Who is an American? Tea Parties, Nativism, and the Birthers

Jul 31, 2015, 21:22

New Study Finds Florida Ranks First Overall in Tea Party Membership


(Kansas City) - A new report released today by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) finds that Florida ranks first overall in Tea Party membership.

The special report, entitled The Status of the Tea Party: Membership, Support and Sympathy by the Numbers is an exhaustive, year-long, non-partisan, data-driven look at the state of the Tea Party as it nears the movement's fifth anniversary next month.

Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement - Part Two

Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement - Part Two


This second segment of IREHR’s special report on the status of the Tea Party movement provides an unvarnished, non-partisan, data-driven analysis of the membership of the national factions as the movement approaches its sixth year.

By the Numbers: Tea Party Members, Supporters, and Sympathizers

As IREHR noted in Tea Party Nationalism, support for this movement ranges across three broad categories: 1) core memberships of national factions 2) active supporters who go to meetings, buy the literature and attend the many protests, but are not actual members, and 3) sympathizers, as defined by polling organizations.

Against IREHR’s expectations, the national organizations at the center of the Tea Party movement have maintained stable memberships in 2013. During the past year, Tea Parties have endured leadership changes, significant splits, and the emergence of competitive forces. Nevertheless, core membership numbers have neither receded nor died, but grown by four percent.

The opposition to the Tea Party movement has hardened in some circles, but the core membership of the Tea Party movement has hardened during the same period. This situation has creating a polarization that reaches across a broad band of issues and indicators. Some people cheered the recent government shutdown, while others scorned the shut down and the forces that created it.

In this segment of the special report on the status of the Tea Party, IREHR will explore the trends in sympathy and support for the Tea Party, detail the Tea Party organizations’ core membership numbers, analyze the changes in membership levels, and look at the geography of the movement.

Among the important data in this report:

  • Despite sagging public sympathy post-shutdown, core membership in the national Tea Party factions remains high, at over half a million people. Last year, membership growth slowed to roughly four percent. Membership is geographically concentrated in the South, with than 42% of overall membership in the region.
  • The level of Tea Party supporters also rose, particularly on social media. The combined total for national Tea Party Facebook likes was 7,683,327, and Twitter followers totaled 382,240.
  • Recalcitrance regarding the shutdown of the federal government and other issues caused general sympathy for the Tea Party to decline at the end of 2013, to 18% to 30% of the American public.
  • Even has membership has grown, the ratio of men to women in the Tea Party movement remains remarkably consistent, with roughly two-thirds of the membership identified as men.
  • The number of active local affiliated Tea Party groups is substantially lower than national groups claim. The number of local events has declined, as well.

Membership Matters

There has been much discussion about the nature of the Tea Party movement. Very little of the discussion has contained actual data. When data has been brought into the conversation, it has tended to be narrowly focused on a particular aspect rather than looking at the big picture.

On the one hand, significant voices, particularly progressive pundits, have viewed the movement as essentially “AstroTurf”--fake grassroots drummed up by large sums of money from a handful of wealthy donors such as the Koch Brothers. [1]

Others, as exemplified by Beltway political reporters, have conflated the movement with electoral campaigns.[2] Tallying wins and losses and counting contribution dollars become the only metrics that matter in this view.

In both instances, movement dynamics, influence, and overall societal impact are ignored. If the movement isn't registering strong support in national opinion polls or winning elections, it must be "dead," "dying," or no longer relevant.

From the earliest days of the Tea Party movement, however, the evidence has suggested to IREHR that neither of these positions captures the full story the Tea Party movement. This report as a whole relies on numerous data streams for a more complete picture of the trends in the Tea Party movement over the last year. And this segment of the report works with data about membership and the geography of that membership.

Tea Partiers are more than minions for millionaires, or the sum of ballots cast on Election Day. They are not illusions created by public relations magicians. Over the last five years, real people have been involved in real activities aimed at impacting politics, culture, and civil society.

The Tea Party movement has been populated by large numbers of self-motivated persons, obviously angry and dismayed by the presidency of Barack Obama, his policies, and the change he signifies—particularly the fact that he has broken the white monopoly on the presidency. To claim that these individuals and their actions are somehow "fake" ignores the substantial evidence to the contrary, belittles those involved, and makes it more difficult to muster effective countervailing strategies.

As we'll see in the 2013 data, it's possible to have markedly different trends occurring inside this movement at the same time.

While a focus on opinion polls and electoral results may capture a snapshot of a moment in time, it can easily miss medium to long-term trends, not to mention what's happening beneath the surface. Polls and election results often display the final results of what's already been percolating for months or years within a movement. It's a matter of perspective. As we'll see in the 2013 data, it's possible to have markedly different trends occurring inside this movement at the same time.

To get a better sense of what these individuals are actually up to and to gauge movement trajectory, it is essential to examine the many different layers of involvement in the Tea Party. IREHR has identified three different, measurable levels of movement involvement in the Tea Party: sympathy, active support, and membership.

