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Steeped in International Affairs?: The Foreign Policy Views of the Tea Party


  • The author thanks the anonymous reviewers and the editors and, most importantly, the International Studies Association for the venture grant that made the survey possible. Matthew Gratias provided research help.


The Tea Party is a powerful new force in American domestic politics, but little is known about its supporters' views on foreign affairs. New survey data indicates that supporters of the Tea Party exhibit attitudes on international relations consistent with the Jacksonian tradition in American political thought but not, as some have maintained, isolationist opinions of the Jeffersonian variety. Jacksonians are supporters of a strong defense and a large military presence abroad and are opposed to Wilsonian global idealism. The article operationalizes support for these three different foreign policy traditions by connecting them to previous findings on the structure of American foreign policy. The effect of Tea Party affiliation on foreign policy attitudes is severely weakened, however, once we control for political ideology, particularly economic conservatism. As is the case in domestic politics, Tea Party sympathizers seem to be somewhat ordinary conservatives, not a completely new breed. There is a direct parallel between their domestic attitudes and their foreign policy attitudes. Their lack of support for idealistic policies abroad, their most prominent set of attitudes, is part and parcel of a lack of social solidarity indicated in their more economically libertarian position at home.