Ramsussen Reports Libertarians Back Obama over McCain

Rasmussen has tied to poll libertarian support for the presidential candidates and found that Obama has the lead:

Libertarian voters make up 4% of the nation’s likely voters and they favor Barack Obama over John McCain by a 53% to 38% margin. Three percent (3%) would vote for some other candidate and 5% are not sure. These results, from an analysis of 15,000 Likely Voter interviews conducted by Rasmussen Reports, challenges the conventional wisdom which assumes that strong support for a Libertarian candidate would hurt John McCain.

The problem in interpreting such polls is defining who a libertarian is. If they polled Libertarian Party members or if they polled self-identified libertarians (which overlap, but actually represent different groups) then support for Obama would probably be much lower. Rasmussen tried to define libertarians based upon social and economic views:

In June, Rasmussen Reports asked 15,000 Likely Voters if they were fiscally conservative, moderate, or liberal and if they were socially conservative, moderate, or liberal. This created a total of 16 possible combinations (not sure was a fourth option for both questions). However, 87% of voters fit into one of seven combinations. Libertarians, defined as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, are the smallest of these seven combinations.

I suspect that this definition results in a smaller number of libertarians than might exist based upon categorizing voters based upon positions on actual issues. If we go by the practices of George Bush and contemporary Republicans, then fiscally conservative might mean support for deficit spending, corporate welfare, and economic policies designed to transfer wealth to the ultra-wealthy. Any definition based upon self-identification based upon economic views without clearly defining the terms is bound to be inaccurate. Social liberals who hold pro-market views might be unlikely to self-identify as fiscal conservatives, keeping down the number of people who are defined as libertarians.

This is probably why different sources differ so greatly in their estimates of the number of libertarians. Libertarians for Obama provides a couple of other estimates:

The Cato Institute’s David Boaz says 12%. The Libertarian Party trumpeted a survey in 1996 that claimed that 20% of Americans are generally libertarians.

Rasmussen also breaks down the support for each candidate based upon views, the value of which remains limited by the lack of clarity of these definitions:

Looked at from a different perspective, 25% of Obama’s support comes from voters who are fiscally moderate and socially liberal. Twenty-four percent (24%) are both fiscally and socially moderate while 17% are fiscally and socially liberal. No other group provides more than 8% of Obama’s support.

Forty-five percent (45%) of McCain supporters are both fiscally and socially conservative, 15% are fiscally conservative and socially moderate, 14% are both fiscally and socially moderate, and 12% are fiscally moderate and socially conservative.


  1. 1
    Funkool says:

    Hard to believe that a libertarian would support a socialistic guy. Also, what kind of listening skills does he have when it took over 20 years to figure out what Wright was saying.
    Economic issues are more important than social. The limitations on social freedom are not too bad. The enormous drains on the economy and restrictions on property rights are terrible. The redistribution is already immense, and Obum wants to increase it. He is just propagating the idea of making the people who have developed skills to earn more money should be responsible for them.
    What is the monetary value of unused open space, bears or caribou? There is a big opportunity cost in lost value & inflation for other things.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Obama is hardly socialistic. Note that he receives much of his economc advice from the Univesity of Chicago, which is certainly no hotbed of socialism.

    See some of these posts:

    The Libertarianism of Barack Obama

    Barack Obama’s Libertarian Support

    David Friedman on Barack Obama

    Libertarians and Conservatives for Obama

    The Differences Between Obama and Clinton


  3. 3
    Funkool says:

    How is redistribution not socialistic?
    And how about protectionism to prevent consumers from buying cheaper imports so that labor unions can sell their more expensive products?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    Redistribution? To some extent anyone who supports taxation and government spending is practicing redistribution so I cannot deny that Obama support redistribution, but that hardly suggests socialism as it is true of everyone in politics of each party.

