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19% of Americans Self-Identify as Libertarians, New Reuters Poll Finds

One-third of Millennials, but only one-eighth of oldsters, embrace the term

Trying to remember the last libertarian I've met who looked like that. ||| Reuters has a fascinating new poll out about Americans' conflicting attitudes toward government. Of particular interest, in the words of the news agency's write-up:

One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label. Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.

Note that this isn't some classification deduced from a collection of polled attitudes; this is how 4,770 American adults between April 10 and April 24 responded to the question, "Do you consider yourself a libertarian?"

That answer also breaks down interestingly along political lines: 22 percent of Democrats said they were libertarians, more than the 18 percent of Republicans, and just a hair less than the 25 percent of independents.

The full poll has a range of interesting questions about government, some of which we'll be talking about in more detail in this space, and many of which piggyback onto the insights gleaned in the Reason-Rupe poll on Millennials, which we titled "The Unclaimed Generation." As I tried to explain to Reuters,

young people are more likely to consider themselves "free agents," and because of that are more likely to gravitate toward libertarianism. "They don't belong to churches, they don't belong to things," [Welch] said.

Millennials have also, needless to say, grown up in a fetid swamp of terrible politics, policies, wars, recessions, job markets, encroachments on their privacy, and more. Libertarianism is bound to look better and better when considering the lived-in alternatives.

More about the new poll here.

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  • ||

    this is how 4,770 American adults between April 10 and April 24 responded to the question, "Do you consider yourself a libertarian?"

    If the next question wasn't "and now please define what you think 'libertarian' means", this poll is useless. Oh wait, it's a poll, so...it's already useless.

  • Almanian!||

    "Libertarian is the one who smokes pot and like butt secks with immigrants, right?"

  • ||

    If Mexicans, butt sex and pot has become our brand, I will enthusiastically embrace the stereotype.

  • waffles||

    Huzzah!

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    Seriously. That sounds like all I need for a proper holiday.

  • ||

    Cinco de Mayo commin up!

    Right after May the Fourth for the Aspy Libertarian contingent ...

  • ||

    Well, that describes me perfectly, but I'm not a libertarian.

  • waffles||

    You're one of those weirdo anti-collectivists aren't you?

  • ||

    Who, me?

    (glances around furtively)

  • GILMORE||

    ^this

    while the SJW style progs want to cast libertarians as "extreme right wing", there are other elements of the left that think 'libertarian' is a perfectly acceptable name for their "anti-government primitivist collectivism utopia".

    i.e. 'as long as its anti-government, well... its all the same!'

    the "libertarian" strain in the OWS crowd, for instance... I met a few in Zucotti park. and they didn't a speaka my language so much. the Anti-capitalist mumbling about 'Korporashuns' instinct seemed to overwhelm everything else.

  • waffles||

    In SF a few weeks back I stayed with a friend who is part of a community housing project. It's run by a full-on, no-shit Marxist who I shared some whiskey with. However this living situation could be considered libertarian in the sense that people opt in to the communal sharing of resources and it works without governmental assistance or force. Communism works when it is voluntary. Not for me, but I did enjoy the experience.

  • GILMORE||

    I wouldn't call it "communism", but sure = cooperative living situations aren't unusual or antithetical to anything libertarian.

    I spent some time briefly with the Twin Oaks commune people in VA, and they're similar to what you describe, if far more formalized and structured.

    its when communitarians think that "everyone else needs to do it too" that they become communists.... when they see other people's 'choices' being the source of 'problems'

  • waffles||

    The organization is actually run the same way as a national fraternity with each individual house as a charter. Seemed pretty organized.

  • PapayaSF||

    Which community housing project is this, if I may ask?

  • Catatafish||

    And their "anti-government" stance bizarrely involves...government doing more shit for them.

  • Jerry on the sea||

    Chomsky calls himself a libertarian. Nough said.

  • Marshall Gill||

    No way!

