What motivates people to become tea partiers? Conservative ideology, of course. But how about age, gender, income, church attendance, and party ID? Not so much, according to a study by Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz:
In order to compare the effects of the independent variables, I calculated the change in the probability of supporting the Tea Party associated with an increase of one standard deviation above the mean on each independent variable with all other independent variables set at their means. For example, an increase of one standard deviation above the mean on the ideology scale is estimated to produce an increase of almost 19 percentage points in Tea Party support.
The results in Table 5 show that ideological conservatism was by far the strongest predictor of Tea Party support. In addition to conservatism, however, both racial resentment and dislike for Barack Obama had significant effects on support for the Tea Party. These two variables had much stronger effects than party identification.
Table 5 is below. Conservative ideology and racial resentment swamp every other factor. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s counterproductive to even mention racial resentment these days. Maybe it’s unfair to lots of tea partiers who care only about taxes and big government. But unless there’s a problem with Abramowitz’s data, it’s there. Pretending that it’s not doesn’t make it go away.