    With regards to redistribution, McCain is far worse than Obama. The difference is that McCain’s policies are designed to redistribute the wealth to the top one tenth of one percent. While neither is a supporter of laizzez-faire capitalism, Obama is much less a supporter of government redistribution of wealth than the Republicans. Between their redistribution of wealth to the ultra-wealthy and their support for corporate welfare, the Republicans are far weaker supporters of a free market economy than Obama is. This is why so many libertarians, such as David Friedman, back Obama over McCain.

    It really comes down to whether people are paying attention to their actual policies or are listening to typical conservative rhetoric.

  5. 5
    Funkool says:

    Redistribution to the top 0.1% ? Where do you get that idea? It’s completely false, and completely ridiculous. Please research some facts before making outlandish claims.
    Using figures directly from the CBO for 2004, the top 1%, the income minimum is $867,800 with an average income tax paid of $391,000. The total tax paid by the top 1% is 36.7% of all income tax revenue. For the top 0.1%, that factor would be well over 100. The average income tax paid per person was $6,381. Also, the bottom 50% of income earners pay only 3% of all income tax revenue. The 25-75% percentile pay 12%. Those figures have not varied considerably for decades. Those figures can easily be accessed online; also from the IRS & the Census Bureau.
    I don’t think there really is such a thing as corporate welfare. Take any business & there will be a net positive flow of money to the government. It is true that some businesses get tax breaks to encourage development, undoubtedly some of them unnecessary & unfair. Tax reductions for businesses & individuals are built-in, perhaps some too much, and without any, gov revenue would probably be 50% more. Of course without them, the economy would be severely affected.
    You did make some good points about Obama having an economic team; I happened to notice that too on his web site. I didn’t know they were from the Chicago School of Thought; that’s a good sign. I could never vote for a Dem though; there ideology is just too socialistic, authoritarian & anti-property rights. They have a big hang-up on equity. Equity is bad. “Each according to ability; each to need.” Very unworkable. Without pay differentials & the motivation to earn higher incomes, how can the economy have doctors, entrepreneurs & other such skillful-value-producing people?

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    You really have fallen for all the propaganda put out by the right. Check some of the posts here on the economics tag. There is good reason why us business owners and professionals making over $200,000 are supporting the Democrats over the Republicans in recent years. Only those making over $600,000+ really do better economically under the Republicans. Therefore they need to drag in the votes of those who buy their other propaganda.

    There is nothing socialistic, authoritarian, or anti-property rights about the Democrats (and certainly not the Chicgo school economics who are advising Obama).

    This poll basically separates out the libertarians who are paying attention, and those who just believe all the right wing talking points.

  7. 7
    Funkool says:

    You’ve got a good point about Bush’s increased spending. However, 9/11 has been a big factor, and he wasn’t alone in the increases–Congress has been spending like drunks. Yeah, that’s a big insult..to drunks. Rs can be blamed too; Ted Stevens has been pretty porky.
    I recently heard (on NPR) the CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve relating a story about a question for a gov economist, “Any difference in the spending of Ds &Rs? _ Yes, Ds enjoy it more.”
    Regardless of Bush III, what will McCain spend. What would have Ron Paul spent? Way down.   GDP way up.

  8. 8
    Libertarian for Obama says:

    I am a white, suburban, middle aged, middle class mother of 3, one with special needs, gun owner and environmentalist who is a Lutheran Buddhist and also a registered Libertarian. I chose to be a Libertarian because they are the party that most closely matches my political views, not on everything (like drugs), but on the majority of issues. I am voting for Obama because I like his ideas on how to improve the economy, health care, oil independence, the war, the budget deficit, freedom of choice, no national religion or loyalty oaths like McCain wants. I like his defense of the Constitution, and had it not been that the Constitution Party was so intrinsically wrapped up in one single Religion, I probably would be a Constitutionalist. I heard a lot of John Locke in Obamas speech and I liked that. I think at this point in the history of our nation we need a leader who will defend this country by upholding the laws of this nation, upholding the Constitution even when emotion would lead others to shred it in the name of vengeance and there by protect the people from corruption within. I feel Obama is genuinely interested in the needs of the people, not just his personal needs and the needs of the few.

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