  • Paul.||

    I know he called himself an anarchist for many years. Until around the mid 90s when an anti state vision came to the fore that he wasn't so cool with, then he started dithering.

  • Calidissident||

    Libertarian has such a long-existing meaning on the left. I've heard it even predates the "right-wing" usage. Not that it particularly matters, given how much political labels like "conservative" or "liberal" have changed over the years.

  • GILMORE||

    "Libertarian has such a long-existing meaning on the left"

    Not in my lifetime.

  • Robert||

    Way before your lifetime.

  • MarkLastname||

    Not even "anti-government" is necessary. Many people basically associate libertarianism with not wanting to regulate two things: who you can fuck for free, and what chemicals you can put into your body. If you don't want to control those two things, you're a libertarian.

    You can force people to make pizzas, wedding cakes, arrest them for fucking for money, what you can wear (as long as it doesn't refer to how scantily women can dress), what you can say on college campuses, and, it goes without saying, what you can buy or sell and in what quantity or at what price. You can control all that and still be libertarian, in the minds of, perhaps, a majority of people.

    So yeah, the poll is meaningless. Basically it means this: stupid young people who aren't yet familiar with the negative connotations of the word 'libertarian' adopt it as a label because the word 'liberal' is getting old and stale and so yesterday.

    I mean for fuck's sake, the most totalitarian people in politics today call themselves "liberals." If that's not proof that labels are meaningless I don't know what is.

  • Robert||

    OK, smarty pants, then what word should be used that people will recognize instead of "libertarian"? & instead of "liberal"?

  • Jerryskids||

    22 percent of Democrats said they were libertarians
    .
    60% of Democrats say they are "independent" voters, too.

  • Catatafish||

    These words. I do not think they mean what they think they mean.

  • Robert||

    "Indpendent Democrat" commonly means "reform Democrat", i.e. not machine Democrats. That used to be a meaningful distinction, not so much now.

  • Zeb||

    Then how do you know they are Democrats?

  • lomerqaleona||

    Start making cash right now... Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8012 a month. I've started this job and I've never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here... www.work-cash.com

  • Robert||

    Why? Do you ask them the same Q of other identifiers, such as "conservative", "liberal", "Christian", "Negro", etc.?

  • Robert||

    People in general know "libertarian" means "having to do w liberty". I know they know that, because I took a phone poll here in the Bronx over 20 yrs. ago asking them what they thought it meant. I think people have a better sense of what "libertarian" means than they do of "liberal" or "conservative"—in fact it's very difficult to get gen'l agreement on the meaning of those 2 terms.

  • Almanian!||

    "Trying to remember the last libertarian I met who looked like that"

    I'll bet your dad looked that, didn't he, Matt? Was HE libertarian?

  • ||

    And next election 85% of that 19% will vote for an avowed statist.

  • Zeb||

    There aren't usually too many non-statists on the ballot to choose from. I can't really see how even Ron Paul or Gary Johnson aren't statists.

  • Calidissident||

    "Statist" has kind of become the go-to libertarian slur with an ill-defined meaning. It can mean everything from anyone who isn't an anarchist to a true "Nothing outside the state" fascist or communist.

  • The Sego Sago Kid||

    In related news, 18% of Americans don't know what a libertarian is.

  • The Sego Sago Kid||

    Well my comment sucks now, because EpiPen or whatever his name is beat me too it AND did it better.

  • ||

    Son't worry, Epi is the worst except for Nicole.

  • ||

    It's very comporting knowing that at the end of the day, at least I'm not as bad as Nicole.

  • Jerryskids||

    Nobody comports like Nicole.

  • Hey Nikki!||

    I am the official comport woman of H&R.

  • Swiss Servator, Switzier!||

    *narrows gaze*

  • Farm to Toilet||

    You mispelled comfort.

