In a recent article on TheBlaze, Reason’s Matt Welch, FreedomWork’s Matt Kibbe, and David Boaz, speculated whether Romney can win over libertarians. As we’ve shown in previous studies, libertarians represent a key swing vote that decides elections.
Well, Emily Ekins and our friends at Reason shared with us data from a recent Reason-Rupe poll by which we can measure the libertarian vote. This is the best data point yet on where libertarians stand in the 2012 election.
The Reason-Rupe September 2012 poll includes our favorite ideological questions to differentiate libertarians from liberals and conservatives. Using three questions, we can define libertarians as respondents who believe “the less government the better,” who prefer the “free market” to handle problems, and who want government to “favor no particular set of values.” These fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters represent 20% of the public in the Reason-Rupe poll, in line with previous estimates.
Among these likely libertarian voters, the presidential horserace currently stands:
Romney’s share of the libertarian vote represents a high water mark for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections.
As the chart below shows, George W. Bush won 72 percent of libertarians in 2000, but lost many libertarians by 2004, as the wars, spending, and growth of government weighed on many libertarians. John McCain matched Bush’s 2000 vote share, winning 71 percent. Many libertarians seem to have preferred McCain’s independent streak to Obama’s soaring promises. But if the election were held today, the Romney/Ryan ticket would get more libertarian votes than any candidate since 1980.
Read more at Cato