Reason Podcast

Do Libertarian Voters Actually Exist? Yes, and in Droves [Reason Podcast]

Cato's polling director Emily Ekins says as many as one in five voters can be identified as libertarian.


Lee Drutman, Voter Study Group

Everyone nods their heads when pundits and pollsters talk about conservative votes, liberal voters, and populist voters. But do libertarian-leaning voters actually dwell among the American electorate? A new analysis of the 2016 election concludes that libertarians are as mythical as the hippogruff. Using a variety of survey questions about cultural and "identity" issues and economic policy, New America's Lee Drutman basically says no.

Dividing voters into one of four groups, he finds 44.6 percent are liberal ("liberal on both economic and identity issues"), 29 percent are populist (liberal on economic issues, conservative on identity issues), 23 percent are conservative (conservative on both economic and identity issues), and less than 4 percent are libertarian (conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues). According to Drutman, Donald Trump won by picking up virtually all conservatives and a good chunk of populists, while Hillary Clinton only pulled liberals. What few libertarians there are just don't amount to any sort of force in Drutman's take (see that empty lower-right-hand quadrant in figure). Drutman's piece gave rise to a number of pieces, almost all from the left side of the political spectrum, crowing that "libertarians don't exist" (in Jonathan Chait's triumphalist phrasing at New York magazine).

Not so fast, says Emily Ekins, the director of polling at the Cato Institute (a position she previously held at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website). Libertarians are real, she documents in a new article, and they're spectacular. Responding to Drutman's elimination of libertarians as a meaningul voting block, she emphasizes that his finding is an outlier in the established research:

It depends on how you measure it and how you define libertarian. The overwhelming body of literature, however, using a variety of different methods and different definitions, suggests that libertarians comprise about 10-20% of the population, but may range from 7-22%. (Emphasis in original.)

In the newest Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Ekins not simply about the errors of Drutman's analysis (he also finds many more liberals than most researchers) but about the sorts of issues that are motivating libertarians and other voters, especially Millennials. In the podcast, Ekins stresses that economic issues and concerns tend to drown out all other factors when it comes to voting patterns. But, she says, there are periods during bread-and-butter issues recede and cultural and symbolic issues come to the fore. We may well be in one of those periods despite weak to stagnant economic growth because most people's standards of living have held up (even if economic anxiety is on the rise). This is, she says, especially true among voters between 18 years old and 35 years old. That's mostly good news for libertarians. Millennials, she tells Gillespie,

libertarian on social issues and civil liberties except for one issue: free speech issues. I think this is something that we're going to need to keep an eye on… [Y]ounger people are more supportive of the idea that some sort of authority, whether it's the college administrator or the government should limit certain speech that is considered offensive or insulting to people.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: Hi I'm Nick Gillespie and this is The Reason podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there.

Today we're talking with Emily Ekins she director of polling at the Cato Institute, a position she also previously held at The Reason Foundation, the non-profit that publishes this podcast. Emily also holds a PhD in political science from UCLA and writes on voter attitudes and millennial sentiments towards politics and culture.

Emily Ekins, welcome.

Emily Ekins: Thank you for having me.

Gillespie: A recent analysis of the 2016 election results by the voter study group at the Democracy Fund concluded that there were essentially no libertarian voters. By that they were identifying it as people who were socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Instead the study found that most voters fell into a liberal progressive camp that was liberal on economic and on identity issues. Things like immigration, things like Muslim sentiments towards Muslims, gay marriage, things like that. It found that most voters fell into a liberal progressive camp or populist group that was liberal on economics but conservative on identity politics or conservative on identity issues and conservative on both economic and identity issues.

The conclusion was Trump won because he won conservatives and populist while Hillary Clinton only polled liberals. For me, and I suspect the big point of interest for you also, was that the author, the political scientist Lee Drutman found that just 3.8% of voters fell into the libertarian group. There's a scatter plot, there's a very lonely quadrant there that is supposedly where libertarians don't exist. It led to a lot of people talking about there is no libertarian vote, we've been telling you this all along. Is Drutman right that there are essentially no libertarians in the electorate?

Ekins: Well first I'll say this. That I actually worked with Lee Drutman on this broader project which is part of the Democracy Fund voter study group. We feel that a very large longitudinal survey of 8,000 voters right after the election. Then several of us actually wrote up our own reports analyzing the data. Lee wrote a paper, I wrote a paper and I have a lot of respect for Lee Drutman and his research.

Gillespie: Okay, now stick the knife in. You have a lot of respect for him and so while he's beaming and looking up at the sun.

Ekins: I would say that on this particular aspect of his paper where he says that there's only 3.8% libertarians, I would say that that is inconsistent with most all other academic research I have ever seen on the subject. He also found that about 45% of the public fell into this economically liberal and socially liberal or identity liberal quadrant. Again I've never seen anything that high in the literature and I've surveyed most all of it that's really looked at this question.

I would say that's it's very inconsistent, you want to know what's going on. I think what happens is that people use different methods to try to identify the number of liberals, libertarians, conservatives and populists. They use different methods, they also use different definitions. What does this mean to be a liberal or a libertarian? The method, the question that they used to try to ascertain if you are a libertarian also differ.

In this instance one of the dimensions, you said that, typically when we try to identify libertarians we look at people who are economically, some will call it economically conservative or others will say less government intervention in the economy and then socially liberal. That's not exactly how his methodology worked. That that second dimension wasn't really about what gay marriage and legalization of marijuana, those types of social issues, it was about identity and he used a battery of questions that are very commonly used in academia but they're very controversial. They're used to determine your attitudes towards African Americans and racial minorities. These questions are problematic and I think that's part of the problem.

I could give you one example. One of the questions, it's an annoying question. It should put off most people but the question goes something like this, do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the Irish, the Italians, the Jews overcame prejudice without any special favors, African Americans should do the same. I think most people who hear this think, Ugh, why are we talking about groups? We're individuals. The problem is if someone who, if someone believes that no one should get special favors then they're going to probably agree with that statement. However if you agree with that statement you're coded as racist. Or not in the liberal direction shall we say.

Gillespie: Would you end up as a conservative or a populist?

Ekins: Those people are probably going to get pushed into the conservative or populist buckets. Essentially if you were to be a libertarian with this analysis, you would want less government spending, lower taxes, less government involvement in health care but also want government to, quote, give special favors. It's a very bizarre combination of attitudes that I'm unfamiliar with in the literature.

Gillespie: That reminds me of I know in the old Minnesota multi-phasic personality inventory which is still used in various ways. But back in the 40s and 50s if you were a woman, among the questions they would ask would be like, "Do you like reading Popular Mechanics or do you like working with tools?" If you said yes, she would kicked over into a lesbian category because that was obvious signs that there was something not right with you. What you're saying then is that the actual, more than in many things, you really need to look at the way in which the models are built and executed to figure out because different researchers have different definitions.

I know in your work you've written recently at the Cato website, at, about how typically libertarians come up as about 10% to 20% of the electorate and that the wider range is 7% to 22%. The fact that somebody comes up with a new and novel finding isn't, it doesn't mean they're wrong, but it means you really pay attention to see what's going on. How do most studies define libertarians and is the 10% to 20% any more accurate than the 3.8%?

Ekins: I looked at the literature, the academic literature on the subject about how do we identify these groups. There's different methods that are used. One simple method that I would say, is not as good of a method is just ask people to identify themselves. A lot of people don't they're libertarian when they are and a lot of people think they're libertarian when maybe they're not. That's not the best method. But if you do that you get about 11% or so who will self identify as libertarian on a survey.

A better method that academics often use is very similar to what Drutman used in his paper which is to ask people a series of public policy questions on a variety of different issues. Now the next step is where you can diverge. I would say the gold standard from there is to do a type of statistical procedure called a cluster analysis where you allow a statistical algorithm to take the inputs of those questions and identify a good solution about how many clusters of people are there in the electorate.

Stanley Feldman and Christopher Johnson did exactly this. I would say this is probably the gold standard. What they found was 15% were libertarian, they defined that as they tended to give conservative answers on economic questions or the role of government and the economy and gave more liberal responses on social and cultural issues. That's a very common way to do it. They found 17% were conservatives so not much different than libertarians. Slightly more were liberal, meaning economically liberal and socially liberal, 23%. They found about 8% were populist.

