Young libertarians broke for Obama in 2012
There was a lot of talk during the election about the libertarian vote thanks in part to Ron Paul’s bid for the White House and the work done by David Boaz, Emily Ekins, and David Kirby at the Cato Institute. Many conservatives spent their time and efforts trying to convince libertarians to vote for Mitt Romney, the Republican Party nominee, rather than voting for Barack Obama or a third-party candidate
While this debate with our conservative friends became heated at times, libertarian voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Romney; at least based on what we know. This isn’t exactly surprising since libertarians, though politically independent in nature, have generally been supportive of Republican candidates.
With that said, Republicans are struggling with a segment of libertarian voters that has been all too common of a theme and a reflection of its larger electoral problems. Earlier this month, Emily Ekins — co-author of The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center — noted that Obama took a plurality of young libertarian voters:
[A] plurality (48 percent) of these fiscally conservative socially liberal millennials planned to vote for Obama, compared to 38 percent who planned to vote for Romney. However, including Gary Johnson as a potential third party candidate left Obama’s numbers fairly unchanged, but brought Romney’s numbers to 29% of these young libertarians as 17 percent said they’d vote for Gary Johnson.
Not surprisingly, 73 percent of liberal millennials said they planned to vote for Obama, as did 58 percent of millennials who prefer a strong government but want to keep pot banned. Thus, young libertarians were less likely to vote for Obama than their peers, but still a clear plurality intended to do so.
Liberal millennials differed from their peers in that they are significantly less likely to expect income mobility for themselves, but had about average income compared to other millennials. In fact, even though communitarian-leaning millennials had significantly lower income they had higher income mobility prospects than liberal millennials.
Obama’s capturing of young fiscal conservatives explains in part how Obama obtained 60 percent of the millennial vote on Election Day. Young Americans opted for Obama over Romney by 23 points. Obama’s success among America’s millennial generation is not entirely due to its liberal constituency, but also its growing libertarian counterpart.
There isn’t much else to say here that hasn’t already been said about young voters. But look at the numbers here, Republicans not only have to convince libertarians, but also conservatives to vote for their nominee. It’s just another part of that internal dialogue that will be hashed out between now and 2016. However, it’s up to those libertarians who see an opening to make the GOP more freedom-oriented to get involved and make it more attractive to young voters.