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Are Americans Becoming More Libertarian?

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During the last few election cycles, we have seen a great change in the American electorate not just in terms of demographics, but in terms of ideology as well. As voters leave parties in record numbers, independent voters are on the rise.

Of independent ideologies and third parties, one movement seems to be gaining a tremendous amount of steam of late. The liberty movement, engineered by libertarians and libertarian-leaning individuals, has become a growing force in the political arena. In 2012, Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, managed to rack up 1.2% of the vote, the most ever for a Libertarian Party candidate.

The tea party movement began as a libertarian-leaning movement, and even though the movement was quickly hijacked by partisan fanatics, the liberty sentiment is still there.

Just two weeks ago, the hashtag #LibertarianismIn4Words trended nationwide on Twitter. The trend, flooded with straw-man arguments and uniformed jabs, highlighted the misconceptions the vast majority of Americans have about libertarianism. Tweets like “drown, I don’t care,” “me me me me,” and “who needs running water?” piled up as many Democrats and Republicans teamed up for a bash fest against libertarians.

What makes this anti-libertarian sentiment especially interesting and ironic is that public polling shows that American voters are becoming more libertarian on a whole host of issues.

According to a Gallup poll published in summer 2013, 52 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage. Libertarians have long advocated for marriage equality and included it in the very first Libertarian Party platform in 1972 — 40 years before the Democratic Party included it in theirs.

Just this past fall, for the first time ever, a 58 percent majority of Americans said marijuana should be legal for recreational use. Legalized pot, along with ending the war on drugs, has long been a staple in libertarian circles and in the Libertarian party platform. Now it seems the majority of Americans also believe marijuana should be legalized.

Even on foreign policy, after 8 years of President Bush’s Wilsonian style foreign policy that has continued under President Obama, support for non-interventionism is at an all-time high. According to a Pew Research Poll released in December, 52 percent believe the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally.” Non-interventionism is a major plank of libertarianism and has been popularized over the years by political figures like Ron Paul.

Another highly sought after gem for libertarians is auditing the Federal Reserve. Granted most libertarians ultimately advocate for abolishing the Fed entirely, but libertarians have long tried to audit the Fed. The latest Rasmussen poll indicates Americans agree, with 74 percent of Americans supporting an audit of the Federal Reserve.

On the issue of immigration, Americans are becoming far more tolerant and supportive of immigration reform. In November, Politico reported that a new poll showed 51 percent of voters would be less likely to support a candidate who opposes immigration reform. In the same poll, 71 percent said they would support an immigration bill that includes expanded visa programs and a pathway to citizenship.

On the ever crucial issue of government power, according to a Gallup poll released this fall, 60 percent of Americans feel that the federal government is too big and has too much power.

In her pierce for The Atlantic, titled “America’s Libertarian Movement,” Molly Ball writes:

Libertarianism is on the march. From the rapid rise to prominence of first-term Senator Rand Paul to the state-level movements to legalize gay marriage and marijuana, the philosophy of fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, and restrained foreign policy seems to be gaining currency in American politics.

 

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