Now that not 100%. They found two other groups of people as well which it think also speaks to how interesting their analysis was, they found these two groups really didn't have strong opinions on economics but they differed on whether they leaned socially liberal or socially conservative. That actually tells us a lot. It fits well with what we see in American politics is that there are a lot of people out there that really don't know much about how the economy works but they do have an opinion when it comes to social and cultural policy.

Gillespie: How does these typologies of voters, how does it square with somebody like the political scientist Morris Fiorina who has for a couple of decades, at least, has been arguing that when we talk about culture war in America, and by that he means polarized politics and he grants that politics is very polarized and it's getting more polarized partly because the nominating processes for candidates that run for public office are typically in the hands of the most ideologically or dogmatically extreme members of various parties. He says when you look at broad variety of issues, whether it's things like abortion, whether it's drug legalization, whether it is immigration that there's oftentimes there's a broad 60% or more agreement or consensus so that we're actually one of the things he says is that our differences are routinely exaggerated and our agreements are typically ignored. Does that make sense? How does that match up with what you're talking about here because most people who do voter analyses talk about the things that separate voters rather than the commonality.

Ekins: It actually is very consistent with what the data suggests. Also if you're to look at my post at, the first chart in the post, I graphically display where the people live. Where are the libertarians and the conservatives and the liberals, if you were to plot them in an ideological plane, like the Nolan chart, on economic issues, social issues.

Gillespie: That's the world's smallest political quiz. Essentially it's a diamond shape that is made into quadrants. You're either more libertarian or more authoritarian from top to bottom.

Ekins: Yes. It's the same idea. What I did in this graph is plot where all the people live ideologically. What you see is it's a big blob. There is no structure meaning, there aren't just these, the story of polarization which does seem to be true at the congressional level, people who are elected to political office. But of the regular people of America, if polarization was happening and in Mo Fiorina, if he were wrong, then you would just see these two groups of people separated from each other on this plane. But that's not what it is. We see people are just randomly distributed. Meaning there are people with all different types of combinations of attitudes and the way our politics actually manifests is how we organize those people into, how those people organize themselves, I should say, into interest groups, into advocacy organizations, into businesses and then ultimately into politics. The way it is now, with Democrats and Republicans, it's by no means the only organization of politics that we can have.

Gillespie: Is there a sense and certainly I feel this and Matt Welch my recent colleague and I have written a book about it, but that part of what we're witnessing and it's hard to believe we're in the 2017, we're well into the 21st century but we're kind of stuck with these two large political groupings that go back to before the Civil War and that the groups that they were originally, and they get remade every couple of decades, but the groups, the conglomeration of voting interests that they once served, say even in 70s or 80s have fallen apart because this, to go from your blob on the Nolan chart to Democrats and Republicans in Congress if you're pro-abortion you have to vote for a Democrat and if you vote for a Democrat that means you're also voting in favor of certain elements of affirmative action or immigration policy.

If you're a Republican and you don't want people to burn the flag it also means you also have to be for lower marginal tax rates. These are things that really don't have any necessary connection. Is that the parties are describing or they're appealing to fewer and fewer people but you still have to vote for one or the other.

Ekins: Yes and that's probably contributed to the rise of the independent voter as well documented in your book. Also political scientists have shown that it's not just unique to US but most countries that have a political system similar to ours have what is equivalent to their congress, or their parliament divided along economic issues. In United States, this is by no means always true, but typically speaking, when people vote, they tend to vote along their economic interest, their economic issue positions if that makes any sense. All the social issues or at one time race became a second dimension in American politics. When these other issues have come out, then people are stuck, if they are out of alignment with their party on maybe social issues but are in alignment on economics the forces tend to have them voting along the lines of economics. That seems to be true not just in the US but other countries.

Gillespie: That explains libertarians voting oftentimes, self-identified libertarians or people in the libertarian movement aligning with the Republican party rather than the Democratic party because most of the people, I suspect, most of the people I talk to that I know at Cato and certainly at Reason are askance that they're not happy with Republican positions on a variety of science issues, on a variety of social issues for sure but they end up voting because they say, economics is more important.

Ekins: Yes, that seems to be what happens. But to some extent that is changing. There are periods of time where another dimension rises up like racial issues in 60s. Civil rights became so important some people were willing to say, I'm not going to stand with this party and allow it to continue doing what it's doing. It forced the party to change.

Gillespie: How does immigration fit into this? Because in Drutman's analysis it seems that immigration is a big, is one of those inflection points or hotspots. It becomes very interesting to me because Hillary Clinton when she was running as senator for the Senate in New York was very explicitly anti-illegal immigrant, she said she was against giving them drivers license. Bill Clinton forced the Democratic party platform in the 90s to be very hostile to immigration in general but especially illegals and one of the big pieces of legislation that he signed, actually on welfare reform in 90s and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but made it illegal immigrants and even legal immigrants for the first five years to be cut off from transfer payments, means tested transfer payments.

There's a sense that the Democrats are friendlier towards immigrants than Republicans and there seems to be some evidence for that at least in attitudes if not in policy because Obama was pretty terrible towards immigrants. But Mitt Romney was even worse. My larger question or I guess there's two questions here. One is something like immigration, it's not exactly clear how different the parties are in practice but then it's also, how much does it matter to voters whether or not, they might feel very strongly about immigration but it might be the 10th issue that they actually vote on. It doesn't even really come into play. How do you measure the intensity of a voter's belief in a particular topic and how that actually influences who they pull the lever for?

Ekins: There's a lot there. The first thing I would say is that there is a lot of posturing when it comes to immigration policy. Like you said, in many ways there aren't significant differences between many Republican and Democratic lawmakers when they, in their actual positions on immigration. But the posturing is different. Talking about self-deportation, that immigrants must learn english. Again it's not to say, most Americans to be honest would prefer immigrants learn english, it's not like that is so controversial, it's the way that it is said. If you're very first thing is about we need to secure the border and then second then we need to deal with X, Y and Z immigration issue. It gives the impression to people who are themselves immigrants or their children or friends of immigrants, are close to the immigrant experience, they get the very strong impression that they are not welcome. That is hugely important in how people are voting and that's why Democrats appear to be the pro-immigration party more so than Republicans. There are some policy differences like DOCA and things like that. But posturing is hugely important.

Generally speaking, I would say immigration hasn't been the highest priority when it comes to how people vote but data coming out of the 2016 election that I find very compelling and that we worked on as part of the Democracy Fund voter study group, suggests that immigration attitudes were by far what made this election and voting for Donald Trump most distinctive. It's not to say that people changed their minds, they don't seem to have changed their minds but rather these were concerns that they already had and they were activated by the rhetoric of the campaign. These were concerns people had, most Republicans and Democrats weren't talking about it in a way that people could really relate to then Trump comes in and just blows the lid off of it. Without nuance or without sophistication about the delicate issues that are at play here and people were so relieved and validated to have someone talk about immigration in the ways that they thought of if, they became very devoted to him. That meant …

Gillespie: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Ekins: I was going to say, and that meant other scandals that came out during the course of the campaign did not matter as long as he continued to validate feelings on immigration.

Gillespie: In the Drutman analysis, part of it was that he sees the Democratic party as basically pretty supportive and in line behind liberal economic policies and liberal identity policies. He identifies two different groups within the Republican party that Trump appealed to. One are traditional conservatives and Republican voters who are conservative on social issues and also say they're conservative on economic issues. But then populists, I guess populists he defines as people who are into big government, populists like farms subsidies, they like business subsidies, they like subsidies for jobs and the idea that the government will take care of them against the, whether it's Islamic terrorists or big business or rapacious interests. But also, but they're conservative on these identity issues. Trump in a way, in that rating he was able to get the populists who might have voted for Obama in 2012 but definitely were not going to vote for Hillary because she seemed to be, she's part of the establishment, she doesn't care about them, she's a New York elitist. Is that accurate?

Ekins: I think that is. Obama had an economic message that resonated with these voters. Hillary Clinton didn't seem to give the impression that she cared much about them at all. She thought, "Oh, demography is destiny, we no longer need voters that come from certain economic and other types of strata in the electorate." And she didn't talk to them. Obama did and it served him well.

