Report: Pew Poll Suggests 43% of Self-Identified ‘Libertarians’ Don’t Understand Basic Definition of the Term
August 26, 2014
by Jonah Bennett
(NEW YORK) A new Pew poll conducted in light of the recent New York Times piece on the ‘Libertarian Moment‘ suggests that there are still large parts of the country that are in the dark about libertarianism.
About 11 percent of Americans self-identify as libertarians and know what the term means, although when broken down based on gender, it turns out that 15 percent of men are libertarians, as opposed to only 7 percent of women.
However, when self-identified libertarians were asked to match up “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government” with libertarianism, only 57 percent of respondents were successful. This means that 43 percent of self-identified libertarians do not understand the basic definition of the term.
The age range of 18-29 is also more likely to be libertarian than older generations at 12 percent, but this represents only a slight lead. Following close behind is the range of 30-49, which clocks in at 11 percent. The next age ranges of 50-64 and 65+ continued the pattern at 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
Of libertarian respondents, 41 percent said that the government had a role in regulating business to protect the public interest. Similarly, about 38 percent stated that government assistance to the poor “does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met.” For foreign policy, 43 percent of libertarians believe that the United States should be more active in world affairs, whereas the public is more skeptical, with only 35 percent believing the same proposition.
However, the anti-government streak flared up when the question turned to marijuana. A full 65 percent of libertarians are in support of legalizing marijuana, in comparison to only 54 percent of the public.
The poll results come from a combination of a Pew Research Center polarization survey from earlier this year, and an additional survey from April 29-May 27 with 3,243 adults.