Millennial Libertarians Are Diverse Reply

By Emily Ekins

Reason.Com

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Yesterday, Rachel Burger at Townhall made the case that “Libertarianism isn’t confined to Caucasians anymore.” Data from both the Pew Research Center and the Reason-Rupe poll bolster her thesis, particularly among younger people.

Pew finds that roughly equal numbers of white (12%) and Hispanic Americans (11%) say the term “libertarian” describes them well and know what the word means. However, considerably fewer African-Americans agree—3 percent self-describe as libertarian. Pew also finds young Americans are slightly more likely than older Americans to say libertarianism describes their political views: for instance 12 percent among 18-29 year olds compared to 9 percent among seniors.

The Reason-Rupe poll examines the largest and most diverse cohort—the millennials—finding corroborative data with Pew. The race/ethnicity of self-identified libertarian millennials reflects the national millennial sample as well as those of progressives.

The question was worded somewhat differently by asking millennials to choose only one ideological label of several. In addition to conventional labels like conservative and liberal, Reason-Rupe found 7 percent of millennials identify as libertarian and another 7 percent as progressive.

Reflecting the national millennial sample, among self-identified libertarian millennials, 56 percent identify as white, 21 percent as Hispanic, 14 percent as African-American, and 8 percent as Asian. These data suggest modern libertarianism among the millennial cohort seems to have broad appeal across racial and ethnic backgrounds.

We found similar results for progressives. Among self-identified progressives, 58 percent identified as white, 15 percent as Hispanic, 15 percent as African-American, and 7 percent as Asian.

While the racial/ethnic composition is similar, there are significant gender differences between libertarian millennials and millennials nationally. Two-thirds of self-identified millennial libertarians are male while 32 percent are female. In contrast, millennial progressives are basically evenly divided with 53 percent being male and 47 percent female.

Interestingly, libertarian millennials are largely non-partisan, and don’t lean toward the Republican Party. Even after asking libertarian millennials which way they lean politically, fully 50 percent say they are independent, compared to 15 percent of progressives and 34 percent of all millennials. Twenty-two percent of libertarians identify as Democratic and 28 percent as Republican. In contrast, progressives are solidly Democratic: 78 percent identify as partisan or independent-leaning Democrats. Only 13 percent of progressives say they are Republican. Among all millennials, 43 percent say they are Democratic and 23 percent say they are Republican.

As expected, significant differences in values emerge between libertarians and progressives. Fully 83 percent of libertarian millennials say they prefer a meritocratic society where wealth is distributed according to achievement. However, among progressives a majority—54 percent—instead prefers an egalitarian society where the income gap is small regardless of achievement.

Ideas about meritocracy map onto their preferred economic system. Nearly two-thirds of progressive millennials prefer socialism, but 73 percent of libertarian millennials prefer capitalism to socialism. Not surprisingly, 69 percent of progressives also say government has a responsibility to reduce the income gap, while 61 percent of libertarians say it does not have this responsibility.

It’s important to keep in mind that of the total sample of 2000 respondents, seven percent identified as libertarian and 7 percent as progressive, meaning the margin of error is considerably larger for these groups. Nevertheless, given Pew’s similar findings among the national adult sample, these data may not be outliers.

The Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennial Survey interviewed 2000 young adults 18-29 with a margin of error +/- 3.4%. Margins of error for ideological groups include: Conservative: 8.2%, Moderate: 6.8%, Liberal: 6.3%, Libertarian: 12.8%, Progressive: 11.3%. YouGov conducted the survey between February 11-March 11. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here.

Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project.

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