Gillespie: The joke was that she went to Chipotle more often during the 2016 campaign than Wisconsin. And you assume if you're a displaced or you feel like you're a displaced factory worker in northern Wisconsin and somebody's going to Chipotle you're not going to identify with them particularly strongly.

Ekins: Yes, that true. Also a lot of people have argued that Donald Trump is basically a Democrat. We was for years and he gave lots of money to Democrats. He's basically a Democrat but he is very suspicious of immigration which is right now out of line with the Democratic party.

Gillespie: Right, and he ran against the swamp in DC and all the people who had been living there or attached to it for years. Even though his economic policies were indistinguishable, it's just in the news that the Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana that he had made a big stink about, getting them to not move to Mexico and of course all the jobs are going to Mexico anyway but it was a very interventionist, I don't even know that it's Democrat versus Republican 'cause Republicans love business subsidies in their own way but it was very populist certainly that the president was going to force big business to heel and to do what is right for the common American worker.

Your Cato colleague David Boaz who has written widely and wonderfully about libertarianism and you've done some work with him, about a year ago he asked Gallup to follow up. And I'm curious about this because I like this story a lot. He used Gallup data to break people into four categories: conservatives, liberals, populists and libertarians. He found using a question that keyed off of, that Gallup itself uses, to talk about political ideology, he found that libertarians, people who tended to be socially tolerant and in favor of small government were the single largest ideological block, 27%. Then there were conservatives at 26%, liberals at, I think it was 23% and populist at 15%. Does that work for you? In general that method and those results, do you find those are worth keeping in the front of our minds?

Ekins: I would say that's a little bit on the higher end of the numbers that I've seen. But that's a product of the method of using, I believe, they were using two questions. Something on an economic issue, role of government in the economy and then traditional values and you just look at who of the respondents said that they wanted small government and government not to promote traditional values.

That's a fine way to quickly segment the electorate but I probably wouldn't put too much stock in there being a difference between 27% and 23%. I do think though that that populist, the populist bucket if you will, Paul Krugman called them hardhats, some people call them communitarians or statists. They do seem to be a smaller segment of the electorate and think that they're going to be getting smaller as people do become more socially liberal over time.

Gillespie: Is there a sense, I realize this might be outside of your realm of expertise or interest, but part of thing as mediocre as the economy has been in the entire 21st century, we've been well below 2% annual growth which is something that we used to take for granted or even something closer to 3%, but the fact is is that most people's material lives are pretty good and they're getting better in terms of people have food, clothing and shelter and those things tend to get better over time. Are we moving more into a realm where the more symbolic issues or what you talked about as posturing or what we might call identity issues, are those going to dominate more and more? You had mentioned that civil rights was a huge factor in the 60s, obviously there was foreign policy as well as economic issues going on but are we more in a symbolic space now where it's not about whether or not people have enough to eat. Nobody's going to win election as president again by promising a chicken in every pot. But are we in a post-economic phase of political identity?

Ekins: I think that's a very interesting question and it reminds me of Brink Lindsey's book Age of Abundance with the idea being that economic wealth essentially allows us to have, I'll just make this up here, luxury ideological goods. If you have what you need then you can focus on other things that you believe in truly from a political standpoint that are not related to the bread and butter of jobs, housing, food, things like that. Certainly we have seen that. The introduction of social issues and cultural issues as being a second dimension of American politics emerged about the time that economic prosperity and growth really took off.

But I would say this, as a caveat to that, in the Democracy Fund voter study group that we worked, our group more broadly, two authors Ruy Teixeira and Robert Griffin at the Center for American Progress, they did another paper and what they found, was I thought very interesting, that individuals who were struggling economically or said they were struggling economically in 2012 were significantly more likely by 2016 to have become more anxious and concerned about immigration and wanting to restrict immigration. Let me just, if I'm saying that clearly enough here. People that had worse economic situations in 2012, four years later disproportionately turned against immigration. Why is that?

It does seem to me that to some extent this isn't just purely an ideological luxury issue that many people perceive it to be economic even if it might not be, people think it is.

Gillespie: Right, and it speaks to a whole host of, beyond any question about economics and as good libertarians I suspect we agree that even illegal or maybe especially illegal immigrants are a boon to the economy to the culture et cetera but regardless of the economics of it, the idea that you are a person in America who has been made redundant or irrelevant in a particular economic moment and you're pissed. Immigrants are the ultimate place where you can focus your anger and ire. Somehow they are getting something that you cannot anymore.

Ekins: Right. There definitely seems to be something going on there. It was a theory that a lot of people had that I think to Teixeira and Griffin really showed that empirically.

Gillespie: Now of course Teixeira also has been talking about the oncoming iron clad Democratic majority for a decades really. And we all do this where we, going back to Kevin Phillips who had the coming Republican majority at a point when the Republicans looked like they were about to go out of business. He was right for a while then was wrong, right again. One of the things that Gallup and I guess Harris used to do this too, where they would ask people to self-identify both as Republican and Democrat and it was always that there were always more Democrats, people who would identify as Democrats than Republicans but there were always many more people who would identify as conservatives rather than liberal and in most of those things, the self-identified liberal group would never get really more than about 20% of the electorate going back to 1970 and conservatives would be in the 40s, sometimes almost the 50s.

Yet over the past half century Republicans keep winning elections, particularly at the state and local level and Democrats keep losing. Is there any worthwhile way of digging through that where there are more Democrat, people who identify as Democrats but there are more conservatives but that's why Republicans win elections? Or is this just these are categories that are so loose that they really don't tell us anything?

Ekins: Well I think the first point, it brought to mind a phrase that I think you hear a lot of people say. Where they say, "I'm a conservative, I'm not a Republican." That distinction matters to a lot of people. But as political science research has shown, over time the parties have become more aligned with a particular ideology. Conservatives are more likely to be Republican and liberals more likely to be Democrat than in the past. That doesn't mean though that people are comfortable with the words liberal. For some reason the word liberal has been a bad word and so a lot of people who really are just liberal Democrats would say, "I'm a moderate Democrat," or "I'm more conservative." That's just more semantics. I think that's why we want to ask them, what do they think about public policy? That's the best way to know where people go.

I don't know how this maps onto though, the fact that Republicans have been doing better at winning these state and local elections. Other than the idea that they are more organized than the Democrats are right now. Right now Democrats seem to be very focused at the federal level and protests and more like expressing themselves. For instance in Los Angeles it's my understanding that, wasn't there 700,000 people who turned out for the women's march and it was only a couple hundred thousand showed up for the local elections? In the same month.

Right now it seems like Democrats are more focused on expressing frustration and anger and Republicans have been more organized and as a result they have been winning more elections at the state and local levels.

Gillespie: Let's talk about millennials. A few years ago you did a fantastic survey for Reason and the Roop Foundation about millennials and you've continued to work that ground. Are millennials, are they more or less libertarian than GenXer's or Baby Boomers? You foregrounded a lot of this and I guess we actually wrote something together about this that I'm now in my dotage I'm remembering. It seems that millennials use a different language to talk about politics. Are they, and a lot people confuse that for them being socialists, literally socialists, a lot of millennials love Bernie Sanders. Millennials, at least going back to the Obama years, which would have been the first elections that they could have voted in, overwhelmingly vote for Democrats at the presidential level. What you're take on millennials? Are they more or less libertarian than people in the past or are they more or less liberal or progressive?

Ekins: It's hard to answer that question. I would say that GenX in some respects seems to be the more libertarian generation of the groups. With millennials what we found is that they don't seem to stand out on economic policy so a lot of people think that they're all socialists because they like Bernie Sanders. That actually doesn't seem to line up with where the facts are. But they came of a political age, more or less, when Bush was either president or on his way out and the Republican party brand was in shambles and Obama was an incredibly popular brand and figure. So obviously the messengers that they trust, President Obama, John Stewart of the Daily Show, the messengers that they trusted really didn't tell them anything about free market economics. It's actually maybe almost surprising that they're not more statist than they are.

It's on the social issues that we see a difference and that they are more libertarian on social issues and civil liberties except for one issue. Free speech issues, I think this is something that we're going to need to keep an eye on. Where younger people are more supportive of the idea that some sort of authority, whether it's the college administrator or the government should limit certain speech that is considered offensive or insulting to people.

Gillespie: Wow. You're working on a study about that, is that correct?

Ekins: That's correct. It should be out in September.

