Why Republicans Need Libertariansby Doug Mataconis
David Kirby and David Boaz note that the Republican losses in the 2006 elections can be directly tied to a loss of support for the GOP from libertarian-minded voters:
In the past, our research shows, most libertarians voted Republican—72 percent for George W. Bush in 2000, for instance, with only 20 percent for Al Gore, and 70 percent for Republican congressional candidates in 2002. But in 2004, presumably turned off by war, wiretapping, and welfare-state spending sprees, they shifted sharply toward the Democrats. John F. Kerry got 38 percent of the libertarian vote. That was a dramatic swing that Republican strategists should have noticed. But somehow the libertarian vote has remained hidden in plain sight.
This year we commissioned a nationwide post-election survey of 1013 voters from Zogby International. We again found that 15 percent of the voters held libertarian views. We also found a further swing of libertarians away from Republican candidates. In 2006, libertarians voted 59-36 for Republican congressional candidates—a 24-point swing from the 2002 mid-term election. To put this in perspective, front-page stories since the election have reported the dramatic 7-point shift of white conservative evangelicals away from the Republicans. The libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.
Based on the turnout in 2004, Bush’s margin over Kerry dropped by 4.8 million votes among libertarians. Had he held his libertarian supporters, he would have won a smashing reelection rather than squeaking by in Ohio.
As Kirby and Boaz point out, it’s not hard to understand why voters that hold libertarian views would be upset with the GOP under the leadership of George W. Bush:
President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.
Boaz and Kirby further point out that libertarian-oriented voters seem to be an especially high percentage of the vote in places like New Hampshire and the Mountain West that are absolutely essential for a Republican national majority and electoral college victory.
With all the talk about a left-libertarian fusion and calls for libertarian oriented voters to abandon the GOP, there is a lesson in these statistics. The Republicans need libertarian votes, the Democrats don’t. Which party do you think is more likely to adopt policies that libertarians favor, the one that needs us, or the one that doesn’t ?
H/T: Professor Bainbridge