Pew poll: Whole lotta “libertarians” out there seem not to understand libertarianism

posted at 8:01 pm on August 25, 2014 by Allahpundit

This is easily explained, I think, but still striking to anyone who knows (or is) a doctrinaire libertarian. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you know where they stand on most issues without needing to ask. They want a vastly more limited federal government both domestically and abroad and they want Americans left alone to pursue their happiness in whatever consensual ways they see fit. They want open borders, less aggressive police, and robust rights to privacy and to bear arms. In virtually all things, they’re anti-authoritarian. They’re not unanimous, as no movement is — there’s no dogmatic libertarian position on abortion, as far as I know, and the Pauls want stronger borders, not weaker ones — but I would have guessed that, immigration aside, there’d be 85 percent consensus on all of the foregoing issues if you polled them.

Nope.

When it comes to attitudes about the size and scope of government, people who say the term libertarian describes them well (and who are able to correctly define the term) are somewhat more likely than the public overall to say government regulation of business does more harm than good (56% vs. 47%). However, about four-in-ten libertarians say that government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest (41%).

The attitudes of libertarians similarly differ from the public on government aid to the poor; they are more likely than the public to say “government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people too dependent on government assistance” (57% vs. 48%), yet about four-in-ten (38%) say it “does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met.”

But there are only slight differences between libertarians and the public in views of the acceptability of homosexuality. And they are about as likely as others to favor allowing the police “to stop and search anyone who fits the general description of a crime suspect” (42% of libertarians, 41% of the public).

Yes, you’re reading that correctly: Self-described libertarians are slightly more likely than the general public to let police stop people who fit the “general description of a crime suspect.” And that’s not the most eye-popping result from the poll. Check out the second one here:

p

Not even Rand Paul, who’s spent the year trying to convince righties that he’s a Reaganesque “peace through strength” cautious hawk, would have joined the 43 percent there, I think. The whole thing reminds me of that ultra-weird Pew poll from a few years ago showing that 21 percent of atheists, er, believe in God. In both cases, my instinct is: You’re doing it wrong.

But like I say, this is easily explained. Pew used a two-step process to identify “libertarians,” in order to make sure people who claimed the label really knew what it meant. First they asked people whether they defined themselves that way; if they said yes, Pew then offered them a multiple-choice question asking which ideology best describes ““someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.” The five choices presented were libertarian, progressive, authoritarian, Unitarian, and communist. That’s an awfully easy choice, and conspicuous in its omission of some close cousins of libertarianism, namely, conservativism and “Republicanism.” What you’re seeing in the poll results, I think, is a bunch of doctrinaire libertarians having their brand diluted by a bunch of conservatives/Republicans who are disgusted with those labels right now, for whatever reason, and are thus hoping to claim “libertarianism” for themselves. Do you support aggressive policing, a muscular foreign policy, and a social safety net but are disgusted with how big and intrusive the federal government’s gotten and how complacent the GOP has gotten about it? Congrats, you might be a “libertarian.” In fact, this reminds me of what David Frum said recently about the “libertarian moment”: It’s not so much that conservatives are turning into doctrinaire libertarians, he argued, as that they’re attracted in the age of Hopenchange to the broad libertarian critique that government is malignant, not merely inefficient and stupid. That’s how you get the sort of “libertarians” captured in the poll. They’re deeply distrustful of government writ large, but ask them about particular manifestations of government power — the welfare state, the police, etc — and they’re more simpatico.

All good news for Rand Paul, though. In theory, he’s got a big problem in the primaries: He’s branded himself as a conservative with libertarian tendencies but, on most actual policy matters, I suspect he leans solidly libertarian. The fake libertarians in the Pew poll are the opposite, people who lean conservative on actual policy but crave the anti-government libertarian brand. There’s a mismatch there, but exploiting that mismatch depends on educating conservative voters that Paul’s policies don’t match their own when, I think, most voters are attracted to candidates chiefly because of their “brands.” If you’re a hawkish low-information Republican who’s looking for the biggest middle finger to Washington in the field next year, are you going to let Paul’s foreign policy inclinations deter you from backing a libertarian? Maybe you will if Cruz is in the field too, but what if he isn’t?


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Putin,”получить с моей лужайки.” (“Get off my lawn.”): http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/505354.html

davidk on August 25, 2014 at 8:07 PM

Pew poll: Whole lotta “libertarians” out there seem not to understand libertarianism

*snicker*…

You don’t say….

BigWyo on August 25, 2014 at 8:08 PM

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you know where they stand on most issues without needing to ask.