Gillespie: Wow. That is obviously something to look forward to. You also recently identified in a, again at, five types of Trump voters. What are they and how are they relevant to analysis?

Ekins: Yes, this is also part of the Democracy Fund voter study group, we talked about them quite a bit during this podcast. I wrote a separate paper that did a type of statistical analysis, a cluster analysis of the Trump voters. Because a lot of folks have had this tendency to talk about the Trump voter as though it's one type of person, that voted for him for one particular reason. This statistical analysis that I ran, found five different types of Trump voters and they are very different from one another. On even the issues central to the campaign, immigration, matters of race and American identity. They're even very different on the size and scope of government. In way it's amazing that they're all in one coalition here. I could go over some of those groups if you are interested.

Gillespie: Yes, please do.

Ekins: The first group I'll mention, I call them the American Preservationists. They are the core Trump coalition that put him through the primaries. They're not the most loyal Republican voters though. They're more economically progressive, they're very concerned about Medicare, they want to tax the wealthy some more but they are very, very suspicious of immigration both legal and illegal. They have cooler feeling toward racial minorities and immigrants. They fit the more typical media accounts of Trump voters. What really surprised me about this group is that they were the only group that really felt this way and most likely group to think that being of European descent was important for being truly American. A very unusual group of voters. But they comprised about 20% of the whole coalition.

Gillespie: Wow, and they're highly motivated and intensely active. I recognize them daily in the comment section at Reason.

Ekins: Yes. But again 20% of the coalition.

There was another group that I think would really surprise you that existed in the same coalition. I call them the Free Marketeers. They actually comprised a larger share, 25%, and in many ways they're the polar opposite of the American Preservationists. They were the most hesitant Trump group. Most of them voted for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio in the primaries and they said that really their vote was against Hillary Clinton. As opposed to being for Trump. These are just, as the name implies, small government fiscal conservatives, they have very warm feelings towards immigrants and racial minorities. They're the most likely group to support making it easier to legally immigrate to the US. They're very similar to Democrats on these identity issues. They're polar opposites to the Preservationists.

Gillespie: How do they, I guess I know the answer to this which is it's Hillary Clinton. Because Trump was so out there in terms of trade protectionism and forcing businesses to his will, he did not seem to be at all a free trader or a free marketer.

Ekins: Not at all but Hillary Clinton, besides trade didn't seem to be one either. I think they disliked her so much it seems like they, that's why they voted for Trump. But they also have the most in common with the third party voters who voted for Gary Johnson. If they weren't voting for Johnson or staying home, they were in this bucket.

Gillespie: You did have one group in your schematic that were, I'm sorry I'm blanking on the title now, but it was the Disinterested or Disaffected voters. Is that right?

Ekins: Yes, they were a small group, The Disengaged. They didn't tell us much about their politics, they're the type of people that when they take surveys they just don't have many opinions but the opinions that they did have were, they were suspicious of immigration and the felt the system was rigged against them. That was really a more common thread. It's not a thread that all the Trump voters shared in common but there was a bit more suspicion of immigration which make sense because that was a major part of Trump's campaign rhetoric.

Gillespie: Right. That also calls to mind the Drutman analysis where this idea of the system being rigged or the system not working anymore. If not, the system is either actively hostile to you or it just is just totally incompetent in delivering basic things. Like I work hard so I should have a good life, this system isn't doing that anymore. Is that, which also linked Trump and Bernie Sanders 'cause Sanders was running as an outsider and oftentimes in terms that were almost indistinguishable from Trump. Is that really the battleground now of whether or not you are working or are supporting the establishment or are you a marker of the system or are you actively attacking it? Is that the real front of American politics?

Ekins: I don't quite see it like that. I did find a group that fit that exactly. Their name is just what you'd expect. I call them the Anti-Elites. They fit just what you're talking about. They don't really align with Trump that much on immigration issues, they're a lot like Democrats on economics and immigration but they really felt like the system was rigged against ordinary people like themselves. And the establishment versus the people. For two of the five clusters, and they're the majority, of the Trump voters, the Free Marketeers and another group that I haven't mentioned yet, The Staunch Conservatives.

They're just more conventional Republicans. They don't think the system is rigged. They don't think that people take advantage of you. They think that they have agency and that they through their votes can change the political process, which is the exact opposite of the Preservationists that I mentioned and the Anti-Elites. Which fits that narrative that you're talking about. Now that narrative really does a good job at explaining more of the vote switchers, the people who voted for Obama in 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016, they do feel that way. But that doesn't explain all of the Trump voters.

Gillespie: How common was it for people to have voted for Obama and then to have switched to Trump.

Ekins: I had the number almost in the top of my head today. It was about 6%, something like that. Sizable enough obviously. But there were also voters, Republicans who voted for Romney who switched and voted for Hillary Clinton or a third party. If I remember correctly it was slightly more Obama voters switched to Trump than Romney voters that left the Republican party. There's a slight net gain, but I think it's important for people to realize that for all the voters that Trump picked up, the Republican party lost a lot of voters too because of Trump.

Gillespie: Do we make a mistake, a fundamental mistake when we try to analyze political trends through presidential elections? Because they come once every four years, we had, this time around, we had the two least liked candidates in American history. Is it a problem if we key too much off of who wins the presidency? And we essentially, just as we started the 21st century, with a dead heat where a few thousand votes essentially separated Bush and Gore. We had this bizarre outcome where Trump lost the popular vote pretty sizably but won the electoral vote. To my mind that's not a constitutional crisis, it's a sign that nobody can get to 50%. Is it wrong to look at the presidential races as the way, to tell us where politics is going?

Ekins: I think you're absolutely right. People read way too much into presidential elections. If you recall after George W. Bush won in 2004, there were all sorts of magazine covers and books that would show red America being huge and then blue America, the coasting really small and the permanent Republican majority but then, then Obama won then it was demographics is destiny and it's going to be a permanent Democratic majority. Even still a lot of people have read, particularly I would say on the more Republican side of thing of over read too much into this Trump election thinking that, oh if only Republicans appeal on the way that Trump does that's how they win.

Here's what we know in political science. This might surprise some of the listeners here, but that economic variables for instance, how fast the economy's growing, what's the labor force participation rate as well as the current president's approval ratings. A couple of these structural variables predict almost every election outcome over the past 100 years. What that means, I'm not saying campaigns don't matter, they seem to have to matter in some respects. Maybe if you didn't run a campaign then you would just get blown out of the water. Assuming you've got two campaigns going, the structural variables seem to be hugely important.

They're not always right, they've missed three elections, one of them was Gore versus Bush, as you recall Gore did technically win the popular vote. These models seem to be pretty good. And throughout this entire election campaign I was telling folks, hey look at, I'm forgetting his name, excuse me. There's a few economists that do this Abramowitz did one of these models, Ray Fair at Princeton does a model. If you followed Ray Fair's model, he predicted a Republican win almost the entire election. I thought well, just about any Republican can win this election. I thought Trump might not be able to do that, there are outliers but he did pull it out, and I think part of the reason are these economic fundamentals.

Gillespie: Let's close out by talking about libertarians and their way forward for people who are libertarian voters, obviously Gary Johnson and William Weld for all of the tension and controversies within that campaign and whatnot, they had the best, by far the best results of any libertarian party candidate. But beyond the LP, with small L libertarians, what are the issues that libertarians are interested in that seem to give the most possibility of building meaningful alliances and pushing forward over the next couple of years? In the past it's been things like drug legalization, criminal justice reform. Certain aspects of immigration and free trade certainly. Gender equality and marriage equality. Are libertarians, where would you say, given their array of issues, where do those match up with most other groups where we might be able to build meaningful alliances?

Ekins: I think it's a great question but I think it's a hard question to really answer. I agree with you on most of those issues, that those continue to be key issues for libertarians particularly criminal justice reform, privacy issues. That's something that really wasn't on the radar in terms of issues until Edward Snowdon really it seems like. But I think another thing for libertarians to think about is thinking about Republicans and Democrats, and realizing that they do have shared interests with both groups. To try to emphasize what we as libertarians are for, not what we're against. I'll give you an example 'cause we're talking about healthcare a lot on the news.