Each of these levels overlaps the others in concentric circles. These tiers serve as a measure of the intensity to which individuals identify with and participate in the movement. In 2013, there were decidedly different trends in each of these different levels of involvement, with sympathy undulating with events, while supporters and core members continued to expand.


The outer layer consists of movement sympathizers, those individuals who, at minimum, are willing to anonymously tell a pollster that they are in agreement with or support the Tea Party movement. This is the tier that is measured by polling organizations, and it is often confused in the public eye with that of the core membership.

In general, these polls ask if respondents "support" the Tea Party, or if they have a "favorable" opinion of the movement. Unfortunately, these polls seldom interrogate what "support" means. For clarity, this report categorizes those who positively respond to these polls as Tea Party sympathizers, rather than supporters.

There is a sizable body of data on Tea Party sympathizers and a mix of opinion polls since 2010 has kept an account of the movement’s sympathizers, either among the general population, or likely the voters. These polls have been done by: ABC News/Washington Post, AP/GfK, CBS News, CNN/ORC, Fox News, Gallup, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, New York Times/CBS, Pew Research Center and others. These polls have fluctuated up and down, leading observers to sometimes falsely conclude, as noted in the first segment of this report, that the Tea Party movement was dead or dying.[3] As table one shows, despite the occasional vacillation, over time Tea Party sympathy has remained fairly constant.

University of Washington political scientists Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto extensively explored the topic in their 2013 book, Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America. They found that race and racism were significant factors. “The emergence of the Tea Party movement, at least if support for the Tea Party is any indication, cannot be reduced to perceptions of President Obama alone, even if his presidency helped catalyze the movement. Several other factors are also important in helping to explain Tea Party sympathy, including racism and the belief that subordinate groups should remain in their respective places.”[4]

In addition to racial animus among Tea Party sympathizers, their results of their surveys also found that “The data suggests that supporters of the Tea Party are statistically more likely to hold negative attitudes towards immigrants and sexual minorities across a range of different issues and topics, and are firmly opposed to the idea of group equality.”[5]

Tea Party Sympathy Polling Data

In the most recent instance, support for the Tea Parties spiked up in May and June of this year. At that time news was breaking about the internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, including the Tea Parties. A Rasmussen Report poll of likely voters showed Tea Partiers receiving a 44% “favorable” opinion.[6] A CNN poll at the same revealed a 37% favorable rating in the general public.[7] Both Rasmussen and CNN cited the IRS controversy as a source for the jump in favorable ratings.

In addition to racial animus among Tea Party sympathizers, their results of their surveys also found that “The data suggests that supporters of the Tea Party are statistically more likely to hold negative attitudes towards immigrants and sexual minorities across a range of different issues and topics, and are firmly opposed to the idea of group equality.”

A Pew Research Center poll also presented a 37% favorable rating in June 2013, but a drop to 30% rating in October. That seven point drop in just five months would seem to indicate that the government shutdown had sharply lowered the level of support for the Tea Party movement, and raised the level of opposition. However, when the October 2013 ratings are considered against the February 2010 poll, when there was a 33% favorable rating, the 3% differential is roughly within the margin of error.

In any case, while support in the general population has dropped slightly, the core membership of Tea Party organizations has risen.


A second, deeper level of engagement is the active supporter level. More than anonymously tell a pollster that they are sympathetic to the Tea Party, this layer includes those willing to publicly declare their allegiance to the Tea Party to their family, friends and colleagues, at some minimal level. Supporters have a higher level of movement involvement and identity than sympathizers, but less than those who have fully committed to membership.

In sociological literature, active supporters of social movements have been described as those who "wear the badge" or "bought the T-shirt." In a Tea Party context, that could include going to a meeting, slapping on a Tea Party bumper-sticker, flying yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, buying some Tea Party literature, etc.

This level of movement participation has been extensively documented. Most notably New York Times reporter Kate Zernike’s 2011 book, Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, and The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Harvard’s Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson describe Tea Party supporters.

Though it is difficult to quantify, IREHR estimates the supporter level at six-to-eight million individuals. One of the gauges of this level of sympathy are the number of people willing to “like” one or more of one of the national Tea Party factions on Facebook. As of December 2013, the combined total for national Tea Party Facebook likes was 7,683,327. Twitter followers totaled 382,240 at the end of 2013.

Tea Party Faction Social Media Presence

Tea Party Faction

Facebook Likes

Twitter Followers

1776 Tea Party






Patriot Action Network



Tea Party Express



Tea Party Nation



Tea Party Patriots










The third and deepest layer at the core of Tea Party movement involvement, are members of the various Tea Party organizations. Membership matters. The act of membership expresses a deeper level of participation than supporters or sympathizers. Membership is a higher declaration of allegiance and identity. Becoming a member is a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture.

Tea Party members put the "move" in movement. Members add their voices, their concerns, their sweat, and their financial support to the organizations that gird the movement. Members do "the work"-- they make calls, knock on doors, organize meetings, recruit new members, become leaders, and more.

The core members of this movement have created, and recreated, a diverse set of organizations. They have both competed with each other and collaborated to form a movement that is both self-conscious and capable of re-invention. Membership numbers also give power and cache’ to movement organizations.

