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2010 Multi-State Survey of Race & Politics
Christopher S. Parker, Principal Investigator

Led by Prof. Christopher Parker, the 2010 Multi-state Survey of Race & Politics examines what Americans think about the issues of race, public policy, national politics, and President Obama, one year after the inaugurationof the first African American president.

The survey is drawn from a probability sample of 1006 cases, stratified by state. The Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics included seven states, six of which were battleground states in 2008. It includes Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio as the battleground states. For its diversity and its status as an uncontested state, California was also included for comparative purposes. The study, conducted by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Washington, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent and was in the field February 8 - March 15, 2010.

  • More details about survey methodology posted here via Schaller column on 538.com

    For content analysis results please click here.

    The Results

    Tea Party Attitudes in Washington State [ May 2010 Results posted here - via The Washington Poll ]

    Tea Party views on Equality, Liberty and Obama [ New Results posted here ]

    Is America Now A Post-Racial Society? [ Full Table of Results here ]

    Multivariate results for Racial Resentment and Selected Civil Liberties: Racial Profiling, and Government Detainment

    Many believed that the election of Barack Obama brought to a close the long, painful, and ugly history of race and racism in the United States. But as the incident with Henry Louis Gates last summer, and the more recent outbursts of the Tea Party activists suggest, racial divisions remain. Which is closer to the truth? A recent survey directed by University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker, finds that America is definitely not beyond race. For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

    Preliminary Analysis of the Data

    In what follows, we explore the ways in which support for the tea party movement affects Americans’ attitudes toward groups and views on important issues. Towards that end, we begin with how support for the tea party informs their view of marginalized groups in American society. Next, we assess how support for the tea party movement informs citizens’ views on liberty, equality, and perceptions of the president. To facilitate comparisons across a range of support for the tea party movement, we divide support for the tea party into four discrete groups. Respondents were required to answer a question that asked whether or not they “strongly approved” or “somewhat disapproved” of the tea party, or whether or not one “somewhat approved” or “strongly disapproved” the tea party. True believers, for us, were those who strongly approved the movement (N = 117). True skeptics are those who strongly disapprove the party (N = 66). Middle of the roaders are those that either somewhat disapprove or somewhat approve (N = 171). We also include the group who claim to have never heard of the tea party movement, and so had no opinion the movement (N = 157). The last two columns include the overall average for whites, and the difference between strong supporters of the tea party who we call “true believers” and those who are in the middle, those whose answer included a “somewhat” of some kind. We believe this a reasonable benchmark group.

    We begin with an assessment of how support for the tea party affects views of marginalized groups in America. As the results indicate, supporting the tea party (or refusal to do so) appears to color how people see blacks, immigrants, and gay rights (table of results: click here). In each case, across the range of support for the tea party movement, including those who had never heard of it, the true believers register relatively intolerant views. Of the nine (9) questions examined, there were only two instances in which the distance separating true believers from middle-of-the-roaders fell below 10 percentage points. On whether or not “…blacks have gotten les than they deserve,” the difference was 9 points, where true believers were more likely to disagree, and on whether “…you favor…laws to protect homosexuals against job discrimination,” where 4 points separated true believers from middle-of-the-roaders. The greatest differences emerge with questions tapping blacks, like other racial minorities, should work their way up “without any special favors,” and whether or not “gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to legally adopt.” In the first instance, true believers outpace those in the middle by 21 percentage points. In the second instance, support for gay rights, the gap separating the middle from true believers is 20 points, where the middle was more sympathetic. Overall, the average distance separating respective levels of tea party support, across various marginalized groups, after rounding, is 17% for blacks, 12% for immigrants, and 13% for gay rights, respectively.

    Rather large differences also emerge upon consideration of liberty, equality, and perceptions of president Obama’s character traits. On questions that tap issues of liberty, the gap between true believers and those in the middle is greatest on the question of whether or not the “government can detain people as long as they wish without trial,” where true believers support the proposition by 25 points over those in the middle. The difference narrows to 8 points when people were asked to consider whether or not people with political beliefs at variance with the much of the country are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Overall, for this set of questions, the mean difference is 19 points, where “true believers’” preferences appear to run counter to liberty, at least relative to those in the middle (table of results: click here)

    Similar results obtain for egalitarianism, where strong supporters of the movement appear less inclined toward equality. Consider the proposition where the distance between groups is greatest. When asked to opine on whether or not “we’d have many fewer problems in this country” if people more treated more equally, only 31% of true believers agreed, versus 55% of those in the middle, reflecting a 24 percentage-point difference. The smallest difference, a 17 points, emerges when respondents were asked whether or not “our society should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity in this country,” where 81% of those in the middle agree, versus 64% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference is approximately 22 points.

