Home/Daniel Larison/Is 20% of the Public Libertarian? No, Of Course Not (II)

Is 20% of the Public Libertarian? No, Of Course Not (II)

Jim Henley continues the discussion of the so-called “libertarian” swing vote:

Second, because the United States runs a strong two-party political system. And this group has never, ever given the candidate of one of the two major parties even 40% support. Only twice in eight cycles has it given the Democratic candidate even 30% support. In one of those years, the Democrat was edged out by the independent Ross Perot for the cohort’s favor.
Whatever ideological label you want to give this cohort, they sure aren’t swing voters.

Jim’s post is worth reading, and not just because he agrees with my earlier argument. As he shows, this group of voters consistently favors Republican presidential candidates by large margins. As a voting bloc, they are not up for grabs in the way that we normally mean when we refer to swing voters. If two-thirds to three-quarters of a given group can be counted on to vote for a certain party’s candidate in every election, they’re not a swing vote. They are a regular part of that party’s coalition. Jim points out another important detail that I failed to mention:

Given that their peak third-party support came during the campaigns of John Anderson, a moderate Republican, and Ross Perot, a moderate Republican for all his eccentricity, it’s hard to see why “Moderate Republicans” won’t do perfectly well as a cohort descriptor. Especially given that, while Anderson and Perot were moderates on social issues, they were also economic moderates.

I suspected that this “libertarian” bloc was a group of moderates because “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” has been the standard moderate Republican self-identification for decades, and the support for Anderson and Perot confirms that impression.

So why bother with all of this? It’s important to avoid creating illusions that there are “natural” voters inclined towards a given political persuasion when there aren’t. If libertarians imagine that these moderate Republican voters would be favorably disposed to libertarian policy proposals, they are bound to keep hitting dead ends and wasting their energy appealing to voters with very different preferences.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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