February 13, 2009

Who are the libertarians?

Richard Spencer & Austin Bramwell are mulling over the various strands of libertarianism, with a rough division from what I can tell between Reason & Cato liberaltarianism and paleolibertarianism.  But ideologies are more than ideas, they are embodied by human beings who bring their concrete commitments to the table in the form of their specific situation in the world. Several years ago Pew did one of their typological surveys where they collected data on political orientations and their demographic breakdowns. Below are the ratios of libertarians to the general population in a particular demographic.  For example, 59% of libertarians are male, while 48% of the general population is, for a ratio of 1.23.

































































































































































Libertarian : Population
Male 1.23
Female 0.79
$75,000 > 1.48
$50,000-$74,999 0.71
$30,000-$49,999 0.82
$20,000-$29,999 1
< $20,000 0.82
College 1.11
Some college 1.13
HS or less 0.88
18-29 1.57
30-49 0.92
50-64 0.95
65 > 0.56
White Protestant 0.73
Evangelical 0.43
Non-evangelical 1
White Catholic 1.24
Secular 1.5
Attend Church
Weekly or more 0.7
Monthly or less 1.06
Seldom or never 1.4
Northeast 0.79
Midwest 0.92
South 0.89
West 1.45

Pew’s typology is rather expansive, 9% come back as libertarians, so the sample is moderate (more likely to have read the Fountainhead once in middle school than For a New Liberty a dozen times by 30). Nevertheless, some hallmarks of the “libertarian demographic” are still evident. Libertarians tend to be male, more affluent, younger and more secular.  A narrower sample in Liberty Magazine poll yielded a majority of atheists, suggesting the likelihood that the more hardcore libertarians exhibit the demographic biases evident in the Pew survey to a much greater extent.

Does this matter?  Libertarianism’s secular-young-male slant is I think problematic in terms of a movement which aims to have anything more than a marginal voice.  But perhaps it is more of a conundrum for universalist anti-nationalist libertarians such as Will Wilkinson than localists with less cosmic visions.

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