Via the Monkey Cage, a study which used an interesting survey technique to assess just how wingnutty the teabaggers really are. They did a survey focusing on issues involving race and politics, especially in states where Tea Party candidates did well last November, and along the way managed to tease out some important differences between various branches of conservatism.

For instance, they found that 76% of self-identified teabaggers want President Obama’s policies to fail, compared with only 32% among conservatives not affiliated with the Tea Party. Four in ten non-teabag conservatives think the President’s policies are socialist, about half the rate among teabaggers (75%).

They also teased out an effect of interviewer’s race on how willing conservative respondents were to endorse crazier anti-Obama conspiracy theories. When a white interviewer asked if the president was born in the US, a third said no, a number which dropped to less than a quarter (a ten point shift) when the same question was asked by a non-white interviewer (with no change in the number saying they “don’t know” whether he was born in the US). Similarly, they saw a ten point shift away from conservatives’ willingness to say that President Obama is a Muslim between white and non-white interviewers (from 25% to 14%, with “don’t know” picking up the shifters). This suggests that there’s at least a subset of conspiracy-minded conservatives who recognize that these conspiracy theories are racist in nature, and they don’t want to admit those biases to a non-white interviewer.

To get around the potential unwillingness of people to admit socially embarrassing beliefs, they employed an intriguing trick. Rather than asking people straight out whether they think President Obama is destroying the country, they divided their sample into two parts, and asked both whether they agreed with any of a list of 4 or 5 statements. One group had statements that were socially innocuous, while the other group got the question about whether the President is destroying the country. By subtracting the averages, it’s possible to estimate the fraction of a given group that agrees with the added statement.

That example showed a major divide between teabaggers and non-teabag conservatives. Among teabaggers, seven in ten think the President is destroying the country, compared to only 1 in 20 non-teabag conservatives.

This gives us a couple of important lessons. First, we shouldn’t attribute these maddening claims that pollute the public discourse to conservatives in general. Second, while we can’t attribute these views to every single teabagger, we can certainly say that they are, as a group/pseudomovement, responsible for the persistence of these ideas in the discourse. And that’s handy to know.

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Jase
    March 31, 2011

    ” First, we shouldn’t attribute these maddening claims that pollute the public discourse to conservatives in general.”

    Sorry, but as long as conservatives in general continue to suck up to these atavisms & to depend on them for their core voting block I’m lumping them together.

  2. #2 Kermit
    March 31, 2011

    Jase – don’t conflate the conservative politicians with the conservative voters. Which doesn’t let the less insane conservative demographic off the hook.

    What’s the difference between “45% of non-Tea Party conservatives think Obama was not born in the US” and “45% of non-Tea Party conservatives are paranoid and delusional”?

  3. #3 Anthony McCarthy
    March 31, 2011

    think the President’s policies are socialist

    I wish.

    The Tea Party movement is a phony grass roots movement part of the Republican-right’s campaign to bring down a center-right Democratic president using the fact that he’s black to rally the irrational. I used to think they were just ignorant and believed the lies they absorbed from FOX and regurgitated them but it’s clear that they know a lot of it are lies and they don’t mind telling lies if they think it will get them what the want. Since a lot of them will be directly disadvantaged by Republican policies, it’s clear that the thing they want most is to not have a black or a Democratic president. I don’t think there’s much more to them than that, though the nuance might be useful to defeating them and their oligarchic puppet masters.

    If there was a genuinely populist movement, it would be considered ultra-leftist, Barack Obama would certainly not be in its vanguard, he’d probably be horrified by it. I’ve got a hard time imagining him calling out federal troops to enforce a desegregation order of the Supreme Court, he’s actually to the right of Eisenhower, as a number of people have said.

  4. #4 David C. Berliner
    April 1, 2011

    Ordinarily, I would suggest, “Divide and Conquer”. But giving them their Constitutional right to self-destruct works for me.

  5. #5 Laurent Weppe
    April 1, 2011

    This suggests that there’s at least a subset of conspiracy-minded conservatives who recognize that these conspiracy theories are racist in nature, and they don’t want to admit those biases to a non-white interviewer

    Reminds me when french far right activists claim that their numbers are under-apreciated by pollsters because their voters might be afraid to tell for who they vote if the person phoning has an “arabic” accent.

    They’re spineless cowards who don’t even have the guts to speak their mind unless they think the person they’re speaking to is likely to agree with them, yet they love to pretend to be fearless warriors who would guide their country to greatness if they were allowed to rule.

  6. #6 wolfwalker
    April 2, 2011

    “The Tea Party movement is a phony grass roots movement”

    As you said: you wish.

    You’ve never been to a Tea Party demonstration. All you know of it is the perverted distortions that you see on the news and read in left-wing blogs. The fact is that the Tea Party activists I know (which is a good number) wouldn’t care if Barry Lackwit was white, black, red, tan, bronze, brown, or pink with purple polka dots. His policies are stupid and counterproductive, and whether or not they’re intended to destroy the USA, that is certainly the effect they’re having. The Tea Party is against that, period, full stop, end of file. That’s really all there is to it.

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