While it is true that informal social networks have played a part in shaping the movement, and activists like to claim that the movement is "leaderless," membership organizations making up the core national factions played a vital role in getting the movement off the ground and shaping movement direction. Half of the national factions existed well before the movement emerged in early 2009. Those membership organizations aided movement takeoff and accelerated growth.

The actual membership of Tea Party organizations allow them to make decisions and carry out their programmatic initiatives. The number of members of the Tea Party movement has been measurable. Its impact, made stronger by concerted action, has been undeniable. Tea Partiers have rallied, met regularly to discuss what they believe are constitutional issues, socialized with each other, and organized themselves into a relatively cohesive voting bloc.

Unfortunately, membership in the Tea Party movement has been the least examined of the levels of movement participation. In part, this is because accurate data is hard to come by. Like other far-right movements, national Tea Party organizations have been less-than transparent when it comes to membership figures. Groups have also notoriously exaggerated their numbers, inflating the size so as to enhance their status with politicians and the public.

IREHR has been tracking membership in the national Tea Party factions since 2010. This includes membership data for five national Tea Party factions, 1776 Tea Party (also known as TeaParty.org), FreedomWorks, Patriot Action Network, Tea Party Nation, and Tea Party Patriots, along with donor data for the Tea Party Express (Our Country Deserves Better PAC).[8] There are multiple unaffiliated local and state Tea Parties, and one potential national faction that emerged in early 2013. But the overwhelming bulk of Tea Party membership is associated with one or another of these national groupings.

After the re-election of President Obama in November 2012, each of the national factions encountered a unique setback. FreedomWorks, the largest of the factions, experienced a leadership coup at the end of 2012, which ousted founder Dick Armey. Tea Party Patriots continued to experience the defection of grassroots leaders as a schism between the national office and local groups grew deeper. Patriot Action Network found itself outflanked on gun rights policy at the beginning of 2013 by a new upstart money-raising juggernaut known as TheTeaParty.net. Tea Party Nation found itself in financial trouble when it was ordered to pay the Venetian Casino Resort in Las Vegas more than $748,000 after it abruptly cancelled a conference.[9] The Tea Party Express political action committee came under scrutiny over the amount of money the PAC raised that was funneled back into the consulting group of founder Sal Russo. The 1776 Tea Party saw its core concern, nativism, taken up by the other Tea Party groups.

Nevertheless, all five of these national Tea Party factions continue to expand their membership base through mid-2013. The pace of growth, however, had slowed considerably from the rapid pace of 2010-2011. In June 2013, membership in the six national Tea Party factions was 467,305, just a 4% increase from the same period in 2012. This number was an increase of 45% from June 2011, and an increase of 153% from June 2010.[10]

As the following table illuminates, core membership has grown each year since the Tea Parties founding. In the last year, it should be noted, the rate of growth has slowed considerably.

National Tea Party Faction Membership Data

Tea Party Faction

June 2010

June 2011

June 2012

June 2013

October 2013

December 2013








Tea Party Patriots







Patriot Action Network







Tea Party Nation







1776 Tea Party







Tea Party Express*














*Tea Party Express is a political action committee, not a membership organization. The number for it in the chart represents donors.

In June 2013, membership in the six national Tea Party factions was 467,305, just a 4% increase from the same period in 2012. This number was an increase of 45% from June 2011, and an increase of 153% from June 2010.

In this report, please note the maps (which are interactive at www.irehr.org). Each traces the geographic location of the members, and provides a stunningly graphic overview of the size and scope of the Tea Party organizations. This provides an accurate assessment of where movement strength lies.

Tea Party Membership Map

For a full-screen map, click here.

Digging into the data also tells us a bit about the sex of Tea Party members. Among those members of the national Tea Party factions who chose to identify their sex, the percentages have remained fairly stable since 2010. In 2013, 66% of those who declared their sex listed male and 34% listed female. By comparison, in 2010 63% listed male and 37% declared female.

Percentages of Tea Party Members by Sex 2010 – 2013
















While national membership ticked upwards in 2013, members were less visible than in previous years. The number of active local Tea Party groups was much lower than claimed by national organizations. (More information on this point will be published in a forthcoming segment.)

Tea Party Events

Additionally, as the chart of Tea Party events highlights, the number of rallies, protests, meetings and other events listed on the websites of the national factions was down again in 2013. Indeed, a decline in the number of events continued for a second straight year, dropping nearly 64% since 2011.There were 27,057 events in 2011, 19,989 in 2012 and 9,861 in 2013.[11]

The 2013 was also a year that pulled the movement in different distinct strategic directions. Absent a unifying focal point like a major national election, tensions emerged between protest politics, electoral campaigning, and culture-shifting. Analysts need to pay attention to all three strategic directions; otherwise you could falsely believe that the movement is dead. In reality, movement energy shifts in different directions like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed.

The Geography of Tea Party Membership

Membership data also provides an important entry into regional, state, and local patterns of Tea Party growth. In this data, new trends and a more nuanced picture of the movement emerge.