Err…apparently, this is not true…

BigWyo on August 25, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Yes, you’re reading that correctly: Self-described libertarians are slightly more likely than the general public to let police stop people who fit the “general description of a crime suspect.

In fairness to so-called libertarians who were polled, that’s not a very well-phrased question.

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Those are not “libertarians,” they are Bill Maher-style leftists who think they can save face by calling themselves libertarians just because they want the government out of marriage, marijuana regulations, or one or two other issues — even though they support government control of almost everything else. They’re frauds, to put it bluntly.

Pew used a two-step process to identify “libertarians,” in order to make sure people who claimed the label really knew what it meant.

People can fully know what the label means and still wrongly apply it to themselves.

See: Bill Maher, who has done so in the past.

Aizen on August 25, 2014 at 8:10 PM

File this under the “duh” statement of the day.

cozmo on August 25, 2014 at 8:12 PM

This is like those “Cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose, depending upon their moods, which aspects of their religion to follow.

Mitoch55 on August 25, 2014 at 8:12 PM

I think it was you that posted a thread identifying where you grew up based on language,

Those same people need to devise a test for political bent.

I don’t even know what I am.

wolly4321 on August 25, 2014 at 8:13 PM

It is why libertarian is so worthless these days. I have asked in other places, where is the current crop of libertarians who support getting rid of social security and its welfare state? They do not seem to ever say that stuff any more. It is like the only things on their real list of want to accomplish things is legalizing and defending degenerate behaviors. When that is the case, that is your brand.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 8:15 PM

They’re not unanimous, as no movement is — there’s no dogmatic libertarian position on abortion, as far as I know, and the Pauls want stronger borders

The Pauls? As in both Ron and Rand? Errrr… I hate to break it to you, but Ron Paul was warning about a border fence being used to keep Americans trapped here.

Stoic Patriot on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 PM

So what is it anyway?

ThePrez on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 PM

I’ve heard it said that no two Libertarians can agree what Libertarianism is.

nekodachi on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 PM

I’ve heard it said that no two Libertarians can agree what Libertarianism is.

nekodachi on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 PM

That’s because libertarians believe that they have the liberty to define libertarianism however they want. =P

Stoic Patriot on August 25, 2014 at 8:19 PM

Breakdown by age?

I suspect that the stupid youth is making these results.

nobar on August 25, 2014 at 8:19 PM

And there are a lot, maybe even more, “Conservatives” and “Liberals” who don’t much understand actual conservatism or actual liberalism, especially as Liberalism has largely morphed into Fascism.

VorDaj on August 25, 2014 at 8:19 PM

I think Libertarian has become a catch-all term for anyone who doesn’t quite fit into one political dogma and can’t find a name for their political beliefs.

It’s the closest name I could find, but I don’t think it is completely correct in my case.

nekodachi on August 25, 2014 at 8:21 PM

That’s because libertarians believe that they have the liberty to define libertarianism however they want. =P

Stoic Patriot on August 25, 2014 at 8:19 PM

You laugh, but there might be more truth to that then you realize. ^_^

nekodachi on August 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

I go to the Libertarian web pages, and I am floored by the out and out socialist leftist who call themselves libertarian. I think libertarian has become a catchall for those that don’t want to be a liberal or a conservative.

That’s the problem with libertarian candidates; you could totally get a leftist or a righty.

melle1228 on August 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Yes, you’re reading that correctly: Self-described libertarians are slightly more likely than the general public to let police stop people who fit the “general description of a crime suspect.”

In fairness to so-called libertarians who were polled, that’s not a very well-phrased question.

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 8:09 PM

It’s a terrible question. If a cop hears on the radio that a white male about 6 feet tall with a light blue jacket and dark blue hat just robbed a liquor store, then I don’t think many people would object to police stopping such a person running away from a liquor store.

corkie on August 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Well if you like liberty but are not like those liberals that must mean you are a libertarian just like if you are on social media and are social with people that must mean you are a socialist.

tjexcite on August 25, 2014 at 8:27 PM

It’s a terrible question. If a cop hears on the radio that a white male about 6 feet tall with a light blue jacket and dark blue hat just robbed a liquor store, then I don’t think many people would object to police stopping such a person running away from a liquor store.

corkie on August 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Indeed.

The better question to have asked is whether or not they supported “stop and frisk” policies.

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 8:29 PM

I think Libertarian has become a catch-all term for anyone who doesn’t quite fit into one political dogma and can’t find a name for their political beliefs.

It’s the closest name I could find, but I don’t think it is completely correct in my case.

nekodachi on August 25, 2014 at 8:21 PM

I henceforth declare myself a hardcore anti-millenial uber-christian-conservative.

nobar on August 25, 2014 at 8:31 PM

Well, well … well. This Conservative Zionist would greatly appreciate you passing the popcorn this way.

