According to a newly developed Libertarian Orientation Scale, less than 1-in-10 (7%) Americans are consistent libertarians, and an additional 15% lean libertarian. At the other end of the spectrum, an equal number of Americans are consistent communalists (7%), and an additional 17% lean communalist. A majority (54%) of Americans have a mixed ideological profile, falling in between libertarian and communalist orientations.
Compared to the general population, libertarians are significantly more likely to be non-Hispanic white, male, and young. Nearly all libertarians are non-Hispanic whites (94%), more than two-thirds (68%) are men, and more than 6-in-10 (62%) are under the age of 50.
The party affiliation of libertarians skews significantly more Republican than Democratic. Close to half (45%) of libertarians identify as Republican, compared to only 5% who identify as Democrat. However, half of libertarians identify as politically independent (35%) or identify with a third political party (15%), including roughly 1-in-10 (8%) who identify with the Libertarian Party. Roughly 4-in-10 (39%) libertarians identify as part of the Tea Party movement, while 61% do not.
Libertarians make up a smaller proportion of the Republican Party than other key conservative groups. Only 12% of self-identified Republicans are libertarians, compared to 20% of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party, 33% who identify with the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 37% who identify as white evangelical Protestant.
Libertarians also constitute a smaller proportion of the Tea Party movement than other core conservative groups. Aboutone-quarter (26%) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are libertarians, compared to a majority (52%) who say they are a part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 35% who identify as white evangelical Protestant.
Libertarians are composed of a disproportionately high number of white mainline Protestants (27%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (27%). Only about 1-in-10 (11%) libertarians identify as Catholic, and no libertarians identify as black Protestant.
Generally speaking, libertarians are more opposed than white evangelical Protestants, those affiliated with the Tea Party, and Republicans overall to government involvement across a range of economic policies, such as raising the minimum wage, Obamacare, and increasing environmental protections.
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) of libertarians oppose increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour, as do 57% of Americans who identify with the Tea Party. By contrast, 57% of Republicans overall and 61% of white evangelical Protestants support raising the minimum wage.
- Nearly all (96%) libertarians have an unfavorable view of the 2010 health care law, compared to 83% of white evangelical Protestants, 78% of Tea Party members, and 89% of Republicans.
- On the issue of passing tougher environmental laws, libertarians and Tea Party members are generally aligned in their strong opposition (73% and 74% oppose), while white evangelical Protestants and Republicans overall are also opposed but with less intensity (62% each opposed).
Unlike economic questions, on which libertarians are generally aligned with other conservative constituencies, libertarians have a more distinct profile on social issues.
- Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) libertarians oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, a proportion identical to the general population. By contrast, strong majorities of Republicans overall (58%), Americans affiliated with the Tea Party (58%), and white evangelical Protestants (68%) favor making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion.
- Seven-in-ten (70%) libertarians favor allowing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their lives. Americans who identify with the Tea Party are closely divided on this question (49% favor, 51% oppose). By contrast, strong majorities of Republicans (58%) and white evangelical Protestants (70%) oppose this policy.
- More than 7-in-10 (71%) libertarians favor legalizing marijuana. By contrast, approximately 6-in-10 Republicans (61%) and Tea Party members (59%), and nearly 7-in-10 (69%) white evangelical Protestants, oppose legalizing marijuana.
- Unlike most other social issues, libertarians remain socially conservative on same-sex marriage. While a majority (59%) of libertarians oppose same-sex marriage, they are significantly less opposed than Republicans overall (67%) and than other conservative-leaning groups such as Tea Party members (73%) and white evangelical Protestants (80%).
A majority (53%) of libertarian voters say they always vote in primary elections, a rate comparable to white evangelical Protestant voters (48%) and Republican voters overall (50%) but significantly lower than the participation rate among Tea Party voters (62%).
A majority (57%) of libertarians have a favorable view of the Republican Party, but a substantial minority (40%) have an unfavorable view of the GOP. Americans who identify with the Tea Party and white evangelical Protestants have a more positive view of the GOP than libertarians. Approximately two-thirds of Tea Party members (68%) and white evangelical Protestants (66%) have a favorable view of the Republican Party. Notably, libertarians hold more negative views of Democrats than they hold positive views of Republicans. Nearly 9-in-10 (89%) libertarians have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party including nearly two-thirds (64%) who have a very unfavorable opinion of the party.
Among voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, support is spread fairly evenly across the potential 2016 presidential field in a head-to-head question. Eighteen percent prefer Governor Chris Christie, 18% prefer Congressman Paul Ryan, 15% prefer former Governor Jeb Bush, 14% prefer Senator Marco Rubio, 11% prefer Senator Rand Paul, and 11% prefer Senator Ted Cruz.
- Among libertarian voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, Paul (26%) was the most popular potential candidate, while 18% prefer Cruz, 16% prefer Rubio, and 13% prefer Ryan. Fewer libertarian voters prefer Christie (10%) or Bush (6%).
- Among Tea Party voters who identify or lean Republican, Cruz is the most preferred candidate (22%), followed by Rubio (18%), Ryan (14%), and Paul (13%). Roughly 1-in-10 Tea Party voters prefer Bush (11%) or Christie (12%).
- White evangelical Protestant voters have less clear candidate preferences than libertarian and Tea Party voters. Among white evangelical Protestant voters who identify or lean Republican, top preferences include Ryan (19%), Christie (16%), and Bush (15%), while roughly 1-in-10 prefer Rubio (13%), Paul (11%), or Cruz (10%).