IREHR has been conducting a membership count on the Tea Party movement in June, every year since June 2010. The membership data used in this section of the report was collected in June 2013, during a period when the Tea Party national factions attempted to reinvigorate their ranks with the so-called “IRS scandal” and mobilization against immigration reform.

From June 2012 to June 2013, membership in the six different national Tea Party factions grew just 4% from 448,245 in 2012, to 467,605 in 2013. By comparison, membership grew 39% in the same period 2011-2012 and 73% from 2010-2011.

The June 2012 - June 2013 period includes a period of mobilization around a national election in November 2012. It also included the accompanying letdown and hangover at the beginning of 2013. The data suggests, therefore, that recruitment and expansion efforts were more successful in the earlier phases of the campaign cycle (e.g. around the primaries) in the later part of the June 2011-June 2012 period, than in the heat of the electoral cycle or afterwards.

Though the majority of the data in this report focuses on the June 2012-June 2013 national Tea Party faction dataset, there are some important takeaways from period from the initial June to December 2013 data—a period of considerable agitation by national Tea Party groups around the IRS, immigration, the government shutdown and debt ceiling, and the Affordable Care Act.

A fuller picture of Tea Party activity becomes clearer by drilling down into the national data for regional, and state-level trends, as well as pinpointing continuing local hotspots.


During the June 2012-June 2013 period the South had the largest regional concentration of Tea Party members. With 188,385 members, the South was almost twice as much as the next region in size. The West had the second highest number of members with 110,404, followed by the Midwest with 80,149 and the Northeast with 53,865.

In terms of overall percentage of regional growth, however, the Northeast experienced the highest percentage of growth during this 2012-2013 period (19%). It was followed by the Midwest and the West (16% each), and the South (12%). All of these rate increases for regional growth were down considerably from previous years.

Tea Party Membership Growth By Region


























This is a marked shift in rate of growth from previous periods. During the year long period ending in June 2012, the South had the highest percentage of growth (31%). That was followed by the Midwest (27%), the West (25%), and the Northeast (19%).

During the period ending in June 2011, the Midwest led the way with a 90% increase. That was followed by the West at 89%, and the South and Northeast at 73% each. From 2010 to 2013, the Midwest experienced a 179% increase, Tea Party membership in the West increased by 174%, the South had an increase of 155%, followed by a 145% increase in the Northeast.

Tea Party Membership, Region


June 2013

Percent of geographic total













By comparison, in the 2011-2012 period, the South also had the highest percentage of growth (31%), followed by the Midwest (27%), the West (25%), and the Northeast (19%). This is a marked shift from the 2010-2011 period when the Midwest experienced a 90% increase, followed by the West at 89%, and the South and Northeast at 73% each. From 2010 to 2012, the Midwest experienced a 141% increase, Tea Party membership in the West increased by 137%, the South had an increase of 126%, followed by a 106% increase in the Northeast.

Tea Party Membership, Subregion






New England





West North Central





East South Central















West South Central





East North Central










South Atlantic





Among the top 50 cities for Tea Party membership: the South Atlantic subregion had 11 cities; the Mountain subregion had 9 cities; the West South Central had 8 cities; the West North Central, Pacific, and East North Central subregions had 5 cities; the Mid-Atlantic subregion had 4 cities, and the East South Central had three cities.

South Atlantic (100,629), Pacific (63,790), East North Central (63,023), West South Central (56,516), Mountain (46,614), Mid-Atlantic (45,654), East South Central (31,240), West North Central (29,836), New England (18,649).

Among the explanations for the strength in the South, proximity and changes in agenda. Five of the six national factions are headquartered in the South: Tea Party Patriots in Georgia, Tea Party Nation in Tennessee, FreedomWorks in Washington DC, the 1776 Tea Party in Texas, and Patriot Action Network in Virginia (though technically in Iowa). The outlier is the Tea Party Express based in California.


For the first time, California overtook Texas as the state with the most Tea Party members. Of the top ten states for Tea Party membership, five are in the South, two in the West and Northeast, and one in the Midwest. On the other hand, seven of the top ten states for Tea Party membership by population are in the West, two are in the Northeast, and one in the South.

Tea Party Membership by State


Twenty-Two of the top fifty cities in total Tea Party membership are located in the South, 14 in the West, 10 in the Midwest, and 4 in the Northeast. Of the top 50 cities for Tea Party membership by population, 39 are in the South – 12 in Georgia alone. Eight are in the West. Two are in the Northeast. Just one is located in the Midwest.

In the next segments of this report, look for information about

  • A financial shift from non-profit organizations to political action committees. National Tea Party PACs have raised over $4 million in the first six months of 2013.The considerable shakeup in the makeup of the different national factions, with in-fighting and internal issues dominating much of the year for several factions.
  • A marked decline, but still strong presence, of local affiliated Tea Party groups remains. Of the 2,846 the Tea Party Patriots list as locally affiliated groups, only 1,077 showed any signs of activity in 2013—less than 38% of the total.
  • Continued problems with racism and other forms of bigotry. Nativism playing a more significant role.

