Growth in Libertarian vote percentage in US federal races, 2004-2016

IPR reader Jim in comments on a prior post:

If one only looks at the races where voting for a libertarian was an option, the LP has taken a larger percentage of those contested elections for President, US Senate, and US House every year since 2004.

President (ignores states where the candidate was not on the ballot and had no official write in status)
2004: 0.33%
2008: 0.42%
2012: 1.00%
2016: 3.28%

US Senate:
2004: 1.19%
2006: 1.63%
2008: 1.74%
2010: 1.77%
2012: 2.12%
2014: 2.43%
2016: 2.83%

US House:
2004: 2.76%
2006: 3.07%
2008: 3.20%
2010: 3.23%
2012: 3.51%
2014: 4.25%
2016: 4.63%

I suspect the same is true for state legislative races, but I haven’t put together much data for those, yet.

20 thoughts on “Growth in Libertarian vote percentage in US federal races, 2004-2016

  1. Jim

    In pictures, 1972 – 2016.
    http://i.imgur.com/TOzccsz.png

    I was planning on including state legislative races before making that chart public, but I’m only about 30% of the way done with 2008-2016, so that won’t be done for a while.

    You might also be interested in a chart of LP voter registration 1980 – 2016. Most of the data for that comes from Richard Winger.

    http://i.imgur.com/0lGjxiN.png

  2. Jim

    The green line in that first chart is Governor. I just threw it together fast and didn’t label it properly.

  3. robert capozzi

    At this rate, it will take about 170 years to elect a L to Congress in a 3-way race, 280 in a 2-way race.

  4. robert capozzi

    That is, unless the Cult of the Omnipotent State reveals itself, in which case, we might expect a gap-up in performance.

  5. robert capozzi

    Actually, to be fair, we’d need to see these numbers re-run showing the top results for the House and Senate races.

  6. Just Some Random Guy

    At this rate, it will take about 170 years to elect a L to Congress in a 3-way race, 280 in a 2-way race.

    Well…. no. At this rate, it will take that many years for Libertarians to be the dominant political party. Remember, these are AVERAGES. You don’t need a high average for one person to get elected, you just need that one person to get a high enough percentage.

    Also, if we reach that point (of getting a few people elected), we’d probably see exponentially higher gains. People take your party more seriously if you’ve gotten people elected on the federal level.

    I’m hoping the LP doesn’t slack off in 2017/2018. Presidential elections can get you the most attention, but they’re also the hardest to win. They’ve gotten attention in 2016, so hopefully that can transfer to 2018 where a few can actually make it in the midterm elections. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but again: It takes just one person elected to get representation in congress, however small that representation ends up being.

  7. Jim

    I think the first Libertarian elected to federal office will be dismissed as an anomaly. It will take two libertarians elected in the same year or libertarians elected in back to back years in two different districts to start taking the party seriously at the federal level.

    Here’s the best and average of top 5 for US House.
    http://i.imgur.com/ZXuozbK.png

    Keeping in mind I’ve only looked at Alabama – Indiana, 2008 – 2016, my preliminary research into state legislative elections looks pretty promising. I would be very surprised if no libertarians were elected to state legislature in 2018 or 2020. There are a lot of candidates breaking 20% and I saw one break 40%. The average so far is more than double in 2016 from 2010 and 2008 (14.7% vs 5.5% and 7.1% for state house, 12.5% vs 5.3% and 5.8% for state senate), although those numbers won’t be solidified until I get through Texas.

  8. robert capozzi

    Just, see 7:43

    Jim, interesting datasets. I wonder if those best and average of the top 5 include races in which an R and D were also in the race. The numbers are pretty strong if not, very strong if so.

    Getting over 20% in a 3-way race would start, I’d think, to get serious attacks from the Rs and Ds. In a 2-way race in a safe district, perhaps not.

    Any further insight you can provide along these lines would be great.

  9. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    robert capozzi: That is, unless the Cult of the Omnipotent State reveals itself, in which case, we might expect a gap-up in performance.

    I don’t know what point you’re trying to make, or even if you’re trying to make a point.

    Are you saying the LP’s “Cult of the Omnipotent State” boilerplate is what’s preventing the LP from winning more votes? Because I doubt that most voters are even aware of that boilerplate.

    Yes, I know you’re obsessed with it — obsessed with purists, and “plumbline” this or that — but I doubt they’re what’s holding the LP back. The LP’s past three presidential tickets — which is how most voters see us — have been “respectable” moderates.

