Is Obama Libertarians' Fault?
By Bryan Caplan
My hardest-line Republican friend has been blaming libertarians for Obama’s election since November, 2008. His story in a nutshell: Faced with a choice between Obama and McCain, libertarians chose the greater evil out of spite. All along, I’ve been thinking: “You’ve got a lot of chutzpah. Republicans start the Iraq War, spearhead the 2008 bailouts, and you blame libertarians for your defeat?!” If libertarians were wrong to punish Republicans for the Iraq War and the 2008 bail-outs, what would Republicans have to do before they would deserve punishment?
Given my retort, I was surprised to learn that my Republican friend’s initial premise was wrong. Despite their prominence, “libertarians for Obama” were actually a decided minority among libertarian-leaning voters. In their excellent piece on “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama,” David Kirby and David Boaz explain that libertarians did move away from Republicans from in 2004:
The election of 2004 saw a dramatic swing away from the Republicans, with libertarian support for Bush dropping from 72 to 59 percent, while support for the Democratic nominee almost doubled to 38 percent. The Republican margin among libertarians dropped from 52 to 21 points. A look at Bush’s record on war, spending, entitlements, and social issues easily explains this shifting alliance–though Sen. John F. Kerry offered little for libertarians other than “not Bush.”
In 2008, however, this trend sharply reversed:
According to the 2008 ANES Panel study, 71 percent of libertarians voted for John McCain. Only 27 percent cast their vote for Barack Obama. In other words, the 2008 election showed a return to a strongly pro-Republican–or anti-Democratic–libertarian vote.
Kirby and Boaz’s Table 3 puts things in longer-run perspective:
Overall, my Republican friend’s scapegoating of libertarians is even more outrageous than it looks on the surface. In 2008, libertarians had plenty of reasons to punish the Republicans. But by and large, libertarian voters held their noses and voted for the Republicans anyway.