Appendix: Tea Party Faction Data Collection and Analysis Methodology

The data in this report was derived from a collection of online directories on the major national Tea Party faction websites: Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, 1776 Tea Party (also known as TeaParty.org), FreedomWorks Tea Party, and Patriot Action Network (formerly known as ResistNet). The data for the sixth national Tea Party formation mentioned in this report, the Tea Party Express, was drawn from filings with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Data for TheTeaParty.net was not available.

The data provides a partial picture of the Tea Party activist base. It is important to note that there may be many more individuals who are not listed in these social networking directories – who either chose not to register, who have registered on some other site (such as one or more of the many local Tea Party sites), or who do not have sufficient computer skills.

One important note regarding the Tea Party Patriots data in the 2013 Tea Party Membership data. Member information from those registered on TeaPartyPatriots.org was gathered, as it had been in previous years. However, in 2013 an overwhelming number of the members on TeaPartyPatriots.org were labeled “deleted,” “never active” or no longer displayed location information in the profile section of the website. This could be the result changes to the membership database, or the limitations of the WordPress system the Tea Party Patriots switched to in early November 2011.

As a result the available member data for TeaPartyPatriots.org is severely limited in 2013. Thankfully, the Tea Party Patriots also maintain a very active Ning social networking site. While there is not a 1-to-1 crossover between TeaPartyPatriots.org and TeaPartyPatriots.ning.com, an examination of data of the two for previous years showed considerable overlap. The 2013 Tea Party Patriots member data in this report relies on the data from TeaPartyPatriots.ning.com. Tea Party Patriots membership numbers from 2010-2012 come from TeaPartyPatriots.org. As a result, year-to-year comparisons and conclusions about membership activity are somewhat limited for the group.

Tea Party Membership Data

There are several levels of Tea Party membership data contained in this report. The most recent national faction membership totals come from October 13, 2013.

The bulk of the Tea Party membership data used in this report was collected during the periods from June 1 to June 10, 2013, June 1 to June 15, 2012, June 1 to June 12, 2011, and May 1 to June 1, 2010. Using software generously provided by Sequentum, an automated process allowed for the copying and compiling of the website membership data into a local SQL database.

Records retrieved from all five Tea Party faction sources generally included: name, city, state, country, and gender. Some records were incomplete – missing various parts of city, state, country, gender, etc. Incomplete records were included in the overall numbers, but not included in areas where data was missing.

We also downloaded the Committee Master File, Candidate Master File, Contributions to Candidates, Transactions from One Committee to Another, Contributions from Individuals, Adds, Changes, and Deletes data files from the FEC.gov on September 21, 2013. The most recent contributor records available from the FEC for the Our Country Deserves Better PAC – TeaPartyExpress.com, are from the June 30, 2013 filing. A query was written to extract those contributors from the local database of downloaded FEC data, then the extracted data was imported into the Tea Party 2013 membership database.

From the initial captured material, we worked with the data to eliminate duplicates and extraneous data. We also normalized the data, making sure that column names were the same, and that state and abbreviations were consistent. We then imported that data into a main SQL database.

Once we had a completed Tea Party membership data set, we then geo-coded the set using the city and state information. That information was later used to map the location of membership location using Tableau Public.

After the importation process we ran specific queries to work specifically with Tea Party member data and to extract the information we needed. Those queries included: Tea Party Membership by Region and Subregion, Tea Party Members by State, Tea Party Members by City, Tea Party Members by Faction, and Tea Party Membership Totals by City as a percentage of the City population.

Additional Data Sources

In addition to the Tea Party data, we relied on several other data sources in this report. The state and city population data came from 2011 US Census Data. The Tea Party Patriots locally affiliated groups cities were determined by querying a zipcode database for the primary city in that zipcode.

The regional and divisions data is based upon the designations by the U.S. Census Bureau.
There are four regions: the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

United States Regions

The Northeast Region includes: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont,

The South Region includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.

The Midwest Region includes: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The West Region includes: Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming

The designations are further broken down into nine different divisions, or subregions.

United States Subregions

In the Northeast Region, the New England division includes: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Middle Atlantic division includes: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

In the South Region, the South Atlantic division includes: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The East South Central division includes: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The West South Central division includes: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

In the Midwest Region, the East North Central division includes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The West North Central division includes: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

In the West Region, the Mountain division includes: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The Pacific division includes: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.


[1]. See, for instance, Eric Zuesse, “Final Proof The Tea Party Was Founded As A Bogus AstroTurf Movement,” Huffington Post website, October 22, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/final-proof-the-tea-party_b_4136722.html; The Daily Take, “There Is No Such Thing as the Tea Party; There Is Only a Collection of Billionaires,” Truthout Website, October 2, 2013, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/19199-there-is-no-such-thing-as-the-tea-party-there-is-only-a-collection-of-billionaires; Ronald P. Formisano, The Tea Party: A Brief History, John Hopkins Press, April 4, 2012; Anthony DiMaggio, The Rise of the Tea Party: Political Discontent and Corporate Media in the Age of Obama, Monthly Review Press, November 2011; George Monbiot, “The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires,” The Guardian website, October 25, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/25/tea-party-koch-brothers; Ryan Powers, “Pelosi: Tea parties are part of an ‘astroturf’ campaign by ‘some of the wealthiest people in America,” Think Progress website, April 15, 2009, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/04/15/37578/pelosi-astroturf/; Paul Krugman, “Tea Parties Forever,” New York Times, April 12, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=0;

[2]. Prime examples of this form of coverage include reporting on the Tea Party by Beltway institutions like Politico and The Hill.
[3]. For more on the “Tea Party is Dead” meme, see Devin Burghart “Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement - Part One: The Tea Party in 2013” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, January 9, 2014, http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/tea-party-news-and-analysis/item/525-status-of-tea-party-part-one.

