• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Libertarian Vote Cost GOP Nine Races?

David Nir at Daily Kos found nine Congressional or Senate races where the amount of votes received by the Libertarian Party candidate exceeded the difference between the winning Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate:

Nir comments:

As we’ve perused last week’s election returns, we’d noticed a number of races where Libertarian candidates appear to have played spoiler for Republicans—certainly, more than we’re accustomed to. While we haven’t run a comparison with prior cycles, we’ve identified no fewer than nine contests in 2012 where the Libertarian received more votes than the difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates. What’s more, none of these involved the typical 1 or maybe 2 percent you ordinarily expect a Lib to garner: Looking at the three-way vote, all but one were over 3 percent, and three took 6 percent or more, with a high of 6.5 percent in the Montana Senate race. These definitely seem like unusually high figures.

So what’s going on here? I wouldn’t want to speculate too much based on this limited data set. But I could easily believe that a growing proportion of conservative-leaning voters are too disgusted with the GOP to pull the Republican lever, but who won’t vote for Democrats either, are choosing a third option and going Libertarian instead. This thesis dovetails with something else we saw this year: independents generally leaning more rightward simply because at least some former Republicans are now refusing to identify with their old party. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that some folks like that don’t want to vote for their old party either.

Of course, in order for this hypothesis to be true, one would have to assume that all, or at least a significant number, of the people that voted for the Libertarian Party candidate in these races would have voted for the Republican candidate otherwise. I suspect that may be true in certain cases, such as Andrew Horning, who was the LP candidate for Senate in Indiana. In that case, it’s possible that some not insignificant number of otherwise Republican voters, including quite possibly people who likely would have voted for Richard Lugar had he been the nominee, decided to protest what they considered a bad candidate by voting for a third party.  More generally, though, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Libertarian votes automatically hurt a Republican candidate more than a Democratic candidate. There were several pre-election polls in states like Colorado, Oregon and New Mexico, for example, that seemed to show Gary Johnson drawing votes away nearly equally from both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Nonetheless, it strikes me that there is a lesson in these numbers for the Republican Party.  Ignore the libertarian vote at your peril.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More generally, though, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Libertarian votes automatically hurt a Republican candidate more than a Democratic candidate.

    What hurt the Republican candidates in these races was that he was a Republican. People, given a choice, took it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  2. @OzarkHillbilly:

    Indeed..

    I don’t think many of my Republican friends realize just how badly damaged their brand is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    In the two Senate races given as examples the Republican candidates were very flawed and that probably has something to do with it. That may apply to other races as well but I’m not familiar with them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Very true. Nor do my Republican friends realize how far from reality their party has drifted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  5. Bill says:

    I’m a registered democrat and I voted for Gary Johnson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  6. PJ says:

    Agree.

    Nader was a spoiler in 2000 because he was to the left of Gore, Republicans didn’t vote for Nader instead of Bush.
    Perot wasn’t a spoiler in 1992, because he was in the middle, between Clinton and Bush.

    Blaming Libertarian candidates for Republican losses is to refuse reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  7. Neil says:

    That should be “number” of votes, not “amount.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. swearyanthony says:

    Rather than “don’t ignore Libertarians” I suspect the real message is “don’t select terrible candidates”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. JohnMcC says:

    A libertarian-leaning voter might have reflected on Rep Paul’s treatment and considered that his points of view unwelcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Ben says:

    More generally, though, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Libertarian votes automatically hurt a Republican candidate more than a Democratic candidate. There were several pre-election polls in states like Colorado, Oregon and New Mexico, for example, that seemed to show Gary Johnson drawing votes away nearly equally from both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

    Indeed, I voted for Obama in 2008 and voted for Gary Johnson this year. It is definitely a mistake to assume all Libertarians are Republican apostates. A good portion of the people I know who voted for Johnson are well to the left of me politically on most issues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. Detroitrioter says:

    “…Nonetheless, it strikes me that there is a lesson in these numbers for the Republican Party. Ignore the libertarian vote at your peril.”