I am for everyone who wants to have access to healthcare to able to get it. We live in a country where people have houses, they have access to food and they don't have the government running it. We have found a way that the markets provide these things then we do have a social safety net for those who hit hard times and need help, we have ways to fill those gaps but it doesn't require the government to run it all. When it comes to things like healthcare and other issues like that we are for all of these positive outcomes.

The question is what's the best way to do it? What I often hear is some of our libertarian friends talking about what we're against. Let's talk about what we're for, whether that be for criminal justice reform, whether it be for healthcare, whether that be for entitlement reform, drug reform and so forth. Let's talk about the end goals 'cause you think about it, I hear this coming from the political parties all the time. They tell you the outcome that they want to deliver you. Now they're wrong all the time but let's talk about the outcomes that we believe that a freer society that libertarian public policy can help deliver. Let's focus on the positives.

Gillespie: All right that sounds like pretty sage advice and I'll be very interested in September when your paper about free speech and millennials comes out because it may be, it'll be interesting to see what's the outcome you're proffering there. And then working to persuade millennials who are more likely to believe in constraints on speech. It sounds like a tough nut to crack but a really interesting one as well.

We have been talking with Emily Ekins, she's the director of polling at the Cato Institute and she is also a PhD in political science from UCLA and writes widely on voter attitudes and millennial attitudes as well.

Emily thanks so much for joining The Reason podcast.

Ekins: Thank you for having me.

Gillespie: For Reason, I'm Nick Gillespie, this has been The Reason podcast, please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Thanks so much for listening.

NEXT: The Republican Health Care Dud, Harry Potter, and Supreme Court Shakeup [Reason Podcast]

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  1. Ah, Emily….

    I’ll be in my bunk, if anybody asks.

    1. She can direct my polling anytime.

  2. Welcome back, Emily!

    Emily the Pollster, welcome back!

  3. almost all from the left side of the political spectrum, crowing that “libertarians don’t exist” (in Jonathan Chait’s triumphalist phrasing at New York magazine).


  4. Judging from the vast numbers of leftist leaning media outlets and that they apparently make money, I’d say its a moot point how much libertarian ranks are growing.

    Stupid people far outnumber those willing to read.

    Too late to fix the dipshit horde.

    1. Maybe you people should be better at capitalism.

      1. Maybe dipshitony should be better at understanding the difference between libterianism and capitalism.

        1. Tony is a has the IQ of a house fly but I don’t find much of a difference between true libertarianism and free market capitalism

          What is hilarious about Michael Moore and CNN, as examples, is that they are total capitalists, like everyone else, when it comes to their wallets.
          They are just willing to be preachers of a known failed system in socialism/fascism/communism and yet they do not care about the seeds of destruction they are sewing. They know there is a healthy line of tony’s ready to feed at the trough so they cashed in on it. That just makes them sociopathic capitalists.
          By the nature of actual free markets and what makes them work, they cannot be free market capitalists because they are devoid of ethics.

          1. Or you could try, as much as it may strain your face muscles, to appreciate that things like economic philosophies can exist on spectra, and one can legitimately believe that the best system has elements of capitalism and elements of socialism. In fact, all systems already do.

            1. Re: Tony,

              Or you could try, as much as it may strain your face muscles, to appreciate that things like economic philosophies can exist on spectra[…]

              Do economic philosophies have anything to do with Economics? I don’t think so. Socialism has proven this to be so, by its spectacularly dismal failure and the millions of dead left in its wake.

              And NO, the “Third Way” is not an economic philosophy. It is merely the justification for robbing Peter to give to Paul but you still need Peter to create wealth, i.e. Capitalism.

            2. Tony|6.28.17 @ 2:32PM|#
              “Or you could try, as much as it may strain your face muscles, to appreciate that things like economic philosophies can exist on spectra,…”

              Translation from lefty-imbecile-speak”
              ‘You shouldn’t mind when I steal your wealth!’
              Fuck off, slaver.

            3. That’s like believing a vampire can kill you, but vampire bats aren’t so bad.

              1. Vampire bats are pretty cute.

            4. “one can legitimately believe that the best system has elements of capitalism and elements of socialism.”
              One can legitimately believe that cyclical variation in solar radiation rather than human greenhouse gas output is the cause of recent mean temperature increases. One could legitimately believe that most cancer is caused by latent viral infections. But one would in either case be wrong. What difference does it make what one could ‘legitimately believe?’

              Fundamentally, if the value of capitalism is that it enables the aggregate preferences of consumers to dictate pricing and production of goods and services, then the efficiency of an economy is proportional to how ‘capitalist’ it is.

              To put it simply, there is no robust economic argument for socialism. None. The economically optimal amount of socialism is 0%. No mixture whatsoever. Virtually every argument for socialism ultimately boils down to moral, not economic, arguments, that is, the idea that some people are obligated to sacrifice some level of productivity and prosperity in order to help some other people. But this is a moral argument. Countries enact socialist policies at the expense of economic growth and production much like rich people donate money to charities; it does not enhance one’s economic performance, it comes at its expense.

              1. “What difference does it make what one could ‘legitimately believe?'”
                Well for one thing, if you stop writing off your ideological opponents as 50 Shades of Evil, you can actually engage with them.

                But if someone voices a mainstream position and you start spitting nails? Well, that’s how you stick to being 3% of the electorate.

      2. Maybe democrats should be better at politics.

        1. Can’t argue with that.

          1. Don’t worry: eventually, the DNC will be more than a black hole for the donations of people who hate Trump.

    2. No need. Vote, and politicians scramble to change their posturing and platforms. The blonde tries to define libertarians (a subset of objectivism opposed to the initiation of force) in terms of meaningless epithets used by 1932 prohibitionists and National Socialists to whom liberal means Jew and conservative means Blue Laws Prohibitionist. Looters abhor clarity for the same reason they worship the initiation of force. But casting a libertarian vote speaks 21 times as loud and clear as endorsing a looter candidate and platform. It changes the laws.

  5. No libertarian I know voted for anyone.

    1. We vote for platforms, to change laws.
      “Libertarian people vote about ideas. “both parties” people talk about taking things. Farcebook and Twitter people talk about other people.”

  6. The pretty scatter graph shows Team Red meandering a bit to the right of center, and Team Blue cowering in the extreme left corner.

    1. Sounds like another person glibly unaware of the dangers of moderation.

  7. If the 2016 elections proved anything, it’s just how small the libertarian voter base is. You had the 2 most hated candidates in modern times and even with all the attrition or general disgust of Clinton/Trump, Johnson couldn’t pull 5% and didn’t capture a single electoral vote. And in spite of how he’s viewed by much of the commentariat, Johnson isn’t some whackjob running around in a tri-corner hat made out of tin foil, and he wasn’t calling for throwing anyone who ever worked for the IRS in jail on charges of treason. He was trying to send a palatable libertarian message to potential voters and those disgusted with the current system. And he failed. Utterly.

    Same goes for Rand Paul, who discovered that much of the support he and his father enjoyed didn’t come from principled libertarian minded people, but from people that just wanted to stick it to the system. His voters all ran to Trump and Sanders. I didn’t expect him to win a presidential nomination, but he couldn’t consistently pull 5% of Republican Primary voters between the libertarian leaning Republicans and the Never Trumpers that didn’t want Jeb!. Sad.

    1. Johnson isn’t some whackjob running around in a tri-corner hat made out of tin foil

      Had he done, that, I’d have voted for him.

      1. Unfortunately, from what I could tell of my more conventionally political friends and family, both Johnson and Rand Paul were considered whack jobs outside of libertarian circles.

        1. I did notice that when there was any hint of Johnson gaining some ground, that many people on my facebook would begin posting a deluge of articles highly critical of him.

          There is certainly a fear of libertarians with certain people, even if we are still nothing but a bogeyman.

          1. The parasite class is running scared of libertarian bug spray!!!

    2. If rand would have just stuck to the exact platform as his dad and never waivered like his dad, he would have a much better following in about 25 years.

      1. I’m not sure about that. Yeah, Rand lost some former Ron Paul supporters by being too compromising, but I don’t think that group is a very large portion of the population. Ron got 11% of the primary popular vote in 2012 according to Wikipedia. And I think there’s a lot of evidence that many of those voters were motivated more by anti-establishment sentiment than affinity for Paul’s platform.

