Capitalism

Not All Americans Hate Libertarians

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A new Pew poll of political rhetoric shows opinions about libertarianism fit nicely into my General Theory of 33.3—the principle that on any given topic, roughly a third of the people will believe A, roughly a third will believe B, and the rest can't find their ass with both hands and a flashlight.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press polled 1,546 adults for their responses to buzzwords like "socialism," "progressive," "family values," etc. The result: 38 percent of respondents were positive on "libertarian," and 37 percent negative:

 

Why do they hate us?

The breakdown is particularly striking along party lines. According to Pew, Republicans (31 percent for, 44 percent against) have a more negative view of libertarians than do Democrats (39 percent for, 37 percent against).

Democrats like socialism almost as much as they like capitalism.

I'd have expected those numbers to look very different given the Republicans' temporary status as the small-government-of-convenience party. (The General Theory of 33.3 allows for wide shifts in opinion, positing only that over time the statistics will regress to a stable third/third/third formation.)

As has been noted here many times, leading lights of contemporary Republican Partyism, including Mike Huckabee and David Brooks, miss no opportunity to denounce not only soi-disant libertarians but iconic small-government Republicans such as Barry Goldwater.

At the same, efforts at libertarian-Democrat outreach (or reacharound) have generally ended in shame for all concerned. The "liberaltarian" movement of 2008 amounted to nothing. The coalition of "Deadwood Liberals" cited a few years before that by Reason editor Matt Welch (the Baronet Lipton of fusion politics) failed to catch the public imagination.

I suspect the slightly better Democratic numbers may reflect a knowledge gap between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans actually understand what libertarians are for, and they know they hate it. Registered Democrats on the other hand can afford to pick up a few strands of anti-drug-war, pro-gay marriage tinsel without worrying about the radical approach to individualism to which they're attached. (Which is not to say that actual Democratic politicians are in any way libertarian on drugs, gay marriage, or anything else.) It's sort of like the way I think the world of people from Bhutan because I've never actually met any of them.

Also, Pew, engages in a little scale-thumbing with its headline "'Socialism' Not So Negative, 'Capitalism' Not So Positive." In fact socialism does quite poorly in the poll, and capitalism does better than you'd expect after a period in which the mainstream media have been strenuously trying to convince people that the TARP bailout, the stimulus package and the resuscitation of General Motors are efforts to save capitalism.

Courtesy of Will Wilkinson.

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  1. According to Pew, Republicans (31 percent for, 44 percent against) have a more negative view of libertarians than do Democrats (39 percent for, 37 percent against).
    Oddly, the poll also found that 30 percent of Libertarians have a negative view of libertarians.

    1. That’s appropriate, considering that you’re one. I have a negative opinion of ALL OF YOU. Especially sage.

      1. *runs from room sobbing*

        1. That’s right, bitch! You better run!

          1. It’s my goiter, isn’t it?

            1. That, amongst other things. Like the smell. And the anal leakage. And my god, dude, do something about that fucking dandruff. This is the 21st century. We now have Head and Shoulders AND Selson Blue.

              1. But that stuff tastes like soap.

                1. You’re not supposed to eat it, you fool! It’s supposed to be applied like a suppository!

                  1. Eh, there’s no dandruff down there. You should know.

                    1. Of course not. I laser. It’s like a turtle shell down there.

                    2. Thanks for the visual.

                    3. what an awesome start to a thread, especially this one.

    2. This just confirms my opinion that Bill Hicks’ “People-Who-Hate-People Party” is actually the Libertarian Party.

      1. That makes sense. I, as a Libertarian, consider everything and everyone equidistant targets of my predations.

  2. What a stupid poll. There is nothing to say that one person’s meaning of “socialism” or “states rights” is in any way the same as the next persons. The positive or negative response to the word, rather than a specific policies is totally meaningless.

    Only fucking Cavenaugh or Wilkerson could find this interesting or valuable.

    1. Come on, John, it tells you about people’s emotional responses to specific words. Since democratic politics involves marketing, this knowledge is valuable.

      And it certainly tells you why socialists prefer to call themselves “progressives.”

      1. Yeah, when I think “progressive” I think of some douche posting on KOS. When most people think “progressive” they think TR and Upton Sinclair. I didn’t exactly need a poll to tell me that.

        1. John, I think of all three, TR, Sinclair and some douche on Kos.

        2. They do love that word on that sight don’t they? They also hate libertarians, despite being quite fond of us until oh, approximately 1 year, 104 days and 5 hours ago, though they will occasionally write an article that distinguishes us from the small-gov’t-out-of-convenience type.

