Study Reveals Conservative Establishment and Tea Party Activists Differ on Movement's Ability to Succeed Politically

Oct 13, 2010, 07:00 ET from Sam Adams Alliance

"Surface Tension" report also shows 40 percent of Establishment conservatives identify as Tea Partiers

CHICAGO, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A comprehensive new study contrasting Tea Party activists and individuals working within traditional conservative political "Establishment" organizations shows the two entities are united on issue priorities, but differ when it comes to their level of enthusiasm, and the Tea Party movement's ability to accomplish its political goals.

The study, Surface Tension: Tea Parties and the Political Establishment, from Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), reveals that both the Establishment and Tea Partiers rank Economy/Jobs, Defense and Budget as the most important issues, but only about 7 percent of Establishment respondents said the Tea Party knows how to accomplish its goals, while about 41 percent of Tea Party activists surveyed say this is true.  

Despite these differences, 40 percent of Establishment respondents described themselves as "tea partiers." Another 40 percent said they would not use the term to describe themselves.

The two entities also seem to think the other needs them. Forty-two percent of Establishment respondents said it was "very important" that Tea Partiers work with them, while almost 75 percent of Tea Party respondents said it was "very important" that the Establishment work with their movement.

"The results show us that the Tea Party movement, which has been able to influence primaries thus far, has also influenced the bedrock of the Establishment Right," said Anne Sorock, director of marketing at SAM and research director of the study. "The tension between the two groups seems to be over whether experience or enthusiasm -- or both -- can solve the country's problems."

The Surface Tension data also shows the differences between Establishment and Tea Party candidate preferences in 2010 continuing into the 2012 Presidential race.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won the most support among Tea Partiers surveyed; with Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and Mike Pence in a three-way tie for second. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a favorite among Establishment players, with Mitt Romney in the number two spot.

Other highlights from the report's findings include:

  • When judging the political landscape over the last 20 years, there is a 25-point difference between Tea Party and Establishment. 59 percent of Establishment respondents say it is at its worst point today, while 84 percent of Tea Party activists say today is the worst point;
  • 42 percent of the Tea Party activists "completely disagreed" with the Establishment's reaction to Tea Party victories in the 2010 primaries. 25 percent of Establishment activists also disagreed;
  • Tea Partiers were generally satisfied with "Tea Party Candidates," with Marco Rubio generating the highest satisfaction score of 6.4 out of 7.0 and Christine O'Donnell receiving the lowest at 5.6.  Among Establishment respondents, Mike Lee of Utah was most satisfactory with a 6.5, while O'Donnell earned the lowest at 3.6.

Surface Tension included deep values research and surveys with 118 Tea Party activists (defined in the report as "Citizenry"), and 97 individuals employed in government affairs, government agencies, legislatives offices, news media, think tanks and non-profit organizations (defined in the report as "Establishment"). The results of the deep values research provided insight into the opportunities for the Establishment and Citizenry. For further discussion and analysis, view the deep values section of the report.

For the full report findings, survey questions, and methodology, please visit

Survey director Anne Sorock is available to discuss the report and its findings. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Kay Lindenberg


Sam Adam Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that researches, inspires and cultivates citizen activism. For more information, visit

SOURCE Sam Adams Alliance