  • Hey Nikki!||

    Even though you wish you were, which is why you made that ridiculous typo. You're just begging me to come after you, dude. Well, I will not comport with your wishes, motherfucker.

  • ||

    COMPORT AT ME BRO

  • Hey Nikki!||

    DON'T FAZE ME BRO

  • ||

    U WORST BRO?

  • Almanian!||

    You can call him "Epi Lady" - we all do

  • The Sego Sago Kid||

    Hmm, I always thought he was a dude. Did he go full Bruce Jenner on us?

  • ||

    I keep your legs as smooth as a baby's bottom.

  • Almanian!||

    And we LOVE you for it, you Manimal

  • Robert||

    They know "libertarian" better than they know other identifiers.

    What you're basically saying is that most people don't take enormous interest in public policy as disinterested observers. Which is true. Fortunately they see "libertarian" correctly as relating to "liberty", and liberty meaning being allowed to do stuff, which is 90% of its meaning. Ask them about their understanding of "conservative", or "liberal", and they'll have a much harder time because even political scientists have a much harder time with those terms than they do w "libertarian". "Progressive" they'll say has to do w "progress", which doesn't say much except maybe flying cars.

  • Eman||

    id vote for flying cars!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No one I know voted for a libertarian.

  • ||

    Hello, Pauline of Kael. Or...Fist of Pauline? Kael of Etiquette? Just pick one damn it!

  • BCG||

    I voted for the libertarian in our last senate race. Even though he was dead (killed in a plane crash two weeks before the election). I figured he was still the better choice.

  • lafe.long||

    Jeez Matt, now you've gone and deployed the Hihn signal.

  • GILMORE||

    Its thursday. they only allow him a certain number of hours per week on the computer at the nursing home, and he tends to use them all up by Weds.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    22 percent of Democrats said they were libertarians, more than the 18 percent of Republicans, and just a hair less than the 25 percent of independents.

    Obviously these people have not taken the LP Purity Test.

    According to Peanuts there are no liberaltarians.

  • The Sego Sago Kid||

    I don't remember Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, or any of the Peanuts cast, for that matter, ever commenting on libertarianism. Please post the date of the strip you're referencing.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    A peanut gallery was, in the days of vaudeville, a nickname for the cheapest (and ostensibly rowdiest) seats in the theater, the occupants of which were often known to heckle.[1]

    The least expensive snack served at the theatre would often be peanuts, which the patrons would sometimes throw at the performers on stage to show their disapproval. The phrases "no comments from the peanut gallery" or "quiet in the peanut gallery" are extensions of the name.

    Wikipedia

  • Xeones||

    BBUUUUUTTTTPPPPLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGG

  • The Sego Sago Kid||

    Wait, so by calling the libertarian rabble "peanuts", you're implying that we are objects thrown at people disliked by the "peanut gallery" itself? And who is the "peanut gallery" in this scenario? Reason? The Kochtopus?

    Also, you capitalized the "P", which led me to believe you were referring to Charles Schultz's beloved comic strip.

  • MarkLastname||

    I think what buttplug is implying is that buttplug doesn't understand how idioms work.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    According to shrike Bill Maher is an awesome libertarian because he likes drugs and doesn't go to church.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Bill Maher has self-identified as libertarian although he supported McCain in 2000 and Obama in 2008/12.

    Of course his Purity Test score would be mediocre at best.

    Doug Stanhope is similar in his views.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Yeah, he sucks on gun rights. I've owned a gun at least 30 years and my right to own it/them has never been threatened. So I weight the drug issue much higher where I could have faced a prison term many times during my reckless past.

    I suspect many people do.

    Anyway if someone wants to vote for a libertarian don't try to talk them out of it on purity terms. Bill Maher is not running for a damn thing.

  • Cytotoxic||

    "He's against freedom but still totally a libertarian!" /shriektard

  • Trouser-Pod||

    He was in danger of going to jail/prison on drug charges (due to the WoD), yet he doesn't ever consider his right to own firearms to have been in jeopardy???