[4]. Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto, Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 157.

[5]. Ibid, 165.

[6]. Rasmussen Reports, “Favorable Views of Tea Party Up 14 Points Since January,” Rasmussen Reports website, May 24, 2013, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/may_2013/favorable_views_of_tea_party_up_14_points_since_january

[7]. Paul Steinhauser,” CNN Poll: Tea party gets boost from IRS controversy,” CNN Political Ticker website, May 20, 2013, http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/20/cnn-poll-tea-party-gets-boost-from-irs-controversy/.

[8]. See Appendix: Tea Party Faction Data Collection And Analysis Methodology for complete details.

[9]. Devin Burghart, “What Didn’t Happen in Vegas: Tea Party Nation Ordered to Pay Up,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, August 29, 2012, http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/tea-party-news-and-analysis/item/432-what-didn%E2%80%99t-happen-in-vegas-tea-party-nation-ordered-to-pay-up.

[10]. As noted in the Tea Party Faction Data Collection and Analysis Methodology Appendix, the dip in membership number for Tea Party Patriots is primarily due to a switch in membership data sources, necessitated by website changes by the group.

[11]. Data collected from the “Events” sections of the websites of the 1776 Tea Party, FreedomWorks, Patriot Action Network, Tea Party Nation, and Tea Party Patriots ning site, December 26-31, 2013. Note that information prior to late 2010 was unavailable for FreedomWorks, as the group moved to a new website.

clockwise from top left: Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin at CPAC 13, Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz speaking at a Government Shutdown rally in Washington DC, Seattle Tea Partiers protest against immigration reform, Tea Party "Day of Resistance" in Salt Lake City, Tea Partiers against the IRS, and Confederate flag flown at Tea Party rally outside White House.

Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement - Part One


Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement
Part One: The Tea Party in 2013

During the month of January 2014, IREHR will publish a multi-segment special report on the current status of the Tea Party movement.  We will track the membership of the principal organizations in the movement—a task undertaken by no organization or agency other than IREHR. We will look at geographic regions where this membership is concentrated.  And we will look at some of the money that keeps this movement in the public eye. In the piece below, we follow the Tea Parties over the course of 2013.

Justice for Trayvon Martin is the last thing Tea Partiers expressed concern over in the the wake of the Zimmerman trial verdict.

Tea Parties Use Verdict to Further Attack Trayvon, Reproduce Racism


As anti-racists and human rights advocates push for justice for Trayvon Martin, they should take account of the Tea Party racists and white nationalist opposition to any form of actual justice. Readers are cautioned as IREHR presents some of the ugly rhetoric used by these racists so that it can be successfully countered in the public discussion and the cause of Justice for Trayvon can be secured.

Tea Parties Use Verdict to Further Attack Trayvon, Reproduce Racism

By Devin Burghart

The facts of the case are straightforward.  Trayvon Martin was walking home when he was accosted by an armed vigilante who scuffled with the teenager and then shot him at close range.  The vigilante was an unofficial “neighborhood watch” volunteer, who was advised by a police dispatcher to not give chase, but did so anyway.  Despite the fact that Trayvon Martin was guilty only of “walking while black,” some Tea Party leaders had already convicted 17 year-old well before the trial, rather than George Zimmerman who shot him.

As IREHR previously noted, shortly after Zimmerman killed Martin on February 26, 2012, white nationalists and other bigots concocted false allegations, and slandered Martin. After the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict, and particularly after President Obama publicly discussed the issue of race in the Trayvon Martin situation, many Tea Partiers used the occasion to place blame on the victim, amplify racist stereotypes of black men, and reproduce that racism in the civic arena.

For example, just hours after the July 13 verdict, the Florida Tea Party sent an email blast to supporters entitled “Black Teens Murder White Baby For The Fun Of It.” The brief, brutal story had been news from Brunswick, Georgia the previous March. But the Tea Partiers regurgitated the story in July in an attempt to deflect blame away from Zimmerman on to black men

The Florida Tea Party was not alone in this regard. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, repeatedly weighed in during the trial with attempts to demonize the dead African-American teen. In a July 15, 2013 Tea Party Nation website piece entitled “From Sinner to Saint,” Phillips fused many falsehoods and distortions into a vicious and bitter piece of propaganda.

Trayvon Martin was well on his way to a life of crime, a life that would feature at best, the revolving door of the criminal justice system or possibly even a lifetime stay at a penal facility.  Or, at worst, a shortened life, ended by someone else.