          1. Aughh sight/site I always get that one wrong!

            1. Please cite statistics that prove this assertion.

        3. I only think negative thoughts when I see or hear the word “progressive”.

          1. I think ‘regressive’ when I hear that word.

            They are idiots who think that wealth is zero sum game, but yet we aren’t magically still living in caves.

            Anyone who calls himself a progressive = rertaded fetus.

          2. Is it because progressive = TEH SOSHULIST?

      2. And it certainly tells you why socialists prefer to call themselves “progressives.”

        Now it’s our job to point out that the two are synonymous.

        1. And that they are both bad 😉

      3. In answer to your query, they’re written down for me. It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response.

        1. The question about the husband hanging up a porno picture always bothered me somehow. It’s just a really bizarre question.

          1. Replicant!

            1. “Have you felt yourself to be exploited in any way?”

            2. But isn’t being bothered by the question an emotional response?

              I think it bothers me because the behavior mentioned in the question is pretty sociopathic.

      4. Say, do YOU know what socialism is? Hint: it’s not the same as “progressive.”

    2. “”What a stupid poll. There is nothing to say that one person’s meaning of “socialism” or “states rights” is in any way the same as the next persons. The positive or negative response to the word, rather than a specific policies is totally meaningless.””

      Agreed.

      For fun they should mix the words. What’s the numbers on progressive family values, or state’s rights militia.

      1. Or civil liberties militia capitalism.

        1. or capitalitiasocialtarian

          1. Cunnilingus?

        2. or capitalitiasocialtarian

          1. or Libertacommunigressive family values?

    3. Less than nothing “conservative” is not on the list. My guess is that it would come in right behind family values.

  3. (Which is not to say that actual Democratic politicians are in any way libertarian on drugs, gay marriage, or anything else.)

    Their voters aren’t, either.

    And I hate you guys, too.

  4. the rest can’t find their ass with both hands a flashlight.

    RC’z law has been having a good week.

    1. It’s Scottish, ya wee weenie!

      When a laddie finds an assie
      with both hands a’flashlight

      1. I wonder if there is an operation that can give the Scots taste buds like the rest of humanity, so at the very least, their liquor would stop tasting like bog water (which is necessary to get even a slight reaction out of them.)

        And to be honest, any reference including this one to No True Scotsman just bores the fuck out of me. You bore me, self, be gone!

    2. RC’z law has been having a good week.

      Ain’t that a fart.

    3. RC is pleased. Very pleased.

  5. I want to know who, when asked whether they were positive or negative on civl rights, said, “No, I’m against that”. Ditto for Civil Liberties and Family Values. OK, that last one has gotten to be a hot button.

    1. “Family Values” is definitely a hot button. It makes me think of nothing but the Christian Coalition and Pat Robertson. I would have said negative if they had poled me. But civil rights/liberties? How can you have a negative view of that?

      1. Connotation
        “Civil Rights” = affirmative action
        “Civil Liberties” = pinko ACLU

        I’m a bit surprised “progressive” scores so high. Glenn Beck needs to work harder. I was pleased to see “Progressive” take a shellacking from “State’s Rights”. SPLC and political progressive FAIL.

      2. I would have said negative if they had poled me.

        Jesus, I hope so. It just sounds…uncomfortable.

        1. I guess it depends where you’re poled and how long/wide the pole is.

      3. “well, the civil WAR was bad so …”

      4. I would have said negative if they had poled me.

        I’m pretty sure they have guidelines strenuously prohibiting doing that sort of thing to poll respondents.

  6. I love how civil liberties is viewed as positive by 76%, but libertarian is viewed as positive by 38%.

    Libertarians, those bemonocled tyrants and their desire for freedom!

    1. Everyone knows that libertarians want the right to sell your daughters to the Chinese.

      1. No, just her organs and ova.

    2. What is your reaction to each phrase?

      A: monocle
      B: top hat
      C: chimpanzee (or other primate, but excluding Clyde from Every Which Way But Loose) in a monocle and top hat
      D: Lucifer, who is a libertarian

      1. Are any of the choices participating in a knife fight?

        1. All of them. In international waters, of course.

      2. “Right turn, Clyde.”

