How big a part of the Tea Party movement are Libertarians vs Conservatives?

I was reading the and contrary to my expectations there’s only some glancing mentions of Libertarian involvement in the Tea Party movement. Is this because the overall number of Libertarians is minuscule relative to religious, hard right conservatives or have Libertarian influence and involvement in the Tea Party movement been overstated?

I seriously doubt a Tea Partier knows the difference or cares.

For my part I would call them conservatives and not Libertarians. Libertarians will support something like allowing people to smoke pot (government should stay out of it). Libertarians would say religion has no place in government. A Libertarian would support gay marriage.

Most Tea Partiers wont support that stuff.

From what I’ve seen and heard from avowed Tea Partiers, there is something of a schism beyween social conservatives (which are the majority) and a minority of libertarian, more generally anti-government types. The social conservatives don’t see the social issues as negotiable, so they’re making the Tea Party somewhat unpalatable to civil libertarians (that along with the more crazed birther/secret Muslim stuff).

I thought the biggest part of the Tea Party movement was the “Hey, looka me! I’m fighting the system to save America! WOOOOOO!” aspect.

I think cultural warriors is a better term for them than social conservatives.

It has been overstated because although the Tea Party is libertarian in its goals, there are not enough libertarians in this country to sustain a mass movement. Thus those of us in the religous right predominate because our numbers are enough to have a populist movement. The libertarian part of the coalition is growing though and is more important than ever before.

The Tea Parties and the Republicans who have co-opted them are not (entirely) the same thing. The problem is not that there aren’t any libertarians; it’s that there aren’t any credible libertarian leaders.

The poster child for libertarian political candidates is Ron Paul. Ron Paul is a hardcore social conservative who opposes free trade. The only things that set him apart from mainstream Republicans are his crazy monetary ideas, and his opposition to federal regulation of marijuana.

That really sums up the state of libertarianism; they’re Republicans who don’t mind weed.


I think the “libertarian” strain is fairly large in the tea party, but not by that label. If you consider libertarian to generally mean socially liberal, fiscally onservative, and small-government oriented, my guess would be that about 20-30% of tea partiers roughly land in that category. Another 30-40% are traditional republicans, and the rest are all over map. Hard-core social conservatives probably make up 20%, as a guess.

But these numbers are pretty malleable. Right now, the ‘libertarian’ side is probably over-represented beause of the fiscal challenges and huge deficits. If a Republican becomes president, I think you’ll see the libertarians become somewhat disillusioned and the social conservatives will start throwing their weight around.

I think there is a strong strain of social conservatism in the TP, and I think that a lot of what passes for “libertarianism” is really just “socially conservative constitutionalism”. I’ve yet to see any socially liberal TPers.

Here are some Tea Party leaders with socially liberal views: Tea Party Leaders Release Letter Urging House and Senate GOP to Avoid Social Issues

From the letter:

Here’s a Politico poll from April of last year. It was an exit poll conducted with participants at the Washington DC Tax Day Tea Party rally:

Tea Party Exit Poll Findings

Specifically on social issues, 51% of self-described members of the Tea Party said that the government should not promote any particular values - 43% said that the government should promote typical family values.

Split right down the middle. All of them are fiscal conservatives, while half are social conservatives and the other half are social liberals.

The pollsters concluded: “the Tea Party is actually more conservative than national Republicans when it comes to the size and role of government, but less conservative than national Republicans in terms of government promotion of traditional values.”

From a Nationwide CBS Poll conducted around the same time:

On the two ‘hot button’ issues of same sex marriage and abortion, Tea Partiers are only slightly more conservative than the public as a whole (which means they’re more socially liberal than Republicans). I’d also argue that the Roe V. Wade question is loaded: Lots of people who support a woman’s right to choose think Roe v Wade was a bad legal decision. I’d like to see a more pointed question directly asking if the government should prevent a woman from having an abortion.

There is no doubt that there are social conservatives in the tea party movement. But there is a large strain of social liberalism in the tea party - more so than in the Republican party.

I’d say if you compared the Tea Party against Republicans in general, you’d find that they are:

  • More fiscally conservative
  • Less socially conservative
  • More populist
  • more libertarian
  • less corporatist

You won’t find many Rockefeller Republicans in the Tea Party, and the social conservatives will face a hell of a fight from within if they try to redirect the energy of the tea party into social issues.

The sole fact of any relevance is the Tea Party will cease to exist, instantaneously, if and when a GOP administration is elected.

As many as twenty-five million Americans are out of work and facing long term unemployment because most employers refuse to hire anyone who does not already have a job.

I see the Tea Party people as those who have jobs or reasonably comfortable retirements. They realize that any serious effort to help the unemployed will require substantial tax increases. They do not want to pay for those increases.

I’m finding them hard to re-locate, but I know I’ve seen polling and analysis that shows huge areas of both membership and ideological alignment between standard Republicans and Tea Partiers. On the order of mid-80% overlaps in many (most?) areas.

However, I also think that some of that – how much, I don’t know – is simply a result of co-opting by outside operatives, obscuring (if not watering down) the differences. And the differences do exist, I think…supported by polls such as Poll: Tea Party, Non-Tea Party Republicans Far Apart on Funding Issues. The graphic in that article is excellent, presenting Republican, Tea Party, and Democrat views on a few selected issues. Republicans end up closer to Democrats on some issues than they do to Tea Partiers.

That article is based on an analysis from Pew Research from Feb 2-7, 2011, which I’ve seen used in other places also. As I recall it, the Pew analysis combines other polling data and is the most recent available right now. Just thought I’d mention that 'cuz I’m too lazy to go find and link to the original. :slight_smile:

Re abortion, 17% is a pretty big slight by anyone’s measure.

It does not really matter though.

Tea Partiers strongly favor republican candidates.

So, if you are a Republican there is no need to pander to socially liberal feelings of Tea Partiers. Indeed, they want both the social and fiscal conservatives so will move further right.

The following, then, is what we have to look forward to from the right:

Yesterday, Alex Pareene at published an article: The Tea Party candidate is…Mitt Romney. That’s according to a Pew Research poll (published just a few days ago, 3/23/2011, polling conducted between 3/8-3/14).

Of the listed potential candidates, Romney is – perhaps with the exception of Tim Pawlenty – the most generic Republican under consideration. Placing second in the poll is Huckabee, whom I would consider a social conservative, and thus very much not specifically Tea Party oriented. The point being that, no…there’s essentially no difference between a Tea Partier and a standard Republican, at least as concerns voting for President.