Trayvon Martin was a product of American liberal social policies.  A single mother raised him.  His school was more concerned about appeasing the civil rights hucksters than whether Trayvon Martin was either educated or taught basic responsibilities.

The story of Trayvon Martin’s life is not irrelevant.  It is the major cause of what happened that night he encountered George Zimmerman. The left has tried to demonize Zimmerman and has tried to canonize St. Trayvon.

The truth is Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old thug who was the architect of his own demise.

That is the story that should be told.  Perhaps if that story and the truth about Trayvon Martin is told, it might prevent the next Trayvon Martin.

Later Phillips wrote, “The George Zimmerman trial was a travesty to begin with. It never should have happened” and called for the head of State’s Attorney Angela Corey, claiming, “She is an individual unfit to be a prosecutor, unfit to be a lawyer and unfit for a job anymore significant that asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

It should be noted that by openly articulating the type of bigoted clap-trap that is usually said only behind closed doors, Phillips both invests these ravings with a certain legitimacy while re-establishing his own racist credentials.  Indeed, Phillips Tea Party rhetoric mirrors closely the words of white nationalist demagogue Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, who wrote “Five white women and an apparent Hispanic have acquitted George Zimmerman on all counts. The facts and the law clearly required that it do so. However, this is a just conclusion only to a case that should never have been brought, and that casts a harsh and damning light on black race hustlers, crazed white liberals, and a vilely irresponsible media.”

From another angle, Lloyd Marcus, the Deltona, Florida paid spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, who describes himself, parentheses included, as a “(black) Unhyphenated American,” also chimed in. In an article entitled “Political Correctness: Bring Me the Head of George Zimmerman!” Marcus emphatically declared “I was elated upon hearing the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial. It gave me hope that America has not yet totally succumb to the tyranny of Political Correctness. It is refreshing that the jury was not willing to sacrifice the life of an innocent man on the alter[sic] in worship of Political Correctness enforced by the mainstream media and the Obama Administration.”

Marcus also pushed a notion that is popular in Tea Party circles that “the Obama Administration unlawfully conspired to ‘get George Zimmerman.’” As he often does, he attacked the NAACP and concluded that “had Zimmerman been sentenced to prison to appease PC, it would have been a dark day for all Americans – further empowering PC to imprison and enslave us.”

Tea Party reiterated old and tiresome attacks against the NAACP and others civil rights organizations and leaders, calling them a “racial grievance industry.” Over at the Patriot Action Network, for instance, one frequent commentator on the Tea Party site wrote, “George Zimmerman has been found not guilty by a jury of his peers. However the NAACP and the jury of the Society of Perpetual Race Baiters® is not persuaded. They will continue to hound George and use him as an example of racial injustice for decades to come; thus the tragedy of one young man’s death becomes the tragedy of character assassination and ruination of another young man’s life. So here’s our official halftime score: American Justice System 1, Race Baiting Prosecutors Acting Stupidly 0. Official Race Baiting outrage to follow.

This kind of talk was old before the Tea Parties were invented.  It goes hand in hand with the Confederate lie that slavery was good for African Americans.  But when it is re-articulated in the 21st century, it renews and reinvigorates racist behavior.

Not satisfied with just defaming a dead teen, TheTeaParty.net (the same group which sponsored the .223 Day of Resistance Gun rallies in February), tried to use the verdict to attack the Obama administration (and raise cash). This group described the president the Attorney General Eric Holder as “race baiters.”  They were supposedly involved in a conspiracy, according to this group. “Obama's DOJ, led by Holder, actually facilitated organized protests and rallies against George Zimmerman following the death of Trayvon Martin BEFORE Zimmerman was even brought up on charges!”

In a fund-raising pitch, the group pressed against those who believe that the Justice Department should charge Zimmerman with civil rights charges.  TeaParty.Net demanded that “HOLDER MUST RESIGN AND BE PROSECUTED!”[Emphasis in original] They added, “We cannot continue to look the other way and not call out the likes of Barack Obama and Holder for being manipulative, dangerous race baiters. Their tactics are dirty. Their tactics are insulting. Their tactics are destructive for America.”

Two days later, in another fund-raising email, the group spun the conspiracy even further, announcing that “Eric Holder is declaring war on the American people and he's using George Zimmerman as cover.” Two days after that, in another fundraising email, TheTeaParty.net lambasted Obama’s remarks as “distraction, smoke screen” designed to cover up the IRS (non) scandal.

In a similar fashion, after President Obama’s remarks on Trayvon Martin, many Tea Party websites were flooded with racist comments lashing out against Martin and Obama, including fantasies about the President being killed.