      3. Everyone loves a chimpanzee in a top hat and monocle. Everyone.

      4. I want my monocle, top hat wearing chimps with a curly mustache too.

        1. Yeah, a chimp with a tophat, monocle, handlebar mustache and some sort of fancy walking stick = great justice.

          1. Walking stick must have 1’000 karat diamond on top.

            1. And the chimp needs to be heading out to buy a poor person’s liver.

      5. What was the middle one?

  7. Meaningless, given the average intelligence of American voters.
    They’ll answer “positive” to “socialism” and the next second write a letter to the editor bitching about the size of the school levy.
    Most voters are fucktards, with the critical-thinking skill set of a piece of shit and eight flies.

    1. Just the wat the teachers unions want them.

    2. I was gonna go with critical thinking skill set of a piece of eight and shit flies.

  8. Lookit all them racist ‘states righters’. No group was below 70% positive.

    1. God damn America!

      1. America’s chickens … fry up nice ‘n’ tasty and go real good with watermelon and collard greens!

        1. Fuzzy Zoeller!

          1. No, actually, I shave my zoeller. The girlfriend’s into that.

            1. Common knowledge about your bitch.

              1. Bazing!

  9. The most interesting (scary) data in the article are the by-party breakdown of reactions to the word “libertarian”. Surprisingly, more D’s (39%) than R’s (31%) had positive reactions.

    However, this is offset by the D’s negative reaction (37%), ie almost a tie but leaning positive.

    Also, more R’s reactions to “libertarian” were overall negative (44% negative vs 31% postive).

    WTF?

    1. Democrats are probably more likely to believe in the Chomsky model of “libertarian.” In other words, Democrats are more inclined to be fucking retards.

      1. Excellent point, I hadn’t thought of that.

      2. Very few people are even aware of Noam Chomsky. It is more likely that Democrats who are positive toward “libertarians” are thinking of “civil libertarians” like the ACLU.

        That might also account for some of the negative attitudes of Republicans toward “liberarians.”

        1. Bill Maher calls himself a libertarian even though he’s a progressive. Maybe that’s what the Democrat pollsters thought of.

      3. Democrats are more likely to think of “libertarian” as “sex and drugs” and see that as a positive.

      4. Yes, since the ‘Chomsky model’ of ‘libertarian’ is only 100 years older then your idea of Libertarian, they are the fools. Exactly what has Chomsky advocated that isn’t libertarian?

        1. Only everything. Fuck that Viet-Cong-coddling Commie traitor!

    2. The only thing worse than an infidel is an apostate.

    3. honestly, given again the intelligence of the average american voter, it is entirely possible that more than a few Democrats and Republicans heard the “liber-” part and assumed it meant liberal. Especially Republicans, as 15 minutes of talk radio will tell you the extent of their obsession with that word.

    4. I would guess that leftwing celebrities like Bill Maher who have self-identified as libertarian have contributed to the confusion.

      1. Oh, I see you beat me to this point like 12 hours ago. Whoops.

      2. Maher is to Libertarians, what the South Park kids are to lesbians. The former wishes they could be the latter, but he/they has/have no idea what the latter really is in the first place.

  10. Chances are the Republicans with a negative opinion are the ones who (mistakenly) think Libertarian candidates “steal” votes from Republicans.

    1. I think you meant to say “accurately”.

      Lefties go on and on about Nader stealing votes from Gore when Buchanan and the Libertarian candidateswere taking just as many votes from Bush. If Bush had lost, I doubt you would have seen all the sturm und drang directed at these guys that was directed at Nader.

      1. Lefties go on and on about Nader stealing votes from Gore when Buchanan and the Libertarian candidateswere taking just as many votes from Bush. If Bush had lost, I doubt you would have seen all the sturm und drang directed at these guys that was directed at Nader.

        That’s because that statement is false.

        Nader – US – 2,882,955 votes – FL – 97,421
        Buchanan – US – 448,895 votes – FL – 17,484
        Browne – US – 384,431 votes – FL – 16,415

        So B&B combined had less than half as many votes as Nader in both the country and in the all important Florida the difference was far more than the margin of victory. The difference in NH between Nader and B&B was more than Bush’s margin of victory.

        1. Fla. not “FL”

    2. That’s what I was thinking. The perception is that the libertarian candidate takes more votes from the Elephants than from the Jackasses (and I think that perception is correct, for the most part), so
      Elephants hate them and Jackasses cheer them on.

