A survey of registered voters in Tennessee and North Carolina gives some insight into what makes Tea Party supporters different from most Republicans. The conclusion is – not much.
Sociologists from Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill talked to 2,500 registered voters. They did find a more libertarian streak to those who identify themselves as Tea Partiers. For example, 24 percent believed there should be fewer rules about what can be posted on the Internet, compared with 16 percent of non-Tea Party supporters.
Otherwise, Vanderbilt sociologist Stephen Tepper says the Tea Party movement has just been a slight “realignment” of the Republican Party. Still he says their noisy tax day protests in Revolutionary War regalia have been good for the political process.
“It’s gotten everybody on both sides engaged in trying to debate the role of government, so in many ways from a democratic point of view, the more tea parties the better.”
Tepper’s counterpart at UNC, Andrew Perrin, says Tea Party views aren’t new. What’s new, he says, is tying present day political discontent to the “symbolic memory of 18th century America.”