Libertarians in the US


Nate Silver writes at 538:

It’s correct to say that few Americans identify as libertarian. Only 11 percent said the term “libertarian” describes them well, according to a 2014 Pew Research poll. …

But how people label themselves is one thing. Americans sometimes leave a different impression when polled about specific issues. Often, their views are reasonably heterodox and not well represented by a one-dimensional political spectrum.

Take two issues that are taken as emblematic of the split between liberal and conservative viewpoints: gay marriage and income inequality. If Krugman is right, you should see few Americans who are in favor of same-sex marriage but oppose government efforts to reduce income inequality, or vice versa.

As it turns out, however, there are quite a number of them; about 4 in 10 Americans have “inconsistent” views on these issues. TheGeneral Social Survey asks Americans whether they favor or oppose gay marriage. It also asks them to rate, on a 7-point scale, whether the government ought to reduce income differences through higher taxes on the rich and income assistance to the poor.1 Here’s how Americans’ responses lined up in the poll in 2010 and 2012.

The most popular position (34 percent) is to favor both gay marriage and income redistribution. But 22 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and opposed to government efforts to redistribute income. Another 20 percent are opposed to gay marriage, but favor income redistribution.

The terms libertarian and/or classical liberal don’t resonate with most people.

But as Silver explains, that doesn’t mean there are not a significant number of people who are socially liberal, yet not economic interventionists.

It might not be the biggest quadrant but one I’m happy to be in.

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