Regardless of the loud rhetoric and the signs carried, the tea party crowd remains something of an enigma. The rhetoric and the signs can be confusing. If these represent the tea crowd’s views as purported, they are a weird bunch. But journalists and pollsters are continuing to study this group to see if their identity and their perspective can be better understood.
The first and continuing impression from what one sees displayed in the media is that of a rowdy, ignorant crowd of uninformed and misinformed people who think they know it all. That is the face appearance of the group at its gatherings. But is there something more involved than meets the eye?
Ignorance, or perhaps denial of reality, is a major characteristic of the group. Busily objecting to being taxed, only 2% of those tea party people polled are aware that their taxes actually went down. In the general population 22% are aware of this. Not a very high number there either, or we would hear more public backlash on the tea party slogans. Over 90% of our citizens got tax breaks this past year, and average tax refunds are up 10% this spring.
While fear of increased taxes may be motivating the multi-millionaires who fund the tea party behind the scenes through groups like Americans for Prosperity or the Club for Growth, there is no merit in average people thinking they are being more heavily taxed under the Obama administration, when the reverse is true. A spokesperson for the Brookings Institute said: “It is hard to understand the tea party’s anger about taxes when these are lower than they have been in decades.”
When one gets into personal feelings and attitudes, some of their outbursts become more understandable, but no more justifiable. Three fourths believe that President Obama does not share their values, and a like number think he favors the poor. About the same proportion think he does not understand their problems, or listen to them. But, then, only 1% of tea partiers are black, and 1% Hispanic, and the poor are not well represented.