Cato Publishes New eBook on The Libertarian Vote

Today, the Cato Institute is announcing the release of a new eBook called The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center, co-authored by Cato's David Boaz, FreedomWorks' David Kirby, and Reason Polling Director Emily Ekins. It's a compilation of the authors' research, polls, and op-eds on a portion of the electorate they estimate at around 15 percent. From the introduction:

So how do libertarians vote? Libertarians are increasingly a swing vote, and they are a larger share of the electorate than "soccer moms" and other micro-targeted groups.

Our data show that libertarians have generally voted Republican—66 percent for Ronald Reagan in 1980, 74 percent for George H. W. Bush in 1988, and 72 percent for George W. Bush in 2000. But they are not diehard Republicans. John Anderson and Libertarian Party candidate Ed Clark got 17 percent of the libertarian vote in 1980, and Ross Perot took 33 percent of the libertarians in 1992.

The libertarian vote for Republicans fell off in 2004 and 2006 in response to the Bush administration’s big-government agenda, and then grew again in 2008 and 2010 in light of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Democrats.

How's the libertarian vote shaping up for Nov. 6? Check out this graphic from the Reason-Rupe Poll last month:

So even while Reason magazine types are currently polling at 68 percent Gary Johnson vs. 32 percent nobody, libertarians writ large as of six weeks ago were thinking 70 percent Mitt Romney, 14 percent Johnson, and 13 percent Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, conservative direct mail king Richard Viguerie is laying down the gauntlet: "Will Libertarians And Constitutionalists Re-Elect Obama?" From that:

Conservatives have more reason now to be optimistic than they have had in the past 50 years. The rise of the Tea Party, the election of small government constitutional conservative office holders, such as Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and presumably Ted Cruz, mean our agenda will have a new generation of effective and attractive advocates on the national stage, and most importantly, in Congress where they can actually legislate on that agenda.

The bad news is that many libertarians pride themselves on being destroyers, and when they lose a primary or otherwise don’t get their way, rather than cinching-up their belts and selling themselves and their ideas harder, they try to "teach" Republicans a lesson by causing them to lose.

This is a bad way to sell your ideas in the best of times, it is dangerous to the future of the country this election. Four more years of President Obama will take generations to undo – if the economic damage and institutionalization of a culture of dependency can be undone at all.

And over at the group law-prof weblog The Volokh Conspiracy, you can read explanations for why libertarian legal scholars will probably prefer Romney to Johnson by David Bernstein and Jonathan H. Adler.

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  • Doctor Whom||

    From Viguerie:

    To my Libertarian and Constitutionalist friends and readers I say – don’t delude yourselves – a vote for Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson IS a vote to re-elect Barack Obama, and a vote to give his destructive policies four more years to corrode the soul of this country.

    Always voting for God's Own Party is a vote to give carte blanche to a bunch of people who are closeted statists on fiscal issues and who are blatant, in-your-face statists on social issues.

  • BarryD||

    True enough. But I don't see anything about "always" in the quote.

    Whether or not I agree with said quote, what you wrote is not really a response to it.

  • Surly Chef||

    Simple math proves that this statement is false.

  • Surly Chef||

    The quoted statement, not the commenting about it.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    My reply for this week:

    Telling me that my vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Obama is only going to solidify my resolve. So in effect, you telling me that bullshit is a vote for Obama, in your dumbass universe. Congratulations.

  • buddhastalin||

    closeted statists on fiscal issues and who are blatant, in-your-face statists on social issues

    truth

  • BarryD||

    Likely libertarian voters pull the lever for Johnson 14 times out of 100...

    And people here think it's silly to say that we live in a two-party system, whether we admit it or not...

    Wish it were different, but wishes =/= fishes.

  • ||

    I understand the libertarians saying they'd rather not vote than the libertarians who truthfully would vote for Romney (or Obama in 2008). You don't have to blindly follow the libertarian candidate (Lord knows I somewhat regret my Bob Barr vote in 2008), which is why I said a non-vote gets more respect from me. But don't delude yourself into thinking that there is ANYTHING significantly different between Romney and Obama.

  • sarcasmic||

    But don't delude yourself into thinking that there is ANYTHING significantly different between Romney and Obama.

    Exactly.

  • MJGreen||

    I'm not voting because confirming my new address to the elections office would've cost me a stamp.

    Fuck that!

  • R C Dean||

    I know: unconstitutional poll tax, right?

  • Art Vandelay||

    But Obama is half-black, and Romney is a Mormon! The differences couldn't be more stark.

    Also, War on teh Wimmenz.

  • JeremyR||

    Gun rights? EPA? Supreme Court Justices?

    Romney might be a moderate Republican, but he's still far to the right of Obama economically.

  • Rich||

    while Reason magazine types are currently polling at 68 percent Gary Johnson vs. 32 percent nobody, libertarians writ large as of six weeks ago were thinking 70 percent Mitt Romney, 14 percent Johnson, and 13 percent Barack Obama.

    Ha! And you call yourselves "libertarians"!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Whichever one wins I hope gets raked over the coals by their own supporters in the voting public when they ignore their expressed principles (e.g. civil liberties for Obama or reduced government for Romney). I don't expect it, of course. The anti-war crowd fell in line the last four years and I expect the Tea Party would do so in the next four.

    We know how the free press checks Obama, and we can guess how it would treat a President Romney. I honestly have no idea how they would handle President Johnson and his policies.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "I expect the Tea Party would do so in the next four"

    The TP has established a record of challenging Congressional incumbents in primaries. They are fully capable of criticizing "their team."

