America: Twenty Percent Libertarian — One Percent Media Coverage

David Boaz wrote a column which was published in the WSJ. From the article:

The Gallup Poll’s annual survey on government found that 27% of Americans are conservative; 24% are liberal, up sharply because the poll was taken after Katrina, which boosted support for the proposition that “government should do more to solve our country’s problems.” Gallup also found — this year as in others — that 20% are neither liberal nor conservative but libertarian, opposing the use of government either to “promote traditional values” or to “do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” Another 20% are “populist” (supporting government action in both areas), with 10% undefined. Libertarian support, spread across demographic groups, is strongest among well-educated voters.

Logan Ferree just completed a set of Nolan Charts on members of the current Congress. I’ve taken his excellent work and overlayed the blues onto the reds so we can see the big picture a bit more clearly.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Congress is clearly not representative of its constituency. Boaz provides:

The worst aspect of all this is the oracles who appear on TV. You’d think they’d be thoughtful, independent. Yet they’re as partisan as the pols. The typical cable show brings viewers two guests, a liberal and a conservative. You can count on conservative writers to defend everything President Bush does, and on liberal editors to denounce the GOP — no matter what.

Boaz blames both the media and politicians for this. We can’t change the politicians until the new media becomes more dominant or the old media becomes more representative of American culture. Obviously, many of us are working hard on developing and promoting the new media, but we also need to apply even greater pressure to the old media. If the new media provides a proper balance to their coverage, they will be welcomed by most people. If they continue to disregard common and popular viewpoints, they will soon go the way of the Edsel.

I’ll be trying a new line of attack for a while. When providing commentary about members of the mainstream media, I’ll also be attempting to indicate whether the reporter provided the proper balance in his/her coverage, and also covering the related general history of the member of the media.

As an example, I recently wrote a small blurb about Helen Thomas where I quoted the Drudge Report. I wrote:

According to Drudge, Helen Thomas is in a tizzy…

The next time around, it may read more like this:

According to Drudge (whose website search engine currently shows only one use of the word “libertarian”), Helen Thomas is in a tizzy…

Some future articles may be directly critical of the mainstream media, for example: “The Washington Post, which provided the Democratic response to Bush’s State of the Union address — but failed to cover the libertarian perspective…”

The primary mechanism I plan to use is what I am going to call the “Libertarian Coverage Indicator” or LCI, for short. It will be a simple Google News search on the journalist in question. For example, I might start a sentence with “David Broder (LCI) said…” or “David Espo (LCI) wrote…”

While this method is far from scientific, I think I’ll give it a try until one of you provides a better suggestion.

A quick search of Google News provides that of 177,600 articles which include the words “Republican”, “Democratic” or “Libertarian”, only 1.05% of them incorporate the latter search string. If 20% of the country is indeed libertarian and we only get 1% of the coverage, there is an obvious bias. Until such time as mainstream media coverage begins to approach the views of mainstream America, it is critical that all of us do what is within our power to influence the press to provide fair and balanced coverage. I’m trying a novel approach, and I suggest that you try something similar.

Props on the FreedomDemocrats article.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Meanwhile, south of the border in Costa Rica, Movimiento Libertario is expected to gain… drum roll please… 20% of the seats in the Costa Rican Congress. Oddly enough, the party leader’s name is Otto Guevara Guth — but while he may be diametrically opposed in political philosophy to Che Guevara, his political rhetoric is commenably revolutionary: “The focus is then not compromise with them, they must compromise with us, and our compromise is, well, that’s good, here’s a step, next time do better.”

LoganFerree from Freedom Democrats sez:

Yes, that top red dot is Ron Paul. The Freedom Democrats website has the individual social and economic axis scorecards. I’ll be working on posting one file with both scorecards soon.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Congress is clearly not representative of its constituency…If 20% of the country is indeed libertarian and we only get 1% of the coverage, there is an obvious bias.

    I think it’s a popular myth that this country is “a system of two parties,” and certainly perpetuated by the press.

    Although I can’t be certain because the article you linked to doesn’t link to the Gallup poll, but I imagine the questions asked were related to what roll government should take and then the answers were plotted on Nolan charts. If the poll had actually asked political views by category (conservative, liberal, libertarian, populist, or other), I doubt libertarian and populist would have faired as well.

