If you thought the Tea Party was a product of GOP masterminds or the Great Recession, think again.
In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, big-name political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell examine the origins of the Tea Party movement.
Turns out, it is basically just the latest iteration of the Christian Right.
According to Putnam and Campbell, next to being a Republican, the best predictor of a Tea Partier was the desire to see more religion in politics:
“Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”
As Putnam and Campbell point out, the religious inclination of the movement explains why disapproval of the Tea Party is actually on the rise — even as Americans have grown slightly more fiscally conservative as a whole, they have become more opposed to mixing God and politics.
A recent NYT/CBS poll revealed that 40% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party, compared to just 18% in April 2010. Meanwhile, Tea Party supporters have slipped from 21% to 20% in the same period. The Tea Party ranks lower than Republicans, Democrats, “Muslims,” and “atheists.” The only group with the same degree of unpopularity is the Christian Right.
This indicates that 2012 GOP presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann will have to walk a fine line to win the hearts of the party’s all-important evangelical primary voters, while assuring the broader conservative base that their real focus is on shrinking the size and spending of the federal government.