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Is the Tea Party a “Religious” Movement? Religiosity in the Tea Party versus the Religious Right

sociology-of-religionJournal abstract

Since the Tea Party Movement (TPM) emerged, observers have drawn parallels between this movement and the Religious Right (RR). This article deepens our understanding of this relationship by providing a detailed analysis of religiosity in the TPM versus the RR. We find that compared to the RR, the TPM mobilized a religiously heterogeneous membership. Although roughly half of TPM members were also members of the RR, the other half of this movement reported lower levels of religious orthodoxy and commitment, and included relatively large numbers of nonreligious individuals. Yet a majority of TPM members, including disproportionately high numbers of nonreligious members, believed that America is a Christian nation. Our findings complicate the notion that religious “nones” are predictably liberal and that Christian nationalist views are necessarily linked to Christian identity, instead raising the possibility that Christian-America rhetoric can operate—even for some nonreligious individuals—as symbolic boundary-work that marks certain groups as political “others.”