        1. Anything truly libertarian never has a chance. That is my point. Too many americans are either directly or indirectly on the government tit to ever vote themselves into financial pain. That is sadly the only remedy to our most pressing issues of spending/debt/entitlements/never ending wears/ and FED manipulations.

          I only think that Ron Paul had real traction in that he could say “I have never waivered on any of my most passionate points” and for that, I think people that were paying attention could at least have real hope in an honest approach to our fucked up problems.

        2. I think we lost a lot of people (relative to our usual low numbers) to the Trump phenomenon. They came over on Ron, but then realized libertarians don’t actually win anything. Trump was just a convenient weapon to take down the establishment and the reaction of the left has probably reinforced their decision and maybe even swung their beliefs on some issues

          1. I think that’s probably true. Cruz also provided an outlet for people looking for an anti-establishment fiscal conservative who was also more in line with their views on social issues than the Pauls are. And I even saw a few former Ron Paul supporters become Bernie supporters in 2016.

      2. I completely agree with that assessment.

    3. Also, the Libertarians had more actual executive government experience than the Dems or Repubs, and still, bupkiss.

  8. Where is the evidence that someone who is “socially liberal” necessarily wants to expand liberty?

    The evidence is more towards enforcing a different moral standard, and persecuting those will not abide the new stsndard. All those “antfa” types would classify themselves as social liberals.

    1. Are you referring to the moral standard that says respect and dignity ought not to be dependent on one’s race or sexual orientation?

      1. But they are dependent on one’s wallet and how much of its content can be stolen by the woke for the woke amirite?

      2. The moral standard that includes the concept of “privilege” is not that.

        1. So in addition to having white hetero male privilege, you insist on the extra privilege of never having to hear about it?

          1. I don’t have to insist. I am so fucking privileged, I don’t give a shit. I am so privileged, I have time to sit around at my cake job and argue with pussies named Tony.
            I have paid time to laugh at wankers like you who actually took time to learn this bullshit vocabulary of cry baby loser victimhood nonsense that your ilk has imbibed into what is left of your noggin.

            1. Just not sure what’s wrong about knowing the vocabulary of a branch of a social science. Or why you people become so utterly butthurt by the mere mention of the subject.

              It’s kind of sad, really, because nobody’s actually asking you to give up any privilege, or even listen to them when they talk about it. You’re just being led around by the balls by fat asshats in the media who rightly think that getting you upset over absolutely nothing will make you vote for their preferred politicians.

              1. Chance Tony ever applies this insight to his own worldview: 0.00%

                1. Tony doesn’t have a world view- he has appetities. When baby doesn’t get his bottle baby ruins your day.

              2. Tony|6.28.17 @ 2:37PM|#
                “…It’s kind of sad, really, because nobody’s actually asking you to give up any privilege, or even listen to them when they talk about it….’

                Just hand over everything you own. That’s all our lefty shit-pile wants.

          2. “Privilege” is an ad hominem attack that judeges what somebody says based on what they are rather than the merits of what they are saying.

            1. It’s simply the concept that, all else being equal, white skin, being male, and being straight means more automatic privilege in our society. I find it ridiculous that anyone would deny this. I find it doubly ridiculous that people who check all the privilege boxes would, instead of reflecting calmly on the matter, would go on the Internet and tell everyone how hurt their butts are.

              Have you ever actually been censored by anyone because of your skin color or gender? Or are you just reacting to boogiepersons in the precise manner that dumbass greasy hacks on cable news tell you to?

              1. What is this “automatic privilege”? Privilege to do what or have what?

              2. As your explanstion shows, it is a concept that is openly racist and sexist.

              3. Just make sure you check your Oklahoma privilege.

        2. Being socially liberal in the original sense of the word “liberal” is definitely compatible with liberty. But much of the left is no longer socially liberal. It’s socially “progressive” and that’s a profound difference

      3. Note that this is the individualist position, and is very much NOT the social justice position.

        1. Black transgender lesbians er terkin er jerbs!

          1. You’re even terrible at non sequiturs. Sad!

          2. No, Tony. Messicans are taking our jobs. Black transgender lesbians are lurking in our public restrooms. Get it straight.

      4. No we are talking about the moral standard of attacking little old lady bakers with jackbooted hordes because they won’t bake you a cake.

      5. I think he’s likely referring to the moral standard that one’s right to sell goods and services should be conditional one one’s opinions about what others do with their genitals, or that one’s chances of getting a job or getting into a college should be conditional on one’s race, or one’s freedom should be conditional on whether one’s speech offends others or defies scientific consensus.

        If so, he seems to be using the word ‘liberal’ in the popular (but incorrect) sense. In the etymologically appropriate sense, those he is referring to as ‘socially liberal’ are actually thoroughly illiberal.

        1. Most of the people who admit to being socially liberal also align with libertarians on issues like drug legalization and pushing back against elements of authoritarian police state policies. Being wrong on some issues doesn’t mean being wrong on all issues. I think that libertarians have more overlap in philosophy with social liberals than they do with Christian theocrats.

    2. Re: Mickey Rat,

      Where is the evidence that someone who is “socially liberal” necessarily wants to expand liberty?

      Don’t confuse “liberal” in ‘Socially liberal” with “liberal” as in Marxian. Marxians orbit around planet Marx and are as illiberal as they get – hence, people like Tony. Or ex-president Barrack All-blah-blah.

      1. I sm not confusing it. I sm saying that term comes preconfused because it covers too broad a spectrum. You cannot separate put t he Marxians as you put it from the genuinely libetty minded.

      2. Marxian is a good way to put it. Quillette’s article on the left and what they call postmodernism is absolutely essential reading to anyone who hasn’t checked it out

    3. As you point out, you cannot simply ask a lefty if they are socially liberal because they are too stupid to know what that means.

      They think it means be nice to people, more buttsex, weed and able to be a man today and a woman tomorrow. The fallacy of that is that conservatives use government to control you and lefties use force to control you.

      Socially liberal is not more freedom.

  9. Social issues are now identity issues? Oh, for fuck’s sake.

    1. If it is social anything, you know it’s horseshit. Just like any other thing that has to be re-defined every now and then.

      What did the guy who owned whole foods call his horseshit cuddly crap? Conscious Capitalism.

      That is code for “I don’t have the balls to tell my customer that capitalism is awesome and made me rich”

      And if I were him selling what he sells to his dumbass customers, I would do the exact same thing. That guy made a fortune ripping off all sorts of woke SJW.

  10. I have always been suspicious of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” moniker.

    One could make a very good argument that Mike Bloomberg was a libertarian based on this label. I think fiscally conservative has a fairly wide range of meanings, but it is the “socially liberal” thing I have a problem with ( and Emily alludes to this in her article). Am I socially liberal if I am for legalizing marijuana, but against affirmative action? Am I socially liberal if I favor the individual right to keep and bear arms, but oppose speech codes at public universities? Am I socially liberal if I believe that consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want with their genitals but oppose the idea that the federal government has any role in defining marriage?

    1. 1 more:
      Am I socially liberal if I believe that abortion on demand early in a pregnancy is a woman’s right, but not later in the pregnancy?

      1. … that’s actually the standard of Roe v. Wade, and is acceptable to most pro-choice folks.

        So sure, give yourself a liberal cookie.

    2. You could use the word “liberal” in its original meaning, but that would bugger up the rest of this as-always pointless attempt to sort everyone into a small number of ideological boxes.

    3. in a word, no. You’re a racist pothead, gun wielding hater and…. I’m not sure about the last because you can’t be for the gays and against the gays too, so I guess you’re just confused. We have no room for your type in our cause.

    4. fiscally conservative, socially liberal

      i.e. reader of The Economist / LibDem voter.

    5. “Am I socially liberal if I believe that consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want with their genitals but oppose the idea that the federal government has any role in defining marriage?”
      That depends.

      If you say “I’d rather get government out of marriage, but since that isn’t happening let’s let them marry anyway” or do you say “I’m against government marriage, and you’ll have to bear the pain for my philosophy”.

      If it’s the first, you’re fine. If it’s the latter, then fuck you with a rake sideways.

      1. That’s definitely something I have a hard time with. When is it worth taking a concession to improve freedom, and when does it do more damage to accept that concession.

        For marriage, I think legally recognizing more is fairly easy to recognize as increasing freedom.