    Finally, at least for this round of analysis, we turn to the way in which support or the tea party informs how people perceive the president. At its most narrow, 21 points separate true believers from those who dwell in the middle, where 65% of the latter see the president as a strong leader versus 44% of the former group. The gap reaches its widest point on the issue of whether or not the president is moral: 64% of those in the middle agree that he is moral versus only 32% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference between the groups, in the way in which both perceive the president, is approximately 26 points.

    Multivariate Analysis of Racial Resentment and Selected Civil Liberties Among Whites

    Since the public has become aware of the data, several people have come forward to challenge our initial findings, specifically, that supporters of the Tea Party appear racially intolerant. A principal charge, one not without intellectual merit, is that the observed relationship between support for the Tea Party and racial resentment is more about the relatively conservative politics of Tea Partiers than racism. Indeed, conservatives tend to believe in a small government, one that doesn't do much to help people who, they believe, should make an effort to do for themselves. This is certainly a legitimate view; it's one to which many Americans have adhered from the beginning of the Republic. In short, some of our critics charge that, instead of the racism we observe associated with support for the Tea Party, we're merely observing Tea Partiers' conservatism at work. In other words, support for the Tea Party, they suggest, is simply a proxy for conservatism.

    To address this issue, we turn to regression, a statistical technique that allows analysts to tease out how one variable affects another. This is important because it permits us to account for the presence of other variables that may also affect the outcome while isolating the impact of the effect of the variable of interest on the result. So, in this case, if support for the Tea Party is truly a proxy for conservatism, the relationship between racial resentment and support for the Tea Party should evaporate once we control for conservatism. Otherwise, there's something else going on with support for the Tea Party; it's not just conservatism. To make things a little easier, we combined all of the items (questions) that comprise racial resentment, making them into a scale.

    As the figure shows, even as we account for conservatism and partisanship, support for the Tea Party remains a valid predictor of racial resentment. We're not saying that ideology isn't important, because it is: as people become more conservative, it increases by 23 percent the chance that they're racially resentful. Also, Democrats are 15 percent less likely than Republicans to be racially resentful. Even so, support for the Tea Party makes one 25 percent more likely to be racially resentful than those who don't support the Tea Party.

    Similar results obtain for racial profiling and the ability for authorities to detain people without putting them on trial. Again, controlling for ideology (conservatism) and partisanship, support for the Tea Party increases the probability that individuals agree that it's okay to “racially profile someone on account of their race or religion” by approximately 27 percent. Support for the Tea Party also increases the probability, by 28 percent, that the authorities should have ability to detain individuals without being charged, for as long as authorities like. Of course, in both cases, conservatism also matters: increasing the likelihood that people will agree with racial profiling and indefinite detention by 30 and 33 percent, respectively.

    Tea Party Website Content Analysis

    Supporters of the tea party have continuously claimed that their views and opinions reflect those of mainstream America.  New results examining the content from over thirty official tea party websites from close to a dozen different states suggests otherwise.  Differences in content emerge when comparing the content from official tea party websites to the content from the National Review online, a mainstream conservative commentary. 

    Please click here for the full content analysis.


  • Results for racial resentment, immigration policy, and gay rights- click here
  • Attitudes towards equality and liberty - click here
  • Racial Stereotypes: Blacks and Latinos
  • Racial Stereotypes: Asians and Whites
  • Survey Press Release, posted at UWNews.org
  • Tea Party Content Analysis
  • Contact Prof. Parker via email at: csparker@uw.edu, or visit his web page

    Media Featuring MSSRP Data:
    Professor Parker's Comments on Salon.com
    Joan Walsh's Comments on Salon.com
    Leonard Pitts's Column in the Miami Herald
    Arian Campos-Flores in Newsweek
    Tom Schaller on 538.com