M240H on August 25, 2014 at 8:31 PM

I doubt if the vast majority of Americans really know what political philosophy they follow. Or why. Or how they acquired it.

Cleombrotus on August 25, 2014 at 8:32 PM

This is easily explained, I think, but still striking to anyone who knows (or is) a doctrinaire libertarian. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you know where they stand on most issues without needing to ask.
===============================================================
I hope,..they/those and them Libertarians don’t Boink Up
November!!!
(le sarc)

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 8:33 PM

On a somewhat related note, I just now received a call from a pollster.

It felt good to hang up on him.

nobar on August 25, 2014 at 8:35 PM

He’s branded himself as a conservative with libertarian tendencies …

Rand Paul can “brand” himself as anything he wants – but, that won’t make it so. In actuality, Rand is a GOPe semi-progressive, with liberal tendencies.

Pork-Chop on August 25, 2014 at 8:37 PM

Dude, what?

faraway on August 25, 2014 at 8:39 PM

Well if you like liberty but are not like those liberals that must mean you are a libertarian just like if you are on social media and are social with people that must mean you are a socialist.

tjexcite on August 25, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Thread winner.

nobar on August 25, 2014 at 8:41 PM

Pew poll: Whole lotta “libertarians” “dope smokers” out there seem not to understand libertarianism

Isn’t it really this ^^^^

reddevil on August 25, 2014 at 8:46 PM

It is why libertarian is so worthless these days. I have asked in other places, where is the current crop of libertarians who support getting rid of social security and its welfare state? They do not seem to ever say that stuff any more.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 8:15 PM

Get rid of Social Security and the welfare state…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 8:56 PM

Go to some of the national Libertarian sites. Many of them are as far left as you can get.

There is NO consistent definition of libertarians

AmericaDS1234 on August 25, 2014 at 8:58 PM

The Pauls? As in both Ron and Rand? Errrr… I hate to break it to you, but Ron Paul was warning about a border fence being used to keep Americans trapped here.

Stoic Patriot on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 PM

That’s true. But he was also the only one, AFAIK, saying we should be ending social benefits to illegals and ending birthright citizenship, and use Congress’ authority to limit court jurisdiction to achieve it if necessary.

Now, does limiting incentives for illegal immigration count as tougher border security? I suppose that depends on your point of view…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 9:01 PM

I’ve known plenty of liberals here in CA, who call themselves “fiscal conservatives,” and then proceed to vote for every imaginable leftwing candidate and even Gov. Moonbean’s ballot measure to “soak the rich.” But these people still genuinely they are conservative.

Or my favorite is the one where I hear people say “I’m not a liberal, I’m actually a center right or “moderate” Republican…that never voted for a Republican because .. they are too “right-wing now”

Raquel Pinkbullet on August 25, 2014 at 9:02 PM

Get rid of Social Security and the welfare state…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 8:56 PM

It should be part of just about everything libertarians argue.

So long as my wealth is at risk for the failures of others, degeneracy cannot be practiced in liberty and freedom. I do not consent to my wealth being used by those who become failures.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:03 PM

And also I should add, another personal favorite of mine among “college libs” is libertarian… because like libertarian is all about legalizing weed and gay marriage… you know your typical “Bill Maher libertarians”

Raquel Pinkbullet on August 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

It should be part of just about everything libertarians argue.

So long as my wealth is at risk for the failures of others, degeneracy cannot be practiced in liberty and freedom. I do not consent to my wealth being used by those who become failures.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:03 PM

I don’t want your wealth being used by anyone but you, degenerate or not. And I don’t constantly tout it because, save in a few specific instances, I assume that that part of my philosophy is well-understood…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

I don’t want your wealth being used by anyone but you, degenerate or not. And I don’t constantly tout it because, save in a few specific instances, I assume that that part of my philosophy is well-understood…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

It is not. Because for the most part you push for more degenerates to use the welfare state which will then vote for it. Pretty hard to argue you are against something that you are voluntarily supporting.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:10 PM

I heard a potential candidate speak at a conference recently. He is a Libertarian who provided this description of his Libertarian position on immigration:

1) Secure the border

2) Once the border is secure, let in anybody who wants to enter the United States to work.

Hmmmm….I definitely agree with Step 1. But Step 2 is vague enough to cause lots of problems.