        One that I had a hard time with was the Marijuana legalization law that was in Arizona last year. It would have led to allowing for legal purchasing of pot, but it only allowed it through sets of predefined venues that reeked of crony capitalism. Is it better to take the law, which gains some freedom but may solidify a bad implementation? Or is it better to reject then, and wait for a better implementation of the law.

        I don’t know. I ended up voting for it, and it lost anyway, but I still wonder.

        1. Better to allow the crony capitalism than no legal biz at all. And not only because it’s an immediate increase in freedom, but also because it helps demonstrate to people that people can sell pot without disaster happening. Therefore it would promote legaliz’n in other states & countries, & ultimately would lead to liberaliz’n of laws on sales so the pressure would be on to make the crony system less crony.

          The institution of state lotteries has not had a retarding effect on the growth of legal gambling, but an accelerating effect.

        2. “When is it worth taking a concession to improve freedom, and when does it do more damage to accept that concession.”
          I suppose that depends on whether you think you’ll get a better offer that’s closer to your ideal down the line.

          When it comes to pot prohibition, you might. A failed initiative this year means there will be another attempt in a few more years.

          When it came to marriage equality, I have seen no reason to believe that there is any serious effort in America, or anywhere in the world, to do away with the rights, privileges and protections of legal marriage. No one was or is serious about getting rid of that stuff. So if Obergefel had gone the other way, the alternative was not “abolishing marriage”, it was making sure that for gay folk, a bad day becomes a really bad day.

      2. ‘”I’m against government marriage, and you’ll have to bear the pain for my philosophy”?
        What pain? The pain of not having a government imprimatur on your marriage? Grow up. If other people can get by in life without having the state acknowledge their bar mitsvahs, batmisms, and sweet 16s, I think you can live with marriage being a cultural/religious/community/whatever based institution.

        You expect others to compromise their principles because you want a judge’s signature on a piece of paper to make you feel good? Meanwhile you no doubt are willing to ‘compromise’ on your support for “public accommodation” laws for the sake of freedom of association? I expect not. Fuck off and go be a hypocrite somewhere else.

        1. “You expect others to compromise their principles because you want a judge’s signature on a piece of paper to make you feel good?”
          If you think it’s just about “feeling good”, then you haven’t been paying attention.

          If I go into a hospital, it makes a world of difference if I have a husband or a boyfriend. For my health insurance, life insurance, retirement accounts, property ownership… if something happens to me, it matters whether I have a husband or a boyfriend. When we have kids and we’re trying to register them for school, it matters whether I have a husband or a boyfriend.

          So sure. On the good days, it doesn’t matter at all. But on some of the worst days of your life, whether you have the legal protections from marriage or not will matter.

          So again: if folks want to get the government out of marriage recognition? Go for it. But straight people have enshrined the importance of marriage to family relationships in way too many places in our society for me to forego those protections until then.

          “Meanwhile you no doubt are willing to ‘compromise’ on your support for “public accommodation” laws for the sake of freedom of association?”
          I’ve actually talked about this before. I’d be fine with repealing all public accommodation laws. What I’m not fine with is keeping them while giving carve-outs for religion, while not giving comparable carve-outs against religion.

      3. Oklahoma privilege too?! How come I never get any of the checks?!

        Strangely, when I get up at 6:00am every day

    6. I’ll do you one better on culture, where the left is completely lost:

      Am I socially liberal if I criticize the ME for its treatment of women and homosexuals?

  11. Shit, did i miss another Libertarian Moment?

    1. It’ll be back. There’s always Uber and food trucks

  12. Nick, it’s “hippogriff,” not “hippogruff”, unless maybe you are referring to some sort of little known breed created by House Hufflepuff.

      1. Now now. That geek is not a nerd.

    1. He was signalling the degree of mythicalness. A creature of such rare air that even Harry Potter characters would say, “Phbbbt! You’re making that up!”

      1. That’s actually what hippogriff meant, something completely impossible.

        Because griffins really, really hated horses (well, they eat them) they would never ever breed with one. Thus a hippogriff (griffin-horse hybrid) would be impossible.

        But then someone else apparently didn’t get the joke and used it in a story. Orlando Furiouso if I remember correctly.

  13. Exist In Droves would be a pretty good name for a Guided By Voices album.

  14. What that scatterplot graph tells me more than anything is that support for conservative economics is all but dead in this country now.

    Ironically, free market capitalism is the greatest invention and success story in the history of mankind, but inevitably you just can’t beat out the popularity of “free shit” (someone else please pay for everything that you want).

    The only way any person could look at that data and come to the conclusion that libertarianism is winning is:

    a) He’s a complete retard
    b) He’s a complete liar
    c) He doesn’t really give a shit about free market economics
    d) Some combination of a, b, and/or c

    1. The free market isn’t an invention, Simple Mikey. It’s the natural, uncoerced state of human exchange.

      1. You’re a fucking dope. The free market backed by the rule of law IS an invention, and a relatively new one at that. For most of human history, people took what they wanted primarily through force.

        In fact, even today there are entire regions of the world that are still like that. The primitive, savage, barbaric, backwards Middle East to name one example. There is no “free market” over there to speak of.

        1. Ok, so you don’t know what a free market even is, and your Hobbes for Dummies take on human nature has a lot more in common with that of progressivism than with anything libertarian. You may actually be the dumbest person on the Internet. Congratulations, i guess.

          1. “Hobbes for Dummies”

            Mikey ain’t that bright.

            1. Sorry, i mistyped Hobbes from Dummies

  15. In the newest Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Ekins not simply about the errors of Drutman’s analysis (he also finds many more liberals than most researchers)

    I haven’t read Drutman’s analysis, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that his methodology was deliberately skewed to line up with a preconceived bias to show more liberals than there really are.

  16. Today, politics is binary while gender is a spectrum (credit to comedian Owen Benjamin on that one)

    I don’t know of a better way to track libertarians than the socially “liberal” and fiscally “conservative” thing, but it really is a gross misrepresentation, especially since we libertarians have a long memory of the left being illiberal and the right running up record deficits

    1. You could just ask a slew of policy questions and not attempt to map that to two dimensions.

      1. Like Pew. They polled me this week.

        They use cluster analysis, and the clusters may show up in a space of any number of dimensions. You don’t pick predetermined axes, you let the correlations reveal themselves; they may be along “axes” you’ve never even conceived of, & couldn’t easily name or describe once you find them.

  17. We don’t have to guess. We know how many voters are libertarian because they voted libertarian in 2016.

    So about 3% of voters (in California anyway, not bothering to check national numbers).

    Anything else is just playing some kind of inverse “no true Scotsman”.

    1. I’d push back on that a bit. Some libertarians hitched onto Trump because Hillary is the antithesis of our entire worldview, and because the right sometimes entertains us while the left increasingly has little in common with us. Some cocktail types maybe swung to Hillary to keep the vulgar strongman out. And I have a hunch we refrain from voting at a higher rate than anyone else

      But that would probably only bump us up 2% percent or so of course

  18. stop adverb abuse.

  19. ….less than 4 percent are libertarian (conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues). According to Drutman,

    Sorry Emily, Drutman sounds about right in his analysis, judging from the last 45 years of elections I remember.

    I guess a few million voters constitute a drove, but they haven’t done much to make government smaller in that time frame.

    1. So, 4 percent tops, with about half of them not voting, down to 2 percent.

  20. Her skin and her eyebrows look fake. Even more pointless to make yourself up like a sorority girl when you’re way past 30, seems to me.

    1. Gotcher earth-momma in Birkenstocks right over there in Berkeley; don’t let us stop you.

  21. Do libertarians have the potential to make more cogent arguments if they believe (or realize) that they are only 5% of the US population rather than believing that they are a quarter (or somehow 60%??) of the population?

    That there is most definitely not a libertarian wave coming just over the horizon. (at least certainly within the fiscal realm)

    The US will certainly not be more libertarian within our lifetimes, but perhaps by engaging with their fellow citizens and offering a governing philosophy different from the dominant ones, our children or grandchildren might view it as a legitimate option.

