Tea Partiers: They're Just Like Us!

Gallup released it's latest research into the demographics of tea-party supporters this morning, and some of the results are a little surprising. For all the talk of tea partiers being older and whiter than the rest of the country, Gallup's findings show that the demographics of tea-party supporters largely align with the rest of the country on several socioeconomic categories. The 28 percent of Americans who identified themselves as tea-party supporters do tend to be whiter, but not older. And on most things, they reflect American culture more broadly.

There are of course a couple of exceptions. Predictably, tea-party supporters are significantly more conservative than the rest of the country. Only 8 percent of Democrats say they support the tea party, even though Dems make up 32 percent of the adult population. Men are more heavily represented than women. And tea partiers also tend not to be in lower income brackets: 55 percent earn more than $50,000 each year, compared with 50 percent for the rest of the country.

But on a range of other measures, tea partiers track the rest of the country. Their educations levels mirror the rest of the country, as do their employment statuses. Around 24 percent of tea partiers are retired, compared with 23 percent of all Americans.

The race figures are pretty interesting. Around 79 percent identify as non-Hispanic white (75 percent of the rest of the country) and only 6 percent identify as non-Hispanic black (11 percent in the rest of the country.) But for the other category, which presumable indicates Hispanic, Asian, and other backgrounds, the numbers are identical: 15 percent.

It's hard to divine a weighty political lesson from these numbers. Gallup just asked if people supported the tea party, so it's unclear how many of these folks are active in the movement, or whether they deeply agree with the principles held by hard-core tea-party supporters. We don't know if these supporters would vote for a tea-party candidate. Also, 38 percent of people told Gallup they had no opinion of the movement. Moreover, the numbers don't tell us about their regional representation, which is critical to understanding the political implications of the movement. That said, at a basic level the data shows that anger at mainstream politicians and the federal government permeates all walks of American life. And that's something that should worry both parties.