American Consumers Newsletter
from Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director,
New Strategist Publications
The latest time use statistics might reveal the fuel of the Tea Party fire: the growing television addiction among older men. No one watches more TV than men aged 65 or older. They spend nearly one-third of their waking hours (4.63 hours per day) watching television as their primary activity, according to the 2008 American Time Use Survey. Men aged 55 to 64 rank second in television viewing (3.81 hours per day). Men aged 45 to 54 rank fourth (3.09 hours per day), behind women aged 65 or older (3.69 hours per day). Older men not only watch a lot of TV, but they are watching a lot more. In the past five years, men aged 45 or older have added 28 to 46 minutes to their daily dose of television. No other age group comes close.
These findings might explain the demographics of the Tea Party movement. Eighteen percent of Americans say they are Tea Party supporters, according to a New York Times poll taken last month. The 75 percent majority of supporters are aged 45 or older (versus 50 percent of all adults), and 59 percent are men (versus 49 percent of all adults).
What is the link between television and Tea Party supporters? Just ask them, which is what the New York Times did. The 47 percent plurality of Tea Party supporters acknowledge that most of their information about the movement comes from television. Not just any television, either. Sixty-three percent say they are most likely to watch Fox News for information about politics and current events.
The great majority of Tea Partiers think their beliefs are shared by most Americans. Fully 84 percent think the views of the Tea Party movement reflect the views of the general public. They are misinformed about this, and that might explain their anger.
According to the New York Times:
• 85 percent of Tea Party supporters do not think the federal government should require Americans to get health insurance. Only 45 percent of the general public agrees.
• 76 percent of Tea Party supporters want the federal government to cut the deficit rather than create jobs. Only 42 percent of the general public agrees.
• 51 percent of Tea Party supporters think global warming will not have a serious impact on the environment. Only 24 percent of the general public agrees.
• 52 percent of Tea Party supporters think too much has been made of the problems facing blacks. Only 28 percent of the general public agrees.
• 53 percent of Tea Party supporters think the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision (giving women the right to abortion) was a bad thing. Only 34 percent of the general public agrees.
• Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters favor raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year. The 54 percent majority of all Americans favor higher taxes on those households.
Fifty-three percent of Tea Party supporters say they are angry about the way things are going in Washington. When asked why they are angry, the single most important reason--after health care reform--is that Washington does not represent the people. That may be true, but Tea Party supporters do not represent the people either. They are much more likely than the average American to be retired, collecting Social Security benefits, and covered by Medicare. They are much more likely than the average American to watch a lot of TV.
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