For example, at the website of the 1776 Tea Party, Steven G. Elliott of Manns Choice, PA responded to the text of Obama’s remarks by comparing Obama and Martin, “One dope-head thug talking about another dope-head thug.” Linda Lee Kenney of Louisville, KY followed “I'm so sick of this jihadist trying to divide our country.  He needs to go back to freakin Kenya!” Robert William Velon of Penryn, CA followed with “He needs to go back to Kenya in a box...  I had hoped that his vacation to Africa would have promted[sic] him to buy a mud hut so he could move back.... Trayvon was a punk he was not the victim..... [Ellipses in original]” Jack Lamberson of Crawfordsville, IN added “He just proved he is racist and wants riots so he can declare marshal[sic] law and come after I guns.  I sure wish it was him 35 years ago, we would all be much better off.” George Zornetsky of Beacon, NY also wished that the president was dead, “Too bad Obama isn't more like Martin, six feet under where that sonofabitch[sic] belongs.” There are many, many more comments like these on numerous Tea Party websites post-verdict, with scant voices challenging the racism.

Of course, this sort of guttural racism isn’t confined to Tea Party ranks or the white nationalist fringes. Conservative pundits like Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have all used the verdict in the same manner. Racism and white privilege then are not simply a “left-over” phenomenon.  It is, instead, a new and continually reproduced disease.

This horrid rhetoric provides further evidence of the depth and persistence of racism in this country.  It should also serve as a wake-up call for all those who have given the Tea Party movement a free pass, and let it persist in the notion that it is simply a conservative cause concerned only with taxes and budgets.  It should tell any decent hearted soul that this racist movement needs to be opposed as the bigots and racists they really are.

Across the country, people took to the streets on May 1, 2013 to support comprehensive immigration reform.

5 Things to Watch for in Immigration Debate


On May Day 2013 thousands of people turned out onto the streets in hundreds of cities to march for comprehensive immigration reform. With the process partially underway, IREHR takes a look at five different things human rights supporters should be keeping an eye on as the debate moves forward.

1. Tea Partiers Lead the Counter-Mobilization

In contrast to the seeming “consensus” view that immigration reform is a fait accompli, anti-immigrant forces still think they can kill the bill. Unlike the 2005-2007 battles over comprehensive immigration reform, however, there isn’t a unified opposition lead by a close-knit network of anti-immigrant groups. This time, the situation is much more fluid and complicated.

Tea Party Patriots Pivoting from Guns to Immigration, Protesting Outside Sen. Rubio's Florida office, April 16, 2013

Tea Party Joins Gun Lobby to Kill Gun Background Checks


Defeating immigration reform next on the Tea Party agenda.

On April 17, the Senate failed to overcome the 60-vote threshold necessary to end a filibuster on bipartisan legislation to expand gun background checks to gun shows and internet sales. The bill garnered a 54-vote majority versus 46 opposed, but fell short of the 60 needed to overcome the minority’s filibuster.

The legislation, written by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), was the centerpiece of gun safety efforts in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut murders. Failed amendments to the bill including an effort to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and several GOP-sponsored efforts that weaken existing gun laws.

It took a concerted effort by the gun lobby and their Tea Party allies to block universal background check legislation, which currently has the support of roughly 90% of the American public according to recent opinion polls.

Efforts by gun lobby groups including the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms were fierce. Their efforts were supplemented by national and local Tea Party groups who rallied outside the local offices of several Senators and flooded Senate phone lines with calls and faxes.

Some of the Tea Party and Tea Party-Sponsored Figures Scheduled at CPAC 13. Top (left to right): Amy Kremer, Richard Mack, Tom Cefaratti. Bottom (left to right): Judson Phillips, Jenny Beth Martin, Bill Norton.

Tea Party Dominates CPAC 2013 Agenda


For decades, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has been a barometer of the different political tendencies inside the right-wing. In the 1980s, Reagan administration officials and Reaganite New Rightists dominated the podium.  Pres. Reagan spoke at CPAC in both 1984 and 1988.  In the 1990s, culture warriors like Pat Buchanan and the Rev. Pat Robertson joined Republican regulars such as Sens. Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. At this years’ CPAC13, Tea Party leaders and Tea Party-supported politicians will dominate the proceedings.  The result is an agenda filled with bigots, conspiracy mongers, and publicity hounds.

What to Expect from the Tea Parties in 2013 - And How to Stop it

What to Expect from the Tea Parties in 2013 - And How to Stop it


The congressional vote at the turn of the New Year should tell us something about what to expect in 2013. Although a boiled down half-measure aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff passed, a strong "no" vote from the far right bucked Speaker Boehner's leadership. The fact that a new session in January will bring in new faces, will not likely change the shape of this obstructive bloc. Remember, Tea Party-endorsed candidates won nearly 80% of their House races last house November, a higher rate than in 2010. They will likely oppose every moderate or slightly progressive proposal over the year to come.

After Newtown, Facts Get Lost in Gun Debate

After Newtown, Facts Get Lost in Gun Debate


Deer hunters look askance at anyone who shows up in the woods with an AR-15 rifle and a 30-shot banana clip. Turkey hunters and duck hunters do not use assault weapons to track their prey. Sensible people who keep a weapon for home protection usually have a shotgun. The M-16 knockoffs that float around the gunners' universe have only one real function: hunting humans. And the re-emerging debate in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre is not about guns, it is about politics and the organizations who dress themselves in the Second Amendment in order to better sell arch-conservative and racist, bigoted notions of American life.