CBS Gives Tea Partiers Top Billing, But Sees 'Inconsistency' in the FNC-Watching, White Gun Owners

“A CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight finds 18 percent of Americans support the movement,” Katie Couric announced at the top of Wednesday's CBS Evening News as the newscast provided a surprisingly neutral summary of the findings in the new survey, though reporter Dean Reynolds couldn't resist asserting “there is some inconsistency in the Tea Party viewpoints. For example, for all their anger at what they see as ever-expanding government, 62 percent of them think Medicare and Social Security are worthwhile programs, perhaps because 75 percent of them are over 45.”  

Or, since they aren't anarchists, maybe they've just made judgments about government programs and find many others less worthwhile than ones they've been forced to pay into for their entire adult lives.

Reynolds realized “they chafe at critics who characterize the movement as extremist or racist for its opposition to the President,” then he recited numbers to show they are mostly male, white, conservative watchers of FNC:

The new poll says 59 percent of Tea Party supporters are men, 89 percent are white, 73 percent say they're conservative as opposed to 34 percent who say so nationwide; 58 percent have a gun in the house; and 63 percent watch the Fox News Channel for political coverage. More can be found in the South, and 39 percent identify themselves as evangelical Christians.

CBS displayed a chart on screen showing 59 percent are men, 89 percent are white and 73 percent are conservative. Change “conservative” to “liberal” and you've got a look at the white liberal male dominated CBS News staff!
 
“Tea Party supporters overwhelmingly like the former Alaska governor,” Reynolds noted in the story pegged to Sarah Palin's appearance at a rally in Boston, “but, according to the new CBS News/New York Times poll, only 40 percent say she'd make an effective President.”

The New York Times simultaneously posted a story Wednesday night: “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.” Reporter Kate Zernike  and Megan Thee-Brenan marveled at how the Tea Party activists are not so outside the ordinary:

In some ways, Tea Party supporters look like the general public. For instance, despite their allusions to Revolutionary War-era tax protesters, most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools, do not think Sarah Palin  is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost.

But they also raised the racial angle: “They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.”

Zernike and Thee-Branan tossed in this aside: “Tea Party supporters are also more likely than most Americans to believe, mistakenly, that the president has increased taxes for most Americans.”  

On Tuesday, the MRC released a study, “TV's Tea Party Travesty: How ABC, CBS and NBC Have Dismissed and Disparaged the Tea Party Movement.” (PDF)

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the lead story on the Wednesday, April 14 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Tomorrow is the deadline for filing federal tax returns, and there's a good deal of anger out there this year, some of it channeled through the Tea Party. A CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight finds 18 percent of Americans support the movement. Of those who do, 92 percent say the country is on the wrong track; 88 percent of Tea Party supporters disapprove of the job the President is doing; even more of them give Congress a thumbs down. Tea Partiers held their latest rally today in Boston. Dean Reynolds has more about who they are and what they want.

FORMER GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK): -Massachusetts, do you love your freedom?

DEAN REYNOLDS: Sarah Palin was the big draw at this latter day Boston Tea Party.

PALIN: Boston, if anyone knows how to throw a Tea Party, it is you!

REYNOLDS: With some 5,000 people urging her on, she took dead aim at the Democratic administration that so riles those who attended.

PALIN: They're obviously digging us into a deeper, darker hole, and that is insane.

REYNOLDS: Tea Party supporters overwhelmingly like the former Alaska governor, but, according to the new CBS News/New York Times poll, only 40 percent say she'd make an effective President. That's just one statistic in a poll that paints a more detailed portrait of this movement beyond the signs and slogans.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's a grassroots upswelling of citizens that for a variety of reasons are not happy with the direction that the government is going in.

REYNOLDS: They chafe at critics who characterize the movement as extremist or racist for its opposition to the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It looks like pretty much regular people to me here.

REYNOLDS: The new poll says 59 percent of Tea Party supporters are men, 89 percent are white, 73 percent say they're conservative as opposed to 34 percent who say so nationwide; 58 percent have a gun in the house; and 63 percent watch the Fox News Channel for political coverage. More can be found in the South, and 39 percent identify themselves as evangelical Christians.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: My spirit is so disturbed by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid and this agenda-

REYNOLDS: Not all sympathizers are activists, though. Only 20 percent have ever attended a rally or donated money to the cause. Near Chicago, Robert and Donna Sutter have yet to attend a rally, but they like what they hear.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: That it's the average American saying look, you're not paying attention to what the average and majority of the people want.

REYNOLDS: Tea Partiers say their number one goal is to reduce the role of the federal government; 92 percent think the President is leading the country to socialism. In San Francisco, Tea Party supporter Rachel Higgs will be speaking at a Tax Day rally tomorrow.

RACHEL HIGGS, TAX DAY RALLY SPEAKER: Once we start veering off the Constitution there's nothing to hold anybody accountable to, and that causes me great concern.

REYNOLDS: There is some inconsistency in the Tea Party viewpoints. For example, for all their anger at what they see as ever-expanding government, 62 percent of them think Medicare and Social Security are worthwhile programs, perhaps because 75 percent of them are over 45. And while 93 percent say the national economy is in bad shape, Tea Party supporters are hardly among the hardest hit. About a third of them are retired, and only six percent say they're unemployed.

Half call themselves middle class and are more likely to be college graduates; 56 percent make more than $50,000 a year. From here, the Tea Party heads to Washington where there will be one of several Tax Day rallies across the country, providing a fresh test for this movement's muscle. Dean Reynolds, CBS News, Boston.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center