As a sovereign nation the United States should enforce its right to determine who should be allowed to enter our country. Relevant criteria (in addition to wanting to work) when admitting potential immigrants may include:

- No criminals
- Nobody with contagious diseases
- A mix of nationalities so one doesn’t overwhelm the country
- Only as many immigrants as the U.S. economy can handle at the time
- Ability to speak English
- Certain job skills may be given priority
- Proof of being able to support themselves
- Preference for younger adults

If you hear a Libertarian use this description of their immigration policy, you may want to probe to clarify their position on some of the other criteria.

wren on August 25, 2014 at 9:12 PM

A large percentage of so-called libertarians define themselves as libertarians solely on the basis of the desire to promote drug legalization. The rest of the libertarian concept is pretty much foreign to them.

Translation — Reading between the lines on this poll, about 40% of self described libertarians are mostly about promoting drug legalization… They don’t get the rest of the libertarian philosophy — getting free munchies, Obamaphones, and Ocaid from the gubermint is just fine with them… Never mind that it’s all taken from taxpayers by force thru the collective will of the majority mob… It’s ok to set the gubermint up to do your stealing for you…

Call this group the low info libertarians, if you wish…

drfredc on August 25, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Because for the most part you push for more degenerates to use the welfare state

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:10 PM

That’s absolute nonsense.

But then again, I expect little else from you. So there’s that…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 9:15 PM

The problem with this poll is that it tries to sandwich people into binary thinking. And most people — even libertarians — have more nuanced views of the issues. For example, you can think that welfare creates dependence but that some people need help getting out of poverty. You can think that regulationin its present form does more harm than good but that some regulation is needed to protect us from fraud or pollution. This is just a dumb dumb poll.

Hal_10000 on August 25, 2014 at 9:38 PM

That’s absolute nonsense.

But then again, I expect little else from you. So there’s that…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 9:15 PM

Gay marriage? Should we have it? With the welfare state and the propensity of gays to transfer massive amounts of disease. Particularly aids?
Drug legalization? Again, many drug users become either too lazy to work or disable themselves and become wards of the state.

You support these, today, right now, while we have a welfare state, yes?

LOL.

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Indeed.

The better question to have asked is whether or not they supported “stop and frisk” policies.

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Yeah, I think they’re confusing libertarian with anarchist.

Fenris on August 25, 2014 at 9:54 PM

Pew poll: Whole lotta “libertarians” out there seem not to understand libertarianism

When I dabbled in it I discovered that most members of the Libertarian Party thought most other members did not really understand libertarianism. And were not True Libertarians.

I don’t think that has changed much.

farsighted on August 25, 2014 at 10:14 PM

Gay marriage? Should we have it? With the welfare state and the propensity of gays to transfer massive amounts of disease. Particularly aids?

astonerii on August 25, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Queer-bashing? Really?? Is this what SoCons now substitute for argument and evidence?

I for one want my political party and philosophy to stand for something a little better. You’re acquitting yourself rather poorly. But, once again, I expect little more.

Drug legalization? Again, many drug users become either too lazy to work or disable themselves and become wards of the state.

Take it up with William F Buckley and George Schultz. Two men of undeniably conservative credentials, both of whom argue(d) for legalization.

Of course, I guess Bill Buckley was just a shill for the welfare state, huh?

Once again I find myself speculating that you really haven’t thought this through. El supreeze

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM

When I dabbled in it I discovered that most members of the Libertarian Party thought most other members did not really understand libertarianism. And were not True Libertarians.

I don’t think that has changed much.

farsighted on August 25, 2014 at 10:14 PM

L Libertarians vs l Libertarians.

Wendya on August 25, 2014 at 10:47 PM

Allah, I think you are making the mistake of lumping Libertarians in with libertarians. One thing all libertarians believe in is the Constitution, individual rights, and the rule of law. On the other hand some Libertarians are nothing more than anarchist hiding behind the label.

Tater Salad on August 25, 2014 at 10:54 PM

libertarian, progressive, authoritarian, Unitarian, and communist.

Three of those are basically the same thing, – progressive, authoritarian, and communist. Although I think the pollster was trying to shoehorn conservatives into authoritarian, as that’s waht they probably think of cons.

What is “unitarian”?

Buck Farky on August 25, 2014 at 11:09 PM

If you asked my Progressive “friends” in the blogosphere to describe me, it would probably be something like this…REDNECK, RAAAACIST, T PARTY JIHADIST, SARAH PALIN-LOVIN, FOX WATCHIN, RUSH LIMBAUGH-LISTNIN, REEETARD REPUBLICAN

…and OF COURSE they’d be wrong….but they’re not very bright so there’s that.

If anything, I’m a HYBRID!
How’s That?