    That's....I mean.....just....hmmm.....fuck.

  • Xeones||

    BBUUUUUTTTPPPLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGG

  • Almanian!||

    CHRISTFAGS! BOOOOOOOSHPIGS!!!! 8%%%%%%!!!111!!!

  • Xeones||

    BBUUUUUUTTTPPPPPLLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGG

  • Catatafish||

    I self-identify with tulips, thank you very much.

  • Almanian!||

    I always think of the liberts as roses - kind of thorny pricks, but good lookin'.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Well, except for the good lookin' part.....

  • MarkLastname||

    So cactuses then? Cacti, I mean.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "Well, let's be serious. I definitely want the government to leave ME alone. I can handle freedom responsibly. But I'll be goddammed if I want to see a bunch of depraved undisciplined hooligans running wild all over the place. You need SOME laws!"

  • Catatafish||

    My old Team Red friends now come at me with the same bullshit as well. "What, you just want The Law of the Jungle where only the fittest survive?!"

    I reply, "That, sir, is a gross mischaracterization. Only the fittest of the fit orphans will survive to be shackled in my slave pens. The merely fit orphans are for dinner."

  • ||

    You just accurately described the professed beliefs of the majority of libertarians at the one Dallas County Libertarian meeting I went to.

    "I mean, we still need laws, I don't want drunk people driving around" blah blah blah.

  • ||

    if 19% of Americans call themselves libertarians, and 91% percent of Americans reject the libertarian label, which we know is right because Hihn tells us it's true...let's see here...

    Lc = .19A
    Lc = .09Lt

    *punches data into punchcards, feeds into room-sized computer*

    *machine runs for three hours*

    *machine catches on fire immediately after spitting out cards with an answer*

    Lt = 2.11

    Great Scott! According to my calculations, then that means 211% of Americans are libertarians! LIBERTOPIA!

  • ||

    Fem-puter: After lengthy femputations, I, Femputer, have decided the fate of the men. Femputer sentences them to death...[everyone gasps]...by snu-snu!

    Fry, Captain Zapp Brannigan, Bender: Yeah! Woo-hoo!

    [Kif starts sobbing]

    Captain Zapp Brannigan: [to Kif] What are you? Gay?

  • ||

    What magnificent use of the revolutionary computonian law of probability!

  • F. Stupidity, Jr.||

    91% percent of Americans reject the libertarian label, which we know is right because Hihn tells us it's true

    Now when has Michael Hihn ever said that??

  • Xeones||

    Michael Hihn says a lot of things.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    None of them comprehensible.

  • ||

    He's probably saying it right now to a coat rack in his room that he thinks is Ron Paul.

  • SugarFree||

    You go a head and laugh all you want, but Ron Paul is losing.

  • seguin||

    It's a case of mistakhihn identity.

  • ||

    I'm convinced I could structure a poll in such a way as to get a plurality of respondents to admit to coprophagia.

  • ||

    What, by asking us?

  • ||

    "See, everyone has the same interests I do!"

  • sarcasmic||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The full poll has a range of interesting questions about government, some of which we'll be talking about in more detail in this space

    Oh, goody.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    No one I know voted for a libertarian.

    *spoken in Chico Marx's voice*
    Haha, it's a trick question- libertarians don't vote.

  • Free Society||

    Trying to remember the last libertarian I've met who looked like that.

    It was 1952. I wore an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time...

  • Lady Bertrum||

    For those under age 30, I questions both their commitment to and understanding of libertarianism.

    Mexicans, drugs and butt sex, but yes please to free shit (healthcare and education) does not make a libertarian. It's someone who wants to be left alone but wants to bother others (to pay for their stuff) when they want free shit. LEAVE ME ALONE TO LIVE AS I PLEASE!!! NOW PAY FOR MY CHOICES!!!

  • Free Society||

    Libertarians have principles. Free shitters don't.

