Saturday, October 21, 2006

What's a classical liberal to do?

The Economist says that Libertarians (aka Classical Liberals) may be the new swing voters:

In a new study from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, David Boaz and David Kirby argue that libertarians form perhaps the largest block of swing voters. Counting them is hard, since few Americans are familiar with the term “libertarian”. Mr Boaz and Mr Kirby count those who agree that “government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses”, that government, rather than promoting traditional values, “should not favour any particular set of values”, and that “the federal government has too much power”. Using data from Gallup polls, they found that, in 2005, 13% of the voting-age population shared all three views, up from 9% in 2002.

That is easily enough libertarians to tip an election. And their votes are up for grabs. In 2000 George Bush won 72% of the libertarian vote, to Al Gore's 20%, by repeating the mantra “My opponent trusts government. I trust you.” But in 2004, after Mr Bush increased the size of government and curtailed some civil liberties as part of the war on terror, his margin dropped to 59%-38%. The swing was as sharp in congressional races, too. Going back further, libertarians backed George Bush senior by 74%-26% in 1988. But when he sought re-election in 1992, they split evenly between him, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. A group that can give the eccentric Mr Perot a third of its support must be really disgruntled.

But until they represent much more than 13 percent of the electorate, classical liberals won't feel completely at home in either major party.

Update: Here is the Boaz-Kirby study.