The question of whether libertarianism is gaining public support has received increased attention, with talk of a Rand Paul run for president and a recent New York Times magazine story asking if the “Libertarian Moment” has finally arrived. But if it has, there are still many Americans who do not have a clear sense of what “libertarian” means, and our surveys find that, on many issues, the views among people who call themselves libertarian do not differ much from those of the overall public.
The amount of BS in both this poll itself and especially in the analysis of it is fairly amazing.
Leaving aside the way many of the questions are phrased – or even the question selection, which seems to be tailored to fit some sort of anti-libertarian bias in the minds of the authors of the poll – the analysis commits one cardinal error over and over. Here’s a typical example:
In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all.
When it comes to attitudes about the size and scope of government, people who say the term libertarian describes them well (and who are able to correctly define the term) are somewhat more likely than the public overall to say government regulation of business does more harm than good (56% vs. 47%). However, about four-in-ten libertarians say that government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest (41%).
The analyst seems to take results like this to mean that “self-described” libertarians aren’t really all that libertarian. It never seems to cross her mind that perhaps the general public is (horrors) considerably more libertarian – without necessarily knowing the textbook definitions – than she thinks it is.