Before the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, Reason.com asked its staff, regular contributors, and other people important to the libertarian universe of ideas, to say for whom they're voting and to answer a few questions related to November's big contests.
With the 2012 contest now just a couple of weeks away, we're happy to publish our third "Who's Getting Your Vote?" survey, along with some questions about other important races around the country and whether the United States is becoming more or less free. Nobody's required to participate, but we do this exercise in a spirit of transparency and openness that generally goes missing at other media organizations around election time. Journalists claim all sorts of moral and legal privileges for themselves (typically as a corrective to the supposedly rotten wages the profession offers), but the idea that readers shouldn't know for whom political commentators pull the lever is self-evidently ridiculous.
The previous installments expressed a lot of discontent with major-party candidates and a willingness on the part of some participants to "punish" the Republican Party by voting for the Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama. I understood the sentiment but couldn't endorse it. After all, those of us who weren't Republicans would also be punished by Democratic victories. Where's the justice in that?
As Matt Welch and I note in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, the broadly defined libertarian vote (folks interested in reducing the size, spending, and scope of government) has tended to vote for Republican candidates, ostensibly because of the GOP's limited-government rhetoric. Depending on the definition, the libertarian vote comprises 10 percent to 20 percent of the overall electorate, far more than enough to determine any national election. According to analyses by David Boaz (who participates below), FreedomWorks' David Kirby, and Reason's polling director Emily Ekins, upwards of seven out of 10 libertarian-leaning voters go Republican in presidential races. Major exceptions came in 2004 and 2008, when higher-than-average numbers of libertarians were willing to throw in with John Kerry and Barack Obama (many participants in our 2008 presidential survey said they were voting for Obama). By the 2010 midterm elections, that flirtation with Dems seemed to be over and the Reason-Rupe Poll released this September found that 70 percent of libertarian-minded voters said they plan to vote for Romney. The same poll found that the Libertarian Party candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, could pull as much as 6 percent of the final vote.
Johnson is certainly the clear favorite in our 2012 "Who's Getting Your Vote" survey. Few of the contributors below have kind words for either President Obama or Gov. Romney, but many are stoked by state-level intiatives seeking to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana; to recognize gay marriage; and to otherwise limit the power of the state. Contributors were also generally optimistic that Reason's vision of "Free Minds and Free Markets" was either still gaining ground or at least holding its own against constant attempts to limit both.
Nothing in what follows should be construed as an official endorsement for any candidate or cause. Reason.com is published by a 501(c)3 nonprofit and doesn't endorse particular candidates or specific pieces of legislation. We do hope that you'll find what follows provocative and informative.
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1. Which presidential candidate are you voting for and why? Gary Johnson, because I agree with him more than any other past or present presidential candidate I can think of.
2a. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding economic freedom, including things such as industrial policy, free trade, regulation, and taxes? Obama would be worse, though I think Romney would also be terrible.
2b. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding social freedom issues such as gay marriage, free speech, school choice, and reproductive rights? Mitt, though Barack is no friend to freedom of any kind.
2c. Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who do you think would be worse regarding foreign policy, military interventions, and the global war on terror (including domestic restrictions on civil liberties)? They'd both be equally disastrous.
3. Who did you vote for in 2000, 2004, and 2008? Harry Browne, John Kerry (whom I despised, but I really wanted to see Bush get fired), and Bob Barr (the worst Lib candidate ever, but still much preferable to McCain or Obama).
4. Apart from the presidency, what do you think is the most important race or ballot initiative being decided this fall? It looks like my home state of Washington may legalize marijuana. It'll be both fantastic and very interesting to see what happens if that does indeed happen.