Pelosi Schmelosi on August 26, 2014 at 12:54 AM

My Gosh, I almost started liking him. He is another crummy dove and haven’t we had enough of that? I need to get my eyes checked but not by this jerk.

AReadyRepub on August 26, 2014 at 1:20 AM

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM

So, you do support the welfare state.
Thanks.
And, yes they did support the welfare state if they supported legalized drugs. There is well enough studies out there that confirm that drugs increase the number of welfare users. Welfare users obviously support the welfare state.

astonerii on August 26, 2014 at 7:51 AM

They want open borders

If so, then I don’t understand the “liberty” part of their name, because that’s anarchy, not liberty.

there’s no dogmatic libertarian position on abortion

Then they aren’t serious about freedom. Period.

Self-described libertarians are slightly more likely than the general public to let police stop people who fit the “general description of a crime suspect.”

Why would this be an odd position for a libertarian? Unless, again, what you really mean is “anarchist”. Of course the police should be able to stop people who might be a suspect. It would be stupid to not do that.

“Hey, Bob, is that the guy from the APB? Looks like he matches the description.”
“Yeah, he does, but stopping him would infringe on his rights, so we better let him just walk on by.”
Because “libertarians” in AP’s mind want all cops to be Laurel and Hardy, I guess.

What is “unitarian”?

Buck Farky on August 25, 2014 at 11:09 PM

A non-religious reason to get up on Sunday morning that doesn’t involve mowing the lawn.

- Ability to speak English

wren on August 25, 2014 at 9:12 PM

I would modify that to “willing to learn English and to teach it to their children”.
I would also add “- Willing to assimilate”

GWB on August 26, 2014 at 9:21 AM

This is because many think Ron Paul is a libertarian when he is not and it is his followers and others like them in this poll that don’t have a clue about what a true libertarian is.

JeffinSac on August 26, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Since the definition of libertarianism requires the “consensual” clause, there should be no gray area concerning abortion. You CANNOT be libertarian and support abortion rights. It completely goes against the doctrine.

Al-Ozarka on August 26, 2014 at 9:34 AM

El supreeze…

JohnGalt23 on August 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM

That would be “Kel surpreeze”, chuckles.

GWB on August 26, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Putin,”получить с моей лужайки.” (“Get off my lawn.”): http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/505354.html

davidk on August 25, 2014 at 8:07 PM

“To receive from off from my lawn?” What are we to receive from off there? Probably just tanks and invading military goons, as usual… Maybe if we’re lucky some bears.

Just busting ‘em. :p “получить” is to get, as in “to get a package,” not as in “to go.” Try “Уйдите” – to leave, plural imperative form.

Although to be fair, these days Google Translate’s mangled versions are considered good enough for State Dept. work.

Gingotts on August 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

They want open borders

AP lying as usual about what Libertarians want.

earlgrey on August 26, 2014 at 11:50 AM

…And, yes they did support drunk driving if they supported legalized alcohol. There is well enough studies out there that confirm that alcohol increases the number of drunk drivers. Drunks who can drive obviously support the drunk driving.

Logical fallacies are fun.

son of a preacher man on August 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Just a couple thoughts here. If you’re talking Libertarianism from the Federal perspective, there’s certainly more than one perspective. Perhaps a better term would be “Constitutionalists.”

Don’t forget that the Constitution is based on the joint sovereignty of both the individual and the various states. Some of the libertarians I know respect that balance between States rights and Individual rights and that the State has more interventional rights than the Federal government. Others I’ve known are stridently individualist and make little distinction between the State government and Federal government.

To just say that some Libertarians support business regulations doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s a great deal of caution and thought behind the regs they do support. I haven’t seen any supporting laws that grow the government. Where they have supported them, it seems to be focused on only when necessary to ensure the individual’s liberty.

On police action, that’s a bit more subtle. It’s more of attitude. There are important differences between cooperation and submission. There’s an important difference between being in control of a situation and being in control of the people. Police militarization is not a matter of equipment but attitude. I’ve got more on that here, so read it if you wish.

RaulYbarra on August 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Most under 30 say libertarian when they actually mean libertine.

Nutstuyu on August 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I go to the Libertarian web pages, and I am floored by the out and out socialist leftist who call themselves libertarian. I think libertarian has become a catchall for those that don’t want to be a liberal or a conservative.

That’s the problem with libertarian candidates; you could totally get a leftist or a righty.

melle1228 on August 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

I’m not sure how many of those people are ignorant of true libertarian principles and don’t care. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I think the libertarian movement has been deliberately infiltrated by socialists in disguise in order to split Republicans at the voting booth. So far, it is working, especially at the state/local level.

idalily on August 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM