Election 2016

The Increased Interest in the Libertarian Party Is Real

More are searching for information compared to this same time in previous election years.



Yes, the media and public are paying more attention to the Libertarian Party right now.

The Google News aggregation feature right now is showing 180 recently posted articles and opinion pieces from media outlets about the Libertarian Party and its convention in Orlando this weekend. Combinations of search terms incorporating candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party are ranking among the top 100 trending searches. (As I type this sentence it is ranked ninth, but the trends are updated extremely frequently and it bounces around)

That's not even the full picture. Google Trends calculates that over the past seven days, there's been an accumulation of more than 650 news articles that reference the party (though keep in mind, thanks to wire services, this probably includes multiple publishings in different media outlets of the same piece). The Wall Street Journal notes that 250 reporters have requested media credentials for the convention, as opposed to the 10 or 20 who covered it in 2012. Stories about the convention are showing up on the Google News page as one of the top items in the U.S. news section and its list of "Most Popular" stories.

To get an even better sense of context I decided to take a look at Google search trends over time both for the Libertarian Party and for Gary Johnson back in 2012. What did the searches look like then?

What is clear from a look at Google's charts is that there is definitely an increased interest in Johnson and the Libertarian Party now compared to this same point in time in 2012. The Libertarian Party sees a spike in interest in searches as each presidential election approaches, reaching its highest points in October and November. Eminently logical.

What's different this time is that the spike is starting to build earlier. Google's trends don't provide actual search numbers, but the number of searches for the "Libertarian Party" right now in May is four times as high as the number of searches in May 2012 and equal to the number of searches for the party in October 2012. That is to say, there are definitely, conclusively now a greater number of people searching for information about the Libertarian Party than the last time they held their national convention.

"Libertarian Party" searches
Google searches for "Libertarian Party"

Gary Johnson is also seeing a similar early development for his search spike. In 2012, even after nomination, interest in him didn't start taking off until August. He's already beating his August numbers from back then.

But before getting too optimistic, we need to take a look at 2004. There was an even greater interest in learning more about the Libertarian Party back then, and a spike in searches in October 2004 remains higher than any subsequent presidential elections, including Johnson's last run. In the end, though, the Libertarian Party's candidate, Michael Badnarik, finished fourth behind Ralph Nader.

But even so, searches right now for May are actually higher than the interest at this time in May 2004. If this trend continues, the Libertarian Party could very well set a new interest record. 

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  1. Libertarian moment! Gets out monocle and parades around office. What’s that? I should read the article? Hmmmph. /yells at orphans to work harder or no mush for dinner

    1. This guy feeds his orphans

      *Points and laughs*

      1. How do you keep them alive? It’s not like there’s an unlimited supply of orphans for diamond mining.

        1. Their labor sustains them.

        2. I find no trouble getting replacements

  2. Just took a look, and at 9th place is Austin Petersen, with Gary Johnson 2016 down to 18th.

    1. Who the fuck is Austin Petersen?

      It may be that he wins in searches because that is most people’s initial reaction. Of course, that’s a common question about Johnson too.

      1. Who the fuck is Austin Petersen?

        He created Andrew Napolitano. You’re welcome.

        1. He also runs the worst-designed political site on the entire internet. 2 things!

          1. but bro he’s a “successful Libertarian”. Just ask him, he’ll tell you!

  3. Now we are two!

    *disappears into the night*

    1. Very very nice. You’re bringing laughing tears to my eyes.

      The comments to this point were much more entertaining than the article.

  4. I don’t know why the news media don’t prop the part up more frequently. It can only help the Democrats. (If you believe they’re interested in doing so.) (Which I do.)

    1. They learn to hate Ayn Rand in university – obviously Libertarians are fascists?

      They know how to wage Culture War, so no enemy can be given an opening?

      If they wanted to, they’d promote Constitution Party anyway?

  5. The ceiling for the Libertarian vote is 2%

    1. Past performance is no guarantee for future results.

      In no previous election has the duopoly nominated Trump-Clinton, and never before has the LP had the most qualified and most moderate candidate (assuming they stick with Johnson).

      1. ^ This.

        I converted a Republican into a Johnson supporter just earlier this week.

        What did I have to do to accomplish that, you may ask?

        I mentioned his name when I was asked “sheesh, don’t we have any options besides a crook and a spoiled brat?”

        That’s literally all it took. He’s a committed supporter now.

        1. Republicans should like GayJay. He’s one of them.

        2. So he’ll now get what, a dozen votes?

        3. Sounds like a real thoughtful fellow…

  6. I’d like to believe this increased attention was significant but…

    That graph.

    There’s a reason you aren’t showing the y axis.

    1. Damn your nimble fingers, Sir. [cuff nearest orphan]

    2. In 2004, only libertarians were using Google.

  7. Pro-tip: When publishing a graph such as the one accompanying the article, always show and label the vertical axis.

    1. Look, we’re building a libertarian moment here.

      1. We didn’t build it

        1. Our orphans’ sweat and blood did!

          1. My orphan blood is only ever used for gravy.

    2. The Google search graphs are always relative rather than absolute. The highest interest in the party every was October 2004, so Google sets that to 100. Everything else is a fraction of that amount.

      1. The highest interest in the party every was October 2004

        Hmmm. Wonder why?

    3. That is a pro tip for recognizing bullshit, not one for writing it.

  8. You’ll have to blame Google for the lack of an axis label. That’s a direct screenshot. The problem is that Google doesn’t even provide numbers for the searches. It’s a mathematical calculation of “interest” that just goes from 0 to 100. So we have no sense of what the Y even means other than more or less and the proportion of more and less.

    1. Fuckin’ Google, man.

    2. You can judge it relative to another similar term. Not exactly a great sign that Green Party outpaces the Libertarian Party in searches.


  9. The Increased Interest in the Libertarian Party Is Real

    Which i don’t doubt at all.

    Its just that i think the libertarian party sort of sucks, and i wish it were both ‘more libertarian’ and ‘less lame’.

    (*and i’m not sure that’s actually possible without getting “crazy as fuck” a la McAfee? but so be it)

    1. The problem is “increased interest” can simultaneously be real and of little significance.

  10. We need to put a stop this invasion of our party, at least until we figure out what the hell is going on. Someone needs to vet these people. Here are some ideas: Have you ever threatened a federal judge for enforcing a law you disagree with? Have you ever uttered profanities against a cop who beat up an obviously mentally ill minority? If they can’t confirm these basic tenets then we should not be letting them in. Probably a “Working Families” infiltrator.

  11. who doesn’t want a world without nuclear weapons? it’s like the biggest collective action problem ever though. I am, however, glad to be living in a country wealthy enough to be able to send commemorative motorcades to symbolic places.

  12. I think we’re interpreting this wrong. The poll results literally show increased support for “Libertarian Isreal”, meaning a chunk of desert in the middle east they all go to.

  13. Hopefully the Libertarian Party won’t shoot itself in the foot like it did in 2004.

  14. “Interest in the libertarian party is real!” = a plurality of disillusioned white voters seeking a third party candidate because a bunch of outsiders hijacked the two parties.

    What applies to the GOP also applies to the LP. The movement won’t be viable long term if they only draw from the same white center right pool. Gary Johnson is a virtual unknown to at last half the country. That’s because libertarian party is content to being “principled” and do almost nothing to promote their candidates.

    The tide is turning decidedly against free trade and economic liberty. Free speech is being laid to waste in liberal strongholds. The libertarian-ish republicans formed a #NeverTrump that’s facing eminent defeat against someone – Trump, Clinton, Sanders. Bernie Sanders would crush Gary Johnson in any election, and he’s an avowed socialist. Trump and Sanders are doing what Ron Paul failed to do in two elections.

    WHERE is the libertarian moment? Is the movement reduced to legal drugs and social issues now? This is perilous times for limited government, because the candidates running aren’t just your typical big spenders. They’ll push policies that will fundamentally change the country.

    1. Well, if the GOP abandons free trade and economic liberty, won’t that be a big plus for the LP? I’ve been unable to recruit many friends who still believe the GOP is the party of lower taxes, free markets and smaller government.
      Once the GOP officially abandons these rhetorical devices, maybe more of these people will actually consider Libertarianism.

    2. Maybe people see the libertarians in the parties as the same thing. They think DT and BS are outsiders who will not be manipulated by the established elite. Unless they can get out the idea that they are not the establishment and cannot be bought, they will always be just a fringe group in their particular party.

  15. The Wall Street Journal notes that 250 reporters have requested media credentials for the convention, as opposed to the 10 or 20 who covered it in 2012.

    So ex-GOP pol like Gary Johnson vying for the LP nom only draws a handful of reporters while a household name notorious genius like John McAfee draws several hundred. Dont’t fuck this one up “Big-L” Libertarians.

    1. McAffee would be great. At this point, I just want it to be hilarious. And he’s smart and right enough to actually be able to support.

      I think Johnson could be more sucessful, but he has some personality problems.

      1. It’s delusional to think Johnson will be more successful. He’s too fatally boring.

      2. I don’t expect any LP candidate is going to make the debate stage but if Hell freezes over, McAfee would be much better than Johnson.

        1. I just want to hear McAfee say “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

  16. Now is the time for Libertarians to come to the aid of their country. And one way to help is by advertising the Vote Swap Initiative, which encourages Republicans and Democrats to form coalitions to vote for a third party.

    Here’s a link to the premise….. http://metalark.com/vs2016/

  17. With no scale for the Google data, maybe the bump in interest is just the writers of all these shiny new articles researching their pieces.

  18. Yes, people get interested in the Libertarian party and in libertarianism. But then they learn some of the nutty ideas in libertarianism–privatizing the police, privatizing bridges and highways, ending government oversight of prescription drugs and perishable foods like meat, allowing polluters to do whatever they want–and they turn off from libertarianism pretty quickly.

    1. But some Americans live in communities or spend a lot of time in facilities where they have private security, so privatizing police may not be so far fetched to them. I’ve made several trips in recent years over the Delaware via the Dingman’s Ferry Br., which is privately owned. I don’t know if they’re much impressed by current gov’t oversight of foods & drugs, but it’s a problem if they think that ending such “oversight” means removing all legal responsibility. The polluters, yeah that’s a problem.

      But these are not the main reasons for lack of popularity. It has more to do with positions that are actually in line with maybe half the country or world, but not in line with the individual in question. Guns and drugs? Military and civilian cuts? Private schools and prostitution? That’s the problem.

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  21. The increased interest/attention is real but is it salient? I tend to think no. Initially, I thought the extreme polarization between Hillary and Trump would lend itself well to a Third Party candidate up the flank. However, as I’ve reconsider that position, I’ve come to the fretful conclusion that this election cycle may actually lend itself much more towards the Coke/Pepsi battle. It won’t be so much an enthusiasm for the candidate themselves as wanting to identify with a side and sticking with it. The lesser of two evils; or, my team versus yours. I truly hope that I am wrong in this case. It just appears that the media conversational vacuum is such that there won’t be any interest or tolerance left for anyone else after this primary cycle. Hasn’t this show already jumped the shark?

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