how accurate their corrections are. Do the Tea Partiers have a higher income, or are they just lying? They are Christians, so they know it will be forgiven in heaven.. ;)

Problem 4: People lie about education or are too dumb to know what qualifies as education. Since the Tea Party members quite often support creationism it would not come as a bomb shell if they lied about their credentials, just like many of those who promulgate creationism have done. Bible School or 3 hour "lecture" from a preacher is not the same as 'Some College', and neither does diploma mill businesses granting 'Independent Studies' degrees qualify as 'College grad'.

Problem 5: How many women would self-report as 'Homemaker', even if they are one? Some might think a bit of odd jobs fall in under 'Part-time Employed'. It doesn't, of course, in the same way that anything less than a 40 hour work week is not the same as 'Full-time Employed'.


I could go on, but I'll leave it at that for now. I'm still wondering who the hell supports this lunacy and I still doubt the majority are white, middle aged men with higher than annual income. Call it my gut educated opinion; I don't trust Tea Partyers to tell the truth.

Views: 348

Comment by atheistrising on September 4, 2011 at 5:58pm

its sad that so many in the country support them. I think people are just angry and just want instant results. They want the economy turned around quick. They dont realize the economy is here because of the mindless tax cutting republicans keep doing. Tax cuts are a form of bribery. Telling people we will cut taxes and everything will be alright does not make any sense. If the government does not have money to build infrastructure, schools, who will do it?

Comment by Alejandro M on September 4, 2011 at 9:53pm

Arcus, you may have some of the religious "vices" in your post: namely, disregarding evidence or trying to suit your preconceived ideas.


The truth (as supported by evidence) is that there is no religious skewing in the Tea Party allegiance (as in, no different than the average american). As stated before - of course there will be religious nutjobs in this group - but as many as the average American.


This is, of course, uncomfortable for the liberal atheist, who by labeling them "religious nutjobs" as a group, can then dismiss their ideas en masse. But knowing that this group is just a normal subsegment in the population is more disturbing (or fantastic, according to what your views are): it means that more and more people are getting tired of government spending, regardless of the party affiliations. 


Repeat after me: what was brought about by excess government spending and regulations cannot be solved by more spending and regulations. This is the core belief of the Tea Party, and the only one which crosses the whole of the "Party".


This is why the next Republican nominee will be a fiscal conservative (finally!) and when the Republicans win in 2012, the long, hard way back from the brink for America will finally start. And I, even though an atheist and daresay it an antitheist, say Amen to that!

Comment by Doug Reardon on September 4, 2011 at 10:05pm

Ah yes, the rich and the corporations will save us once again! 

Comment by Jim Minion on September 4, 2011 at 11:31pm

It looks as if the Koch brothers are pouring money into the Tea Party, not a good sign.

Comment by Albert Bakker on September 5, 2011 at 12:57am

I'm not at all surprised at those numbers. Only slightly about the income/ employment/ education figures, but they're hardly noticeable off average. It's about the same phenomenon in Europe with the extreme right and the infatuation with "strong leadership" who "speak the language of the people." If only they would have all power, and no interference or derailment of plans from devious opposition "who only serve the elites" everything would turn out right again and would be wonderful for ever and ever.

Alejandro is right, they're mainstream and it truly is extremely disturbing.

Comment by Arcus on September 5, 2011 at 2:46am


"namely, disregarding evidence or trying to suit your preconceived ideas."

Not disregarding it (I even mention it..), just analyzing the one piece I could find which carries some weight. I would like to see such numbers reproduced using different means of statistics, such as exit polls and indepth interviews.

"The truth (as supported by evidence) is that there is no religious skewing in the Tea Party allegiance (as in, no different than the average american)"

From the study above it was noted that they tend to be above average conservative. Their political platform is strongly socially conservative, if not reactionary, which is aligned with that of funtamentalists. 

"This is why the next Republican nominee will be a fiscal conservative (finally!"

Like Dubya..? I strongly doubt a Tea Party POTUS would be any different as it is virtually impossible to cut too many places. They might say they are fiscally conservative, but with no cuts in major posts, or with cuts that costs more than they bring in, the effect will not be fiscally conservative.


"It's about the same phenomenon in Europe with the extreme right and the infatuation with "strong leadership" who "speak the language of the people.""

The extreme right in Europe tends to be mostly violent anti-immigrant bootboys and neonazis. Men tend to be the most anti-immigrant since they don't want foreigners to come to "their" country and steal "their" women and jobs. That particular phenomenon is less of an issue in the US. However, the established far right in Europe, comparable to the Tea Party, are very far from fiscally conservative and generally only wants to do away with gasoline taxes and property taxes while shutting down (the already) shut down borders. Like the Tea Party, they are mostly populists, but unlike the TP, they have more female than male votes, even though their political leanings correlate.

So that's why I wondered: What gives? Is it something completely new and unheard of anywhere else in the world, or is just an issue with statistics? My gut feeling is that the issue is the statistics, not the weight of comparable history. 

Comment by Unseen on September 5, 2011 at 2:51am

According to a recent NY Times article, quoting recent polling, the Tea Party is very unpopular with the mainstream. They are even less popular with John Q. Dumbo than Muslims and atheists. Hey...that's US!!!

Comment by Jimmy Boy on September 5, 2011 at 8:20am

Repeat after me: what was brought about by excess government spending and regulations cannot be solved by more spending and regulations. This is the core belief of the Tea Party, and the only one which crosses the whole of the "Party".

There are plenty of alternative views on what has caused the current economic crisis of course.  Another is that the absolute free reign of market economics has created such a massive concentration of power (political in particular) that the whole system seems skewed against balance, innovation and grass roots opportunity - while maintaining the superficial hallmarks of the opposite.

Electing a fiscal conservative is likely to a) legitimise and confirm permanently the huge amounts of money made by the very wealthy from rank speculation over the past 20 years - and the processes by which they did so; and b) hurt the middle class and poorest massively.

Is this the only way to achieve what is needed?  I wonder what the policy objectives really should be and what are acceptable levels of damage?

So I would agree that there is a real problem with dependency and a lack of entrepreneurship.  But there is also a problem with a lack of opportunity, with perceptions of unfairness (closely linked to perceptions of lack of opportunity) and the like which fiscal conservatism seems pretty unlikely to address other than to make them worse.  What would their priorities be for limited public spending for eg? Would it still be military hardware, which seems rather to be an agenda for making them and their clan very wealthy?

It would be interesting to see some research of correlations between various approaches to fiscal structuring and human happiness say.

Comment by Arcus on September 5, 2011 at 12:52pm

@Adrienne: No insult intended, but it's a law of political gravity that females with children tend to be more socially conservative and less into fiscal politics. In addition, many of these females are Christian fundamentalists which believe they should be subjugated their man's will. There is no coincidence that the last 30 years of right wing dominance across the Western world came a decade or two after women's lib really started taking hold. Just like men are threatened by new developments, women also feel their traditional role coming under attack.

Not all women are liberal or feminists...

Comment by Becca on September 5, 2011 at 1:05pm

Why on earth would you think that middle aged housewives make up the bulk of the tea party? The scariest things about the tea party has always been that the demographics of the tea party are rather average. Somehow these nut-jobs are convincing 'normal' people to vote for them and against their best interests. (Anecdotally the majority of middle ages housewives I know are 'liberal' and know a lot about current politics and realize that the tea party is not going to help their family.)


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