Race and Social Problems

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 226-237

First online:

A “Subterranean Agenda”? Racial Attitudes, Presidential Evaluations, and Tea Party Membership

  • Angie MaxwellAffiliated withDiane D. Blair Professor of Southern Studies, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Arkansas Email author 
  • , T. Wayne ParentAffiliated withRussell B. Long Professor, Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University

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Recent research suggests that fiscally conservative policy preferences and disapproval of President Obama are significant predictors of Tea Party membership (Maxwell and Parent 2012). Unfortunately, however, we know very little about the reasons why Tea Party members so aggressively disapprove of President Obama. While Tea Party members adamantly deny that President Obama’s race plays any role in their motivations, their critics argue that racial attitudes are a primary reason why individuals choose to join the movement. In this article, using national survey data conducted by Knowledge Networks (n = 1649), we explore the possibility that three unique racial attitudes have been influential in the establishment of the Tea Party. Specifically, we investigate the role of symbolic racism, racial stereotypes, and ethnocentrism as predictors of self-identified Tea Party membership among whites.


Tea Party Ethnocentrism Symbolic racism Racial stereotypes Obama