  10. Jim

    27 US House candidates have broken 20% and all of them have had only one opponent. Some of them get very close to where the lesser of the two major parties is, when they do run candidates.

    Example Arkansas, US House district 3. In 2016 the L candidate got 22.7% facing only an R. In 2010, same district, the D candidate got 27.6% facing only an R.

    One US Senate candidate broke 20% and he had both an R and D opponent . Joe Miller, 2016 US Senate candidate from Alaska. There were 6 candidates on the ballot.

    44.4% Republican
    29.2% Libertarian
    13.2% No Party
    11.6% Democrat
    0.8% No Party
    0.6% No Party
    0.2% Write in

    State legislative candidates who break 20% have both an R and a D opponent fairly regularly. It even happened once in Connecticut, and I consider the NJ-NY-CT-RI area to be a libertarian dead zone as far as election results go. The libertarian in that CT General Assembly race actually beat both the R and the D in one town of a two town district, but he lost the other town and ended up with 26.1%. The R and the D ended up with 37.1% and 36.8%. That kind of thing happens frequently enough at the state legislative level that I really believe someone will get elected soon enough.

  11. Jim

    I was looking up the old state legislative races in Alaska, from when the LP elected a few people in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

    Andrea Marrou, in 1984, got 40.5% to the Republican 40.0% and the Democrat 19.4%.

    On the other hand, Richard Randolph, in 1980, got elected with only 9.2% of the vote. There were 6 Republicans in that race, 6 Democrats, and 6 Libertarians. They were electing 6 candidates from that one district. Randolph had the most votes out of the 18. Ken Fanning, another Libertarian candidate, finished 4th with 8.1% and was also elected.

    Same thing happened with Randolph in 1978. There were 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 4 Libertarians, and an Independent to fill 6 spots. Randolph had the 6th most votes, which was enough to get him elected. He had 7.3% of the vote.

  12. robert capozzi

    Teeth: Are you saying the LP’s “Cult of the Omnipotent State” boilerplate is what’s preventing the LP from winning more votes?

    me: No. I’m saying if there WERE such a Cult and its existence was transparent to most voters, such an overt threat to liberty might be a catalyst for the LP to grow.

    Since R and D statists take an incremental approach and neither shows any signs of actually wanting an omnipotent state, the LP’s extremist messaging comes across as hysterical and paranoid.

  13. robert capozzi

    Jim, thanks. So the top-% Ls have added 10 points or so in 16 years. On that trend, a L might get elected to the House or Senate in about 50 years.

  14. ATBAFT

    “the LP’s extremist messaging comes across as hysterical and paranoid.”
    To whom? While it may have happened to someone sometime, I can’t recall one conversation I’ve had had in 40 years with any non-libertarian who ever mentioned the “cult” wording. And at the time it was adopted, there was some feeling that it would attract the non-libertarian because “most everyone would agree they too were, and should be, in opposition” to any such cult.

  15. Robert Capozzi

    Around, the LP’s platform is riddled with extremist positions, in my estimation. The cult clause itself is less extremist and more just kooky, is my sense of it.

  16. Andy

    “Robert Capozzi
    January 2, 2017 at 12:34
    Around, the LP’s platform is riddled with extremist positions, in my estimation. The cult clause itself is less extremist and more just kooky, is my sense of it.”

    Challenging the cult of the omnipotent state could become a cool catchphrase. We should start putting it on t-shirts.

  17. Luke

    How about making it the party’s official slogan? One of the LNC members who reads this site should make that a motion.

  18. robert capozzi

    aj: We should start putting [CotOS] on t-shirts.

    me: Consider putting your money where your mouth is. Start your own t-shirt company with CotOS emblazoned on it.

    I would not be interested in investing in such a venture, as such a product lacks integrity for me and sounds unappealing to the vast majority, I suspect. But if it becomes the next Big Thing, I’ll reconsider my perspective.

    Count me as selling this one short.

  19. robert capozzi

    more…

    Short of mass production, Andy, have one printed up. Wear it and something else (ie, something normal looking) on successive days in the same venue when petitioning. Get a cameraman to follow you on both days.

    I strongly suspect that you’ll find more people recoiling from you on the day you are sporting your CotOS T. You also might get some puzzled interest, but when you explain your concerns about the alleged Cult, you may also see a lot of eyebrows raising and smirks.

  20. DCT

    I for one would buy and wear a shirt bringing attention to the existence of the CotOS and the need to stand against it. Though it may repel some folks, I’m more willing to bet it would be a great conversation starter, which is what most libertarians would love to have to spread the ideas of liberty.

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