    I don't know if they would mount a primary challenge to a President Romney in 2016, but I don't think they would be unconditional supporters or go the way of the "antiwar" crowd.

    To make an analogy with the antiwar folks, we would have to posit a Tea Party which never makes an electoral challenge to the politicians they putatively criticize.

  • robc||

    I don't know if they would mount a primary challenge to a President Romney in 2016

    If Romney is as bad as I think he is gonna be, I could see Rand Paul doing it.

  • Rich||

    I honestly have no idea how they would handle President Johnson and his policies.

    If *that* doesn't scream out for a poll, I don't know what does!

  • 0x90||

    "The bad news is that many libertarians pride themselves on being destroyers, and when they lose a primary or otherwise don’t get their way, rather than cinching-up their belts and selling themselves and their ideas harder, they try to 'teach' Republicans a lesson by causing them to lose."

    Team first, combined with faulty underlying assumption. One might be tempted to reply with "I see what you did there," but you'd have to see it too, for that to make sense.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Yeah, right, and RP voters were welcomed to stay even if they are called lunatics, nutjobz, etc. etc.

    You know, 14% of 15% of likely voters is over 2 million votes for Gary Johnson. So in two weeks we will be able to see just how accurate this poll was. I predict he gets around one million.

  • Spoonman.||

    That's 14% to 15% of likely voters identified as libertarians, not of all of them.

  • robc||

    That is why he said 14% OF 15%.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    So closer to two hundred than two million.

  • robc||

    14% of 15% is 2.1%, Assuming 100M voters, 2M is about right.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Thanks, robc, someone else can do the math too.

  • ||

    15% of the voting public does not self-identify as libertarian.

    That number is something closer to 2-5%

  • CE||

    So you're saying he has a chance!

  • Spoonman.||

    I am hoping Johnson gets more than TEAM BE RULED's margin of victory in swing states. Ideally that will lead to more pandering to us, which might lead to the occasional libertarian decision.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    They'd rather lose than learn.

  • Ken Shultz||

    One in five libertarians would vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney?

    They must have been high.

    Maybe 20% of the time, when people answered the phone, and someone asked them, "Are you a libertarian?", they were so stoned, they thought they were being asked, "Are you a Rastafarian?".

  • Ken Shultz||

    Is there anyone more perfectly opposed to libertarianism ideologically than Barack Obama?

  • CE||

    George W. Bush.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Did George W. Bush nationalize an industrial giant on behalf of the UAW?

  • Ken Shultz||

    We have more in common with the Green candidate.

  • Matt Welch||

    Note that these aren't self-identified libertarians, they are people who are determined (through their other answers to questions) to hold largely libertarian beliefs. For what that's worth, etc.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We gotta reach those people.

    I'll make another donation to Reason straight away.

  • Art Vandelay||

    Maybe they mean Bill Maher-type "Libertarians".

  • Longtorso||

    To my Libertarian and Constitutionalist friends and readers I say – don’t delude yourselves – a vote for Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson IS a vote to re-elect Barack Obama, and a vote to give his destructive policies four more years to corrode the soul of this country.

    I live in TX. Either TX is guaranteed to go GOP or the GOP is toast nationally. Either way, the Red vs. Blue contest is a done deal as far as my vote is concerned. The most effective thing I can do w/ my vote is help Johnson's vote total. Any other vote would be meaningless even in terms of the Red vs. Blue contest.

  • CE||

    And that's true in every state, close or not. No state will be decided by one vote.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I live in CO. I am going to revel in the conversations, post-election, as I tell folks I proudly voted Johnson. If Obama wins (which is where my money is right now) it will be quite enjoyable watching the heads of my "conservative" friends explode...If Romney wins then I turn it around and tell them they should apologize for all the BS they gave as My vote clearly didn't count.

    ooohhh I can't wait.

  • JW||

    The bad news is that many libertarians pride themselves on being destroyers, and when they lose a primary or otherwise don’t get their way, rather than cinching-up their belts and selling themselves and their ideas harder, they try to "teach" Republicans a lesson by causing them to lose.

    See? They only smack us around because they love us. They wouldn't have to hurt us so, if we'd only [pokes finger into chest] fucking listen.

    If you want libertarians to buy your product, you shitsipper, you might want to make it something worth buying, other than a fancy label on the can.

  • R C Dean||

    they try to "teach" Republicans a lesson by causing them to lose.

    Perhaps because the only thing that matters to TEAM BE RULED is winning and losing?

  • CE||

    14 percent of the libertarian vote goes to G-Money? Ouch.

    So basically, we can multiply his results on Nov. 6th by a factor of 7 to see how much support he actually has?

  • ||

    If you're ignoring an actual libertarian candidate and voting for TEAM BE RULED? You're not really as libertarian as you thought.

  • JeremyR||

    Or maybe they follow the news.

    Do you honestly think Romney's EPA will be as intrusive as Obama's?

    Trying to ban lead ammo. Trying to get cap & trade instated bypassing Congress, etc, etc, etc.

  • ||

    libertarians writ large as of six weeks ago were thinking 70 percent Mitt Romney, 14 percent Johnson, and 13 percent Barack Obama.

    Those are some veeeery small-l "libertarians".

  • JacobLyles||

    "The libertarian vote" -- wait a second, I thought the cool libertarians didn't vote?

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