Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The tea party's social conservatism

In a previous post, I tried to convey that self-described tea party members are essentially uber conservative (in the contemporary American political context) rather than being decidedly libertarian in their emphasis. I didn't articulate the point too well, because, well, verbal articulation isn't my forte. So let's turn to the Arizona exit poll results for some clarification.

The following table shows how Rick Santorum (the least libertarian and most socially conservative of the Republican contenders) and Ron Paul (clearly the GOP's most libertarian candidate) fared among voters who support, are neutral towards, and oppose the tea party:

Tea PartySantorumPaul
Support31%6%
Neutral19%10%
Oppose6%19%

For simplicity, Gingrich's and Romney's results are not shown (they're more consistent than Santorum and Paul are, with tea partiers showing a relatively gentle preference for Gingrich and against Romney). Tea party supporters were five times more likely to support Santorum than they were to support Paul, while those opposed to the tea party backed Paul over Santorum by a three-to-one margin.

If the tea party was primarily driven by libertarian concerns, I'd expect relative support among members to flow as follows, from most to least: Paul, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum. In fact, here it flows in exactly the opposite direction, with the most socially conservative candidate getting the greatest amount of tea party support relative to support from the rest of the Republican electorate while the least socially conservative candidate is received more coldly by tea partiers than he is by non-tea party Republican primary voters.

Parenthetically, Michigan's tea party exit poll numbers are more of a muddle, though opposition among tea partiers to Ron Paul is still pronounced, while tea partiers were modestly more relatively supportive of all three of the other candidates. To make sure Arizona's results weren't a fluke, I looked at the biggest and putatively most nationally representative state thus far, Florida. The tea party results shake out in much the same way as they do in Arizona.

5 comments:

E said...

Interesting results. Thanks for following up. That does seem more convincing. I'm not a huge fan of Santorum (though not entirely for the standard reasons---I'm actually more anti-anti-social conservatism than anti.) If it weren't for his lunatic "Churchillian" raving about the Venzuelian threat I might had been tempted to support him just to piss off as many twenty-something hipster douchebags as possible.
I'll probably vote for Mitt Romney in the primary. Unfortunately, I fear he has "Dewey Defeats Truman" written all over him.

Anonymous said...

I'd say the interesting thing from that exit poll is that Romney edged out Santorum among Tea Party supporters. It was a statistical tie, admittedly.

Anonymous said...

Assuming that Tea Party folks have the same social conservatism levels as other conservatives, it does not necessarily mean that they vote with the same priority.

I know anti abortion social conservative types whose voting is prioritized by $$. So on paper, they have the same profile and answer just like Santorum voters, but vote for Ron Paul. Just because two groups of voters agree pretty much on everything, does not mean they prioritize them similarly.

Tea Party folks are more Ron Paul than Santorum voters.

Audacious Epigone said...

Tea Party folks are more Ron Paul than Santorum voters.

I'm not sure how to square that with the exit polls, which show that tea party people are a lot more likely to vote for Santorum than they are for Paul, not just in an absolute sense, but relative to the rest of the Republican electorate.

Mike Street Station said...

Without a real Tea Party candidate in the race, the Tea Party preferences are going to be muddled. They are having to go with a 2nd or 3rd choice (like most of the Republican Party).