    1. How many people are libertarian-“leaning”? How many are deep-seated, TRUE libertarians, and how many are fair-weather libertarians? We can see it right here in the commentary, over the years?
      I am libertarian, except? Except, all those baby-murdering (AKA, fertilized-egg-cell-killers) need to be PUNISHED by Government Almighty!
      I am libertarian, except? Except, all of those ILLEGAL HUMANS from the other side of the border, who audaciously DARE to defy Government Almighty’s border fences, must be PUNISHED!!!
      I am libertarian, except? Except, all of those LICENSE VIOLATORS (my sister-in-law is a licensed interior decorator, and I REALLY respect her RIGHTS, dammit!) need to be PUNISHED!!!
      We have WAY too many “libertarian-oriented” fair-weather friends, who abandon freedom as soon as their favorite self-righteousness is challenged!

      1. ^The wisdom of SQRLSY One, right here; whose ox is being gored?
        I’ll add those ‘free market lovers’ who demand government price-fixing so no one gets better internet access than them.

      2. Libertarians vote the platform, and keep an eye on the platform committee.

      3. ‘We have WAY too many “libertarian-oriented” fair-weather friends, who abandon freedom as soon as their favorite self-righteousness is challenged!”
        To be sure, this describes all ideologies. People adopt and often change their opinions on a dime, usually based on the company they keep. The same guy who bitched about the government being on his lawn at conservative’s party will be bitching about the corporations at the progressive’s party. People aren’t just selective, their very fickle, from day to day, let alone from year to year.

        You can test it out; just try and convince your average (nonacademic, they’re too committed) lefty of the need to go back to the gold standard or bar the borders to keep wages from going down, or the average righty of the need to kneecap international trade and nationalize the banks; at the very least a significant minority of dyed in the wool partisans are suggestible to opposite-ideology ideas when they’re not aware of the ideological connotations.

        I would expect that ‘committed libertarians’ are less fickle (due to being a seasoned intellectual minority; the same could probably be said of hardcore socialists or neofascists as well); but as far as drawing masses out to vote, the size advantage of the conventional left and right is self-perpetuating because there are more friends, family members, and co-workers constantly corralling wanderers back into the tribe.

  22. See? Cluster analysis is good.

    1. Eh. Mixture models are better. You can get whatever results you want out of the a cluster analysis by picking different methods and fiddling with the parameters.

  23. What matters is whether your personal vote can make a difference. It can, and is worth 21 votes squandered on posturing kleptocracy goons IF you vote for a small party committed to a clear platform. The Kleptocracy was against the communist income tax in 1892. Billy Bryan’s People’s Party got 9% of the vote and inside of three years the Supreme Court had to strike down the income tax. The Supreme Court struck down coathanger abortion laws a month after the LP ticket got an electoral vote, and the LP plank became the Roe v. Wade decision. The Prohibition Party made beer a felony by casting 1.4% of the vote on average. The Liberal Party of 1931 wrote a wet plank the Dems stole in 1932 for a 5-election run. The Greens spoiled Gore’s election, so the Dems co-opted their entire anti-energy platform (and to Hell with legalizing anything). But average temperatures have been falling and voters want electricity, not an air tax. Winning means changing the laws. Spoiler votes change party platforms with a huge (mean of 21) leverage factor.

  24. The introduction of social issues and cultural issues as being a second dimension of American politics emerged about the time that economic prosperity and growth really took off.

    Yes, and that’s something I’ve long taken note of. Other than race, social issues weren’t issues until the 1960s. Libertarianism had no reason to emerge as a separate tencency from conservatism before then.

    1. Prior to the 1960s, though, economic liberalism (free markets) wasn’t conservative. Forgetting universal changes in cultural mores for a second, I think libertarianism maps fairly well onto the urban, northern Republican party of the era: they were generally pro-business, pro-free trade, and socially liberal (i.e., tended to favor desegregation) while the Democrats were poor rural, southern populists (with a growing contingent of poor urban, Catholic populists). I wouldn’t characterize the Republicans of the 1950s as conservative though. Though the socialist left wing of the Democratic party was to the left of the GOP, the pro-segregation right-wing of the Democratic party was also to the right of the GOP (and this was before economic freedom was considered ‘right wing’).

  25. Now that liberals call themselves progressives, can libertarians retake the liberal label, to sync up with the rest of the world?

  26. Liberal, conservative, etc. are like a rorschach test. Polling along those lines is generally useless.

  27. What would be interesting is to see the stats on libertarians in the Reason magazine writer sense:

    Open Borders on People, Goods, and Services
    Against Government Redistributive Welfare
    Free Speech
    Legalization of Victimless Crimes

    Closer to 0% than 1%

  28. Dividing voters into one of four groups, he finds 44.6 percent are liberal (“liberal on both economic and identity issues”),

    I suspect at the root of the problem may be that Drutman doesn’t quite understand what “liberal on economic issues” means. It certainly doesn’t mean the kind of proto-fascist economic system Hillary Clinton stands for.

  29. Here are two areas I have problems with “pure-libertarian” policy suggestions

    1) Healthcare can’t be made a free market quickly and maybe not at all. It’s impossible for most people to comparison shop for hospitals and doctors re major health problems. Pricing is non-transparent as is the performance of doctors as a service. Hospital groups have monopolies in many areas. People under pressure due to major health issues don’t have time to comparison-shop even if there was good transparency because they are under great pressure and anxiety from being sick. Until these issues (and others I haven’t thought through) are corrected, you can’t treat healthcare like you can treat the choice of a restaurant.

    2) Getting rid of all environmental regulations would lead to a disaster for the commons. Polluters don’t have incentives not to pollute if they don’t live in areas impacted by the pollution. They have profit-motives for polluting. Lawsuits against polluting aren’t effective as disincentives. Lawsuits don’t come out in favor of victims of polluters until after the damage and people are sick or property is ruined. I don’t see a way around environmental regulation, given it is supported by good science. Who exercises good science on the environment? It’s not the people who would profit from lack of regulation. You need neutral third party science. Who pays for that? Maybe government has to pay for at least part of neutral third party research.

    1. It’s impossible for most people to comparison shop for hospitals and doctors re major health problems.

      Google rating work for many other things. You might as well say you can’t comparison shop for cars because you only buy a few in a lifetime.

      Pricing is non-transparent

      Third party payers caused that.

      People under pressure due to major health issues don’t have time to comparison-shop even if there was good transparency because they are under great pressure and anxiety from being sick.

      Car accident? Maybe. Cancer? No.

      Getting rid of all environmental regulations would lead to a disaster for the commons.

      Property rights imply not polluting others’ property.

      Polluters don’t have incentives not to pollute if they don’t live in areas impacted by the pollution.

      Paying for cleanup is expensive.

      1. Paying for cleanup is expensive. However the cleanup doesn’t occur until long, long after the damage is done. In the meantime the CEO has raked in his stock options, and jumped off with his golden parachute. There isn’t much incentive not to pollute when your have quarterly earnings to look at. Putting the right filters in place before the waste water goes out will cut into the numbers on the quarterly earnings statement. Redress by lawsuit and future cleanup is too slow to impact quarter by quarter decisions.

        1. Paying for cleanup is expensive. However the cleanup doesn’t occur until long, long after the damage is done.

          If the pollution did permanent damage, the polluter would have to pay for that as well, driving costs up even further.

          In the meantime the CEO has raked in his stock options, and jumped off with his golden parachute.

          In today’s governmental system it can take that long, yes. That’s a condemnation of a governmental system, not of a market system.

          There isn’t much incentive not to pollute when your have quarterly earnings to look at.

          That CEO is elected (ultimately) by stockholders who want a profit for more than a quarter. Putting someone into that position would be very foolish.

  30. It’s amazing what demographics exist and in what scale when you start to look at the numbers. The size of populations even in a major city are just too large for the human brain to really relate to. 50,000 people and 5MM people are both basically impossible to fathom, so how could you imagine whole swaths of a country with millions of people different than you, or entire countries with billions!!

    Beyond the numbers being difficult to comprehend and appreciate, assigning people to groups is a game that never ends. We’ve got more data than ever and I do believe that we’ll establish metrics that are organic and ever changing as the groups we’re attempting to measure and define. I think the massive amounts of data and computational power of artificial intelligence are going to teach us so many new ways to view ourselves as one big earthly organism. Will it be helpful in relieving our political woes? Who knows? I like to think so … I touched on this in a recent Zengineering Podcast on Artificial Intelligence.

    Thanks for a great post and another great episode of the Reason Podcast, Nick and Emily!!

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