  11. Fuck Libertarians! They steal votes from Republicans, want kids to shoot heroin into their genitals, and hate God!

    1. Good one!

    2. I see we’re trolling for comments, eh?

    3. Hey, shooting heroin into his genitals was good enough for Sly Stone, so it’s good enough for me.

      1. You have no idea what I’ve been through. Sly’s just helpin’ me keep it all together.

        1. Sly’s Balls, we know your were slapped against Bridgette Nielsen’s ass…that’s enough to justify your problems.

  12. This doesn’t suprise me. My family are Huckabee type Republicans & they think Libertarians are evil libertines.

    1. I’m sure most on this board know there are at least 2 or 3 offshoots of the libertarian variety… 🙂

  13. Threadjack:

    Coming soon to a police state near you

    NABI SALEH, West Bank ? It’s the usual Friday afternoon cat-and-mouse dance between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters in this West Bank village.

    […]

    Before long, the military calls in one of its most dreaded weapons.

    A white armored truck rumbles toward the scene. Protesters dive for cover as a small cannon on the vehicle’s roof takes aim and fires ? not bullets or tear gas, but a heavy stream of the foulest-smelling liquid imaginable.

    Is it the sickly sweet odor of decomposing flesh? A trash dump on a hot day? Vomit? Those who’ve been doused wax on in vain, trying to find a worthy description for the stench that won’t go away, no matter how hard you scrub, for several days.

    Israeli soldiers call the truck the Skunk, and they say it has become one of their favorite tools in confronting the rising challenge of West Bank demonstrations.

    1. Protesters dive for cover as a small cannon on the vehicle’s roof takes aim and fires ? not bullets or tear gas, but a heavy stream of the foulest-smelling liquid imaginable.

      Is it the sickly sweet odor of decomposing flesh? A trash dump on a hot day? Vomit?

      Gefilte fish?

      1. Can there be any doubt?

  14. Clearly, when people think “progressive”, they’re not thinking “statist” but rather “Crim, Tull, Yes, Gentle Giant, Peter Gabriel dressed up as a freaking flower… ‘I see Winston Churchill dressed in drag, he used to be a British flag!'”

  15. Republicans skew older and old folks know the #1 target of Libertarians is Social Security and Medicare.

    1. I like this particular diagnosis.

    2. Most old Republicans would confuse libertarians with Liberals. I don’t see them making this kind of targeted policy-oriented position on Libertarians.

  16. Fifty-six percent of Republicans responded positively to “progressive” as compared to thirty-one percent that did so to “libertarian”? Am I reading the chart correctly? What day is this?

    1. Must be crazy day because we all know that you are really all Republicans in Libertarian drag.

      1. That’s a laugh. The local Republicans want nothing to do with me… I’ve pissed them off well.

  17. It’s been said at least once, but I’ll say it again. Most people are stupid and believe progressive means progress.

    1. Just like how they think liberal means liberty.

  18. I find the very high positive rating for “progressive” to be depressing in the extreme.

    I’m thinking that, just as leftists rebranded themselves as liberals a generation ago, libertarians should rebrand themselves as progressives.

    Why the hell not? If the leftists can steal “liberal” from us, we should be able to steal “progressive” from them. The cranial vapor lock it would induce in modern-day leftist/progressives would make it all worthwhile.

    1. What about “progressive libertarian”? The word “progressive” is a good word. I’m appalled that it’s stolen by socialists.

      1. As the Executive Director for the Center for Good Things that People Want, I know all about rebranding ‘good words’.

        For instance, take the Center for “Science” in the “Public Interest”…

  19. Honestly though, the very positive reaction of independents is the most important thing

  20. “…the rest can’t find their ass with both hands and a flashlight…”

    Those are the libertarians, right?

    1. “…the rest can’t find their ass with both hands and a flashlight…”

      We already gave you flashlight goddamnit. How many more handouts do you want Max?

  21. Tim Cavanaugh is such a fucking whore for right-wing dogma that he could teach Papa Ratzinger a thing or two when it comes to defending the faith. I wonder if Nick Gillespie has molested any altar boys. Do Libertarians have altar boys?

  22. Republicans currently have a high level of hate for all things libertarian because many base Repubs see the libertarians as the source of their doom. We’re the Benedict Arnold’s of true conservatism.

    You know, just like the left hated the Green Party and Ralph Nader right after the 2000 election.

  23. Libertarians seem to have the lowest total of positive and negative, which I’m guessing means the highest level of “Do not know/no impression/MATT DAMON!” responses. The lack of polarization (less than 20% spread in either positive or negative across the board) seems to support that people don’t know what libertarians are and are just guessing.

    The Pew headline is particulary baffling, since socialism barely polled above militias, and socialists haven’t been in the news lately for incompetently plotting to kill cops.

