New Study Debunks Myth about Racist Tea Partiers

Tea Partiers at the 9/12 Taxpayer March on the National Mall (Fox Photo)

Tea Partiers at the 9/12 Taxpayer March on the National Mall (Fox Photo)

The Tea Party movement, and those within it, has been accused of being racist and inciting prejudice pretty much since its inception, but a new study conducted by UCLA graduate student Emily Ekins is showing just the opposite.

Ekins set out to photograph every single poster and sign at the 9/12 Taypayer March on Washington in September to see if the tens of thousands of Americans that make up the Tea Party movement are really running on racism.

After tediously combing through the crowd and over 250 photographs later, Ekins discovered, based on the signs, that the claims of rampant racism simply weren't true. "Over 50 percent were about limited government and lower spending, and only about 6 percent were controversial in nature," Ekins told Fox News.

And of the 6 percent that were controversial, Ekins said that didn't mean racist. "If it was related to outsider politics, an ‘us versus them' message, anything about Islam, or the mosque in New York, anything that could be construed as controversial then I included it."

There were plenty blasting the democrats spending pattern, and the new health care law championed by President Obama. With signs screaming "$top the $pending" and "A Government Big Enough to Give you Anything you Want, is Strong Enough to Take Everything You Have," the most common ethos was for lawmakers to get back to the ideals of the founding fathers.

One example of those she classified as controversial were the signs carried by "birthers." That is, those Americans that claim President Obama was not born inside the United States, and are demanding to see his birth certificate. Those signs made up just 1 percent of those dubbed controversial.

When asked, Ekins said she could only remember one specific sign that could be considered racist, but it wasn't targeted towards President Obama. "I'm not trying to incite any anger here, but I do remember one that said ‘I'm a Smart*ss Cracker and I Vote,' so it didn't say the word, but you got the point," she said.

Ekins went on to say that it was signs like that, and those comparing Obama to Hitler that riled fellow tea partiers. "The elderly people were like you shouldn't do that, you're making us all look bad. They were quick to call people out if there were signs that were counterproductive or unsophisticated."

Ekins said her study goes against what the mainstream media likes to cover when it comes to these rallies. Instead of focusing on just one or two outlandish signs, she took a more systematic approach which led to the overall message. A message, she said, that is pretty simple: "The overwhelming message is about limited government."

Emily Ekins is currently pursuing her PhD at UCLA and completed the study as part of research for her dissertation. Ekins also interned at libertarian think tank The Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

Slide show of Tea Party Photos