Pew Poll: Libertarians Don’t Know What ‘Libertarian’ Means

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Today, even those who voted for Bush twice and then both McCain and Romney – claim that they are not Republicans. No, they are a purified version of Republicanism – they are libertarians. But, what exactly is a libertarian? As it turns out, they don’t even know.

Pew Research focused on 11% of their respondents, who self-identified as libertarian and knew the very basic meaning, which they said was, “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.” That definition is pretty much where the similarities ended, though.

According to the poll, self-described libertarians aren’t at all consistent on their positions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues. In fact, many take liberal positions. For example:

  • 41% of libertarians believe that the government should regulate business.
  • 46% of libertarians believe that corporations make too much profit.
  • 38% of libertarians believe that government aid to the poor is good.

On social issues (on which libertarians are supposed to be live and let live):

  • 42% (almost identical to the general population) believe that police should be able to stop and search people who look like criminals.
  • 26% think “homosexuality should be discouraged.”

And despite the expression that libertarians are Republicans who want to get high, 33% believe marijuana should be illegal.

Now, in all of the above positions, libertarians are somewhat more likely to take the libertarian stance, but in world affairs? They are less likely to take the classic libertarian stance, which is anti-interventionism.

  • 43% would like the U.S. to be more active in world affairs, as opposed to just 35% of the general public.
  • 46%, however, think the U.S. makes world problems worse and just 16% believe that privacy should be given up.
  • There is one group that Pew believes more closely resembles libertarian values. They represent about 5% of the population and they are typically young. They are conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on LGBT rights, immigration and are against military force. However, they also believe in affirmative action and that environmental laws are a good thing.

What does this mean for a possible Rand Paul presidency? Not much. In 2012, just 1.2% of libertarians voted for the libertarian candidate. However, Paul does have more name recognition. Even so, he has a pool of about 11% of voters.