Tea Party

Is Half the Tea Party Libertarian?


As David Kirby and I found in our analysis of Tea Party supporters at the Virginia Tea Party Convention in 2010, and published in Politico, the Tea Party is not one homogenous blob of ideologues. Many political scientists and political pundits who have not examined the data wrongly conclude the Tea Party is the GOP's base of extreme fiscal and social conservatives. Instead, examination of nationwide survey data reveals the Tea Party has at least two major groups: one libertarian leaning and the other socially conservative. These two groups agree on most things economic, but disagree when it comes to social and cultural issues. 

The recent Reason-Rupe poll also finds two groups among those who self-identify as supporters of the Tea Party, with 41 percent leaning-libertarian and 59 percent socially conservative. Tea Partiers generally agree on economic issues and abstract role of government questions. However, a split emerges on whether government has a role in promoting traditional values in society or if the government should not promote any particular set of values.

There are demographic differences between the two groups, with the libertarian-leaners less likely to attend religious services, more likely to come from the Northeast, with slightly higher educational attainment in some cases, and younger. 

Although Tea Partiers overall are de-branded Republicans, libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers are even more so. The plurality response to partisan identification is 44 percent "Independent" compared to 39 percent "Republican." When independents are asked which way they lean, most Tea Partiers lean Republican. Consequently, 39 percent of libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers are Republican and 29 percent lean Republican; in contrast, 57 percent of socially conservative Tea Partiers are Republican and 20 percent lean Republican.

Libertarian-leaners voiced more intense support for allowing workers the choice to opt out of Social Security and Medicare. They are also more likely to favor raising the retirement age than socially conservative Tea Partiers. They are less confident in the department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are also more likely to believe "misguided" regulations rather than the "lack of" regulations led to the troubled housing market.

Libertarian-leaners are much more likely to support a presidential candidate who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. They are also more likely to consider voting for a third party candidate.

NEXT: The Escalating Penalty for Asserting Your Right to a Trial

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  1. They forgot:
    “Do you hate Mexicans?”

    Tea Party votes:
    Yes: 98 %
    No : 1 %
    Unsure : 1%

    (Libertarians are the first 1%, the other 1% suffer from Alzheimer’s and would have said Yes had they remembered the question).

  2. I am the tea party. I am pro-choice, and against the war on drugs. I just want the government out of my bedroom and my wallet.

  3. This article pretty well sums up my appraisal, also, of the general Tea Party make-up.
    I, for instance, am a disaffected Republican, because there are far too many RINOS in current control of the Republican agenda…too centrist for me… it’s as if they had no philosophical underpinnings,other than opportunism, to spur their behavior. They can, and have, taken their “moderation and balance” crap so far that ethics, the equal protection of citizens Freedoms, and the Constitution no longer exist for them.
    They are also “spoilers” in nearly every political race in which they engage themselves. Their centrism feeds into the complacency and need for security of a society sickened by Liberal “sacred cows/the entitlement crowds”.
    I am also a disaffected Libertarian (primarily!).
    I’m a believer in John Locke, Frederic Bastiat, and I keep a copy of Alan Burris’ “A Liberty Primer” right next to my Oxford English Dictionary (both are used often!).
    The Libertarian Party once held such hope for me.
    However, I discovered over the years, that in order to remain a viable political party, the Libertarians hooked themselves up with anti-war activists, some of the “Green” gang, and others ( Oddly, I am NOT talking about the “Weed” crowd, as I support the decriminalization of Marijuana), which diluted some of the basic tenets of Libertarianism, in my opinion.
    Additionally, there was the constant battling between the “Purists” who clung literally to dogma, and the “Pragmatists” who believed that there was opportunity to be had, a force for positive change, if some of the Libertarian “isms” could be softened enough to allow more of a merging with the Republican Party where actual changes could be made “from within the system”, rather than always being relegated to “third-Party sniping” at Congressional/ Presidential policies both good and bad.
    I had hopes that the Libertarian Party would be the Constitutional conscience of the Republican Party; but before I knew what was happening, both the R’s and the L’s widened the gulf between them.
    I support much, but not all, of what the Libertarian Party has stood for.
    That is why it still surprises me that many Libertarians have such animosity toward the Tea Partiers.
    Merging strengths, ideologies, and altering the way Congress/Obama conducts their business has already occurred with the Tea Party movement.
    We only wish that more “dyed-in-the-wool” Libertarians would ally with us rather than skeptically cutting us down, and treating us as if we had no ethics because we aren’t looking to the Libertarian Party anymore as our sole vehicle for political change! We all actually want so many of the same things!
    Why would Libertarians want to pass up another opportunity to really change how our Federal Government conducts its’ business?

    1. If you could get all the neocon infiltrates out of groups like tea party express I’d consider it!

      They are more “big government” through excessive military adventurism then all the liberals put together!

  4. The existence of a constitution implies, and libertarians agree, that we are under a “government of laws”, not a “government of men”. But if someone can plant drugs among your belongings, and if you are then required to prove that the drugs are not yours (which you can’t), then you are under a government of men, namely of those who are willing to plant evidence. Therefore the reverse onus of proof cannot be valid in any jurisdiction.

    More: http://is.gd/noreverse .

  5. Prisoners being held for the peaceful,non-violent possession,sale,transport or cultivation of cannabis must be released http://wh.gov/gf3
    I just started a petition on the White House petitions site, We the People.
    Will you sign it? http://wh.gov/gf3
    We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama
    Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets
    enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

  6. I’m not surprised to see that the Tea Party consists of a lot of libertarian thinkers. The average American is a right-leaning moderate, and I’ve seen stats that say most Americans have an ideology that falls within the libertarian scope, that is, more-or-less socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Most don’t realize that’s what they are, so we have a lot of fiscally conservative Democrats because they don’t agree with the GOP on things like gay marriage, and socially liberal Republicans because they don’t agree with the Democrats on things like ObamaCare. Problem is, Team Red and Team Blue have such a strangle-hold on things, most of us never seriously consider any of the other options. It’s as bad as the Simpsons episode where everyone voted for either Kang or Kodos because even under those circumstances, voting third party was throwing your vote away.

    1. I hosted a booth at a local community street festival. We had passers-by take political quizzes to see where they fell. Our results were about 35% libertarian, 25% Centerist, 20% Leftist, 20% Rightwing, and a few fell in Statist. BUT it’s important to consider that if you take the same quiz, and answer the way our government behaves today, it falls well within the Statist block. So relative to the way our government acts, we’re all fairly libertarian.

  7. Tea party (aside from Ron Paul) is as libritarian as TSA is to true freedom
    They are phonys!

    Ron Paul 2012!

  8. So the Tea Party breaks down into a split between libertarians vs social conservatives. How is that different than the Republican Party as a whole? What’s the point?

    1. A “split” implies that things are somehow even. They’re not. The libertarians are vastly outnumbered by the neocons and Jesus freaks. It’s not even a fair fight, so it truly is pointless. LOL.

  9. Great post!I’ll retweet on my fackbook

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  11. There are demographic differences between the two groups, with the libertarian-leaners less likely to attend religious services, more likely to come from the Northeast, with slightly higher educational attainment in some cases, and younger.

  12. Stop with the buckets.

    I’m not a checkbox.

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