    1. When I polled on “libertarian” in the Bronx circa 20 years ago, I found that most people did think, correctly, that it had to do with liberty. They did a lot better in that regard in the early 1990s than they had in the late 1980s.

    2. Socialism did however win a majority opinion of favorable among democrats.

      1. er, plurality. sorry.

  24. Note that of words ending in “-ia”, “-ian”, “-ism”, “-ist”, and “-ive”, only “capitalism” is overall positive. North Americans just don’t like isms & ideologies, at least not described as such. The fact that capitalism rates positively says that they must really love it, to overcome that tendency.

    1. Scientologist pull everybody else with an ideology or an agenda down through mere verbal association. Damn Hubbardites!

  25. How the hell does “family values” have such a high rating considering it’s just a codeword for christofascism?

    1. Only among the sodomites.

    2. Those poll numbers sounds flat wrong. Most liberals I know hate the phrase “family values”.

    3. Well,
      A) it’s more about the cultural values riding on Christianity’s coattails than the metaphysics and rituals,
      B) like charity and etiquette, there are a lot of things that are good when chosen, but bad when compelled. If people literally mean the ethos of family values, rather than the political agenda, it’s not a bad way to personally conduct oneself.

  26. Republicans actually understand what libertarians are for, and they know they hate it. Registered Democrats on the other hand can afford to pick up a few strands of anti-drug-war, pro-gay marriage tinsel without worrying about the radical approach to individualism to which they’re attached.

    I suspect more than a few Democrats confused libertarianism with liberalism, and thus bumped the approval numbers higher.

    Some people really are that stupid / ignorant.

  27. I hat libertardians so much! They’re just a bunch of Republitards in disguise!

  28. Oh, fuck the word ‘progressive’, I’ve always hated it. If you must use a word that denotes an air of smugness and self satisfaction with a mix of positive PR, don’t settle for ‘progressiv’, go for the gold, ‘enlightened’, as in ‘enlightened libertarianism.’ Our enemies would despise us even more, but it would still be much less ironic than their use of ‘progressive.’

    Enlightened libertarians everyone! If it catches on, they will have to add a few more terms to these polls and in another five years, this poll will be OURS!!!

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    1. Also the implication that if one is opposed to “progressive” ideas one’s ideas are regressive.

  29. The biggest surprise in the poll is the overwhelmingly positive reaction to “states rights”…. I thought the Left had forever tarnished the term as code for racism.

    Viva la 10th Amendment!

  30. It’s not surprising that more D’s than R’s have a favorable opinion of “libertarian”. Most people think a libertarian is for legalizing drugs, shrinking government, and staying out of unnecessary wars. Democratic voters tend to like 2 of the 3, while Republicans only favor 1.

    1. when have republicans ever shrank government?. while im at it. when have democrats keep us out of wars or wanted to legalize drugs? never, as far as I can tell. the Political parties are about getting themselves elected and reelected. telling ppl want they want hear while growing their own power.

  31. What the fuck are “family values”?

    Mark me down as ambivalent to this ambiguity.

    1. “Family values” refers to just about anything you wouldn’t be ashamed to do in front of your children (e.g. any movie you might watch) or behind closed doors while you’re in the same house with them (e.g. having sex with your spouse). The definition is every bit as fixed–and slippery–as that.

  32. opinions about libertarianism fit nicely into my General Theory of 33.3

    Sigh.

    Yes Tim. But no theory can get around the fact that nobody really likes us.

  33. Of course, this poll is all but meaningless, but what I think libertarians need to start doing is framing everything in a way that doesn’t mince words. There are those who believe in liberty (libertarians, whether personally conservative or liberal or whatever)and those who do not (every friggin body else) and that is really all there is to it. There is no middle ground. There is no – sorta believe in liberty sometimes or like “some libertarian ideas”. If you believe liberty is good, is the most humane and decent approach to human affairs and every thing else involves accepting the idea that unprovoked aggression is okay depending on the circumstance. We are the good guys and those who don’t believe in liberty are the bad guys. Let’s not pretend otherwise in order to keep friends.

  34. Yet another reminder that half of all Americans are of below average intelligence.

    Or – technically below median intelligence, but I can’t find any info saying the median is not the mean in this case.

  35. [“It’s sort of like the way I think the world of people from Bhutan because I’ve never actually met any of them.”]

    You know who I’ve never met? A writer for Reason who was able to set aside hippie punching in order to suggest a constructive engagement strategy with the majority party. Of course, that might actually get an item on the Libertarian agenda enacted into law, and that would mean that the wankers at Reason would have one less thing to whine about.

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