  • sarcasmic||

    "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine!"

  • MarkLastname||

    Wait, I'm supposed to pay someone to shit? And to think I've been doing it for free all these years? Does this mean I owe back taxes to someone?

  • Paul.||

    "Stay out of my room, show me respect, and hey! When's dinner?"

  • Sevo||

    "[...]but only one-eighth of oldsters[...]"

    OK, all you old farts, let's pick it up here a bit!

  • Calidissident||

    Does this mean it's no longer true that 91% of libertarians reject the libertarian label?

  • Sevo||

    Dunno, but I've got a link to some other link that says (laughing).

  • LibIntOrg||

    REUTERS: 19% of Americans now self-identify as 'libertarians'...most from Democrats, Center... We said it years ago at our site--we keep it front and center always in our lead article--and in time this will be the case in every major area--Russia, China, India, EU, Latin America and already well there in smaller ones as Costa Rica...

    Note these people are informal small-l appliers or users, not large-L advocates as the article implies--our aim is to continue to build LIO formals, of which there're 8 million worldwide plus 1.5 million in our special US project. RE: http://reason.com/blog/2015/04.....as-liberta Let friends know about www.libertarianinternational.org Thanks...

  • Cytotoxic||

    Most of these 'libertarians' aren't but maybe that's okay. If people identify with us, that means we're winning the war of ideas.

  • Rob||

    No, it means our ideas are being mischaracterized, and adopted by dimwits who neither understand, nor agree with the classical liberal tradition. These are people who don't want to be told what to do, but have now qualms about dictating how others should act.

    Of the 19% of people who self identify as libertarian, how many of them would be okay with a law preventing someone from refusing to work a gay wedding? Subtract those people from the 19% and you will have an accurate measure of how many people are actually libertarian.

  • MarkLastname||

    Indeed. Just think about the word 'retard.' It used to mean 'to delay.' Then we thought it'd be nice if we called people who were mentally disabled 'retarded' instead of 'idiot' or 'dumb' that things would be better. Instead, they just ended up changing the vernacular meaning of the word 'retarded' to mean, well, retarded.

    And some day so will 'libertarian.'

  • Paul.||

    Bill Maher considered himself a libertarian... I guess until someone explained to him what it meant.

  • BDub||

    Its one thing to ask somebody if they are libertarian and get a yes. Its another thing to question their principles to see if its an accurate claim.

  • MarkLastname||

    It's kind of like 'feminists believe in equality.' Except in criminal sentencing, child support, custody distribution, alimony, government transfer payment distribution, taxpayer-funded healthcare benefits, conscription, and so on. The devil is, unfortunately, in the details, and only in the details.

  • Robert||

    But what about the principles of people w other -isms? Why do you hold libertarians to a stricter std.?

  • BeBraveUSA||

    As one who reads the commentary of these pages regularly, it calls to question what exactly a Libertarian is? The disqualifications seem extensive, belief in God, disapprove of Gay marriage, believe in peace via strength, etc. It seems to me the essence of Libertarianism ought to be the simple belief in self government, self determination, adherence to the constitution, Free market capitalism. I think the numerous editorials in these comment sections further limiting those who agree with these tenants but not with frivolous other ideals puts many off to libertarianism.
    I await your relentless slings and arrows.

  • GILMORE||

    You need to ask Bo.

  • Robert||

    See, I don't even require adherence to any constitution as part of it.

    & it's tenets, not tenants.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    1:5....only until they find out what Libertarians actually advocate.

  • MichaelL||

    If that was true, Libertarians should have won elections, long ago! Just thinking, if people voted Libertarian, the two party system would not be corrupting things, so much! There are, still, too many people willing to interfere with other people's lives!

  • Sri||

    Wow, there are so many idiots that comment on Reason. It would be nice if they simply shut up. Seems like the same delinquents keep commenting on every article. Good luck with that, Reason.

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