David Kirkpatrick

January 24, 2010

Libertarians in the electorate

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:40 pm

Interesting study from the Cato Institute ( by David Boaz and David Kirby) to find out just how many libertarian voters are out there in the wild pulling levers on election days.

Looking at the loosest possible definition — fiscal conservative/social liberal but won’t self-identify as libertarian — the number is a huge 59 percent. Add the self-definition to the equation and that drops to 44 percent.

The Cato’s stringent definition of libertarian — “correct” answers on three political values questions — still found 14 percent of voters are libertarian. A fairly healthy figure. For the record I consider myself in the second group of the second graf. Didn’t take the Kirby-Boaz survey to see if I fit a higher level of purity. I typically self describe as a “little l” libertarian.

And the ostensibly libertarian Tea Party movement? From everything I’ve read the movement has a lot of libertarian rhetoric, coupled with a lot of anarchic actions. Honest libertarianism isn’t against government. It’s just against needlessly intrusive, large and bad government.

From the first link:

In our new study, David Kirby and I round up various estimates on the number of libertarian-leaning voters. Our own calculation, 14 percent, is actually the lowest estimate.

We use three questions on political values from the generally acknowledged gold standard of public opinion data, the surveys of the American National Election Studies, and find that 14 percent of respondents gave libertarian answers to all three questions. But other researchers have used somewhat looser criteria and found larger numbers of libertarians:

The chart:

We summed all that up in this handy but not necessarily helpful graph