Dr. Melissa Deckman is a Professor of Political Science at Washington College and a PRRI Affiliated Scholar. Her research interests center on the intersection of religion, women, and politics. She has written in the past about the Christian Right’s participation in school board politics. Her most recent work is as co-editor and contributor to Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools. PRRI sat down with Dr. Deckman to discuss the significance of the book.
Libertarians, the Tea Party and White Evangelicals on Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage and Physician-Assisted Suicide
Libertarians are a unique political group. While their political behavior suggests a strongly conservative worldview, when it comes to social issues – including access to abortion, physician-assisted suicide and marijuana legalization – libertarians stand apart from other key conservative constituencies. In general, libertarians are more likely than both Tea Party members and white evangelical Protestants to oppose making it more difficult for women to access abortion services, to favor permitting physician-assisted suicide, and to favor legalizing marijuana. Nearly 6-in-10 (57 percent) libertarians oppose making abortion access more difficult, a minority view among members of the Tea Party (39 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (29 percent). Seven-in-ten (70 percent) libertarians favor allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives, compared to less than half (49 percent) of Tea Party members and only 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants. Libertarians are also much more supportive of marijuana legalization. More than 7-in-10 (71 percent) libertarians favor legalizing marijuana. By contrast, only 4-in-10 (40 percent) Tea Party members and less than 3-in-10 (29 percent) white evangelical Protestants are in favor of legalizing marijuana.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, this pattern is distinctly different. Libertarians are more closely aligned with the views of Tea Party members and white evangelical Protestants, even if there are differences in the intensity of opposition. Nearly 6-in-10 (59 percent) libertarians oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Tea Party members and 8-in-10 (80 percent) white evangelical Protestants. In contrast, a slim majority (52 percent) of Americans overall favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
To learn more about why same-sex marriage serves as the exception to libertarian social views, don’t miss our recent interview with Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey. And if you want to learn more about libertarians and their relationship to other conservative-leaning constituencies, be sure to check out our recently released 2013 American Values Survey.