Committed libertarians — as distinct from those who simply fancy the label — comprise just 7 percent of the U.S. population and have little philosophically in common with the tea party, according to a statistical portrait published Tuesday by the Religious News Service
"Most libertarians [61 percent] do not consider themselves a part of the tea party movement and only one in four tea party people would call themselves libertarian," according to the Public Religion Research Institute's annual American Values Survey.
Libertarians do not fit neatly into the liberal-to-conservative political spectrum, said Robert Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute: "We were not sure we could find a coherent group that could say they oppose making abortion more difficult and at the same time oppose raising the minimum wage. But we did."
In contrast to tea party followers, politically, libertarians prefer Rand Paul (R-Ky) over Ted Cruz (R-Texas); and while 22 percent of libertarians identify with the Christian right, 52 percent of tea party followers do.
For instance, 32 percent of the tea party constituents believe in the literal meaning of Scripture compared to just 19 percent for libertarians. Only a minority of libertarians feel it is necessary to believe in God to be moral.
Tea party-Libertarian philosophies meld solidly on the issue of government involvement in the economy, Obamacare, and environmental regulation. Though libertarians more viscerally oppose Obamacare than tea party followers.
Libertarians do not think of themselves as tea party followers and only one in four tea party people identify themselves as libertarian, the survey found. "These are groups that overlap on some issues but are largely very dissimilar," Jones said.
Beyond the seven percent core, the survey identified a further 15 percent of Americans who lean toward libertarian views — socially liberal, economically conservative — except on the issue of single-sex marriage where libertarians are overwhelmingly (59 percent) opposed.
The researchers postulate this is because libertarians are overwhelming youngish (average age 44) white men.
While libertarians find it hard to win political office when competing against the two major parties, they tend to draw support away from Republican candidates more than Democrats in three-way races.
Only 5 percent of libertarians identify with the Democrats.
The survey was conducted before the tea party-endorsed government shutdown.
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