    As an Obama voter, I want to personally thank all you “freedom loving” Libertarians for helping to re-elect my guy. After four years of Obamacare, we will have moved the entire American culture further toward Socialism, and you will be even less relevant than you are now. If that is possible. Which it isn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  12. john personna says:

    Heh, and anti-lean article.

    “Those people” would say that Libertarians “lean” Republican, so they are really, in their souls.

    Wait … didn’t you do “lean” articles?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This sort of thing is not a new phenomenon. It happens to a certain degree every election cycle. It’s been happening for decades. And at a certain level it makes some sense. We’ve become an arrested development society. The public got spoiled and was dumbed down. The minimum voting age is way too low. So in a given contest in a particular state or district to see 5% voting nonsensically is par for the course. That is often costs the GOP elections also is par for the course. There’s a lot of Republican Derangement Syndrome out there in Zombieland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  14. rudderpedals says:

    Jonathan Chait at the New Yorker pins out libertarianism and libertarian influence as a large part the GOP’s problem of late. Doesn’t this data from the article support Chait’s j’accuse?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Let's Be Free says:

    In Montana, the senate Libertarian candidate attacked the Republican nominee in his ads; his platform and message were aimed at cleaving off Replublican votes. At the same time as Tester won with a plurality, the statewide House of Representatives seat went to a Republican where the Libertarian ran an invisibile campaign. Thank you LIbertarians for getting a Senator elected who never met a spending program he wouldn’t support.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Doug, I think it would be extremely interesting to see how these results line up with exit polling.

    One possible hypothesis would be that many of these voters who pulled the lever for the Libertarian are Millennials and Gen-X voters who were part of Dr. Paul’s coalition but who have not been voting long enough to have internalized an identity as Republicans.

    Steven pointed out a couple of times this cycle that after people vote for a particular party a few times (three, I think?) they tend to become partisans for that party. If it is younger people, this could be a sign that they could be developing a Libertarian partisan identity, rather than a Republican one. And that could be very interesting down the road.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. sam says:

    Nonetheless, it strikes me that there is a lesson in these numbers for the Republican Party. Ignore the libertarian vote at your peril.

    I suspect that if you polled the base of the Republican party on a a number of libertarian positions, libertarians would end up populating a lower circle of Hell than liberals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. @Detroitrioter:

    If Libertarian votes are irrelevant then why bother with your satiric thanks? Mitt Romney and the people who assured his defeat have their immoral actions and sad excuses for pro-freedom advocacy to thank for the lack of support by freedom minded Americans.

    Socialism is as evil an idea as it ever was. There is plenty of opportunity for any candidate of any party to make that case but it can’t be made by promoting socialism lite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. @Let’s Be Free:

    If any given Republican candidate is already pro-freedom then there isn’t a Libertarian ad or candidate that could motivate a substantial number of libertarian-minded voters to vote for him. Johnson got 1% across the country. On a race like the 2012 US Senate race in Montana all Denny Rehberg needed to coopt 5% of the vote away from Dan Cox is to look at Libertarian positions at the beginning of the race, perhaps call the opposing candidate and ask him what reason Republicans should vote Libertarian and then adopt 3-6 Libertarian positions.

    Rehberg managed to get Rand Paul’s endorsement (the weekend prior to election day) so he must have been pro-freedom in Rand Paul’s eyes. There is no reason he couldn’t have earned the support of Ron Paul Republicans, independent Libertarians and whatever else motivated that 6% to cast their votes for a Dan Cox and to have done in 2 years prior to election day.

    Stop blaming pro-freedom voters for choosing a sterling pro-freedom candidate and start installing some 24K gold principles in your preferred candidate (Republican if you so prefer).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Mark Tipton says:

    You know, there was a time not so long ago when the republican party was a third party and a “wasted vote” that caused someone to unjustly win or lose an election … except they actually won due to much of the old whig party feeling so disenfranchised. Granted, not nearly as much of the public was so woefully unaware in those days.

    The status quo needs to be changed but it is up to the citizenry to change it. There is never going to be a “perfect” candidate but at least we can try to get someone in to upset the power base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0