    People know what roll they feel government should perform, but don’t really understand what libertarian (or populist for that matter) means.

  2. Josh,

    I searched but could find no link to the Gallup poll. I cound’t find it by searching their site, either – although it is certainly buried somewhere in the “paid” section.

  3. I noticed the same thing during the 2004 election. I regularly checked Google News for mentions of Bush, Kerry, Nader, Badnarik, & Cobb and found thousands of times the mentions for Bush and Kerry as there were for Badnarik. On top of that almost every single bit of Libertarian coverage was at the local level, the national media completely ignored the Badnarik campaign.

    Hopefully the trend toward people getting their information from the decentralized “New Media” will give us a level of coverage that more closely represents our true numbers. I’ll be doing my part to help out with a contribution to the new site as soon as possible.

  4. You know, following that chart above, the Democrats are closer to libertarian ideals then this current batch of Republicans.

    The current GOP is composed mostly of extremist wackos. That’s not to says the Dem’s don’t have theirs as well, but I think that graph clearly shows the current group of Republicans are on the fringe.

  5. What’s scary about that chart, is how few people rate above the halfway mark on the economic scale. We’re in the “gimme gimme” day and age, when everyone wants to spend everyone elses money.

    It’s unfortunate, because I frankly feel the economic side of the equation is more important (don’t get me wrong, I’m all for common sense social solutions too).

  6. Nigel – there is no way I’d bet you on that one.

    I did ask Mr. Farree if he would publish his data, though.

  7. Of course it’s no surprise the Democrats were much farther up the scale on the Personal/Social evaluation than the Republicans, but what really amazes me is that even on the Economic evaluation their mean score looks to be slightly higher. I can’t begin to understand why so many quasi-libertarian people I know continue clinging to the GOP.

  8. As an African-American I would bolt to the Republicans before joining the Democrats because most Democrats want to keep the blacks on the plantation. Ahh yes, attract us with that government money!

  9. From concerning the SOTU address:

    Recent college graduate Shaun Edwards, a Libertarian, has doubts about the strength of the economy but says the president’s speech was reassuring.

    “It may not improve his approval rating,” Edwards says, “but at least it will almost serve to energize the American people.”

  10. [continued from 12.]

    So when we (Libertarians) do get covered by the MSM, this is what we get. Well, Shaun doesn’t speak for me.

    The only way I was “almost energized” by the SOTU speech was to throw things at the TV!

  11. Within a second of seeing the chart, I recognized that lonely red dot at Ron Paul, but is there any way of finding out who the BLUE dots in the Libertarian range are?

  12. Could it be that the Democrats score “higher” on the ecoomic axis because they voted against Republican spending proposals because the proposal didn’t spend ENOUGH money? A vote on any issue isn’t necessarily for the “right” reasons.

    Dr. Paul votes “no” because a bill is unconstitutional. Sanders and Frannk vote “no” because they want a BIGGER program.

    Also, how much would these nolan charts change if a Dem was president AND the Dems controlled congress? The the Dems would sail through their anti-freedom proposals and the Reps would simply be voting Anti-Dem, giving the appearance of pro-liberty.

  13. I have seen Dennis Kucinich speak, and his beliefs flirt with socialism. I cannot understand how he would be one of the democrats who are considered libertarian. ‘freedom democrats’ is a libertarian-democratic website, and I would guess that they attempted to make it appear as if there was a libertarian constituency in the democratic party, but this is false, at least in the House.

  14. Yes! It’s a conspiracy by fellow libertarians!

    Those bastards!

    Get real Dennis, you’re basically being a Republican apologist right now and it’s pretty lame. Face it, since 9/11 the Republican party has gone absolutely psychotic.

  15. I found this at

    In September 2000, Rasmussen Research, one of the world’s leading polling organizations, administered the World’s Smallest Political Quiz in a “Portrait of America” poll of a broad cross-section of likely American voters.

    This was the first time that the Quiz itself had been used in a scientific, non-commissioned poll conducted by a professional pollster.

    Using the Quiz questions and political divisions, Rasmussen surveyed 822 likely voters by telephone and found:

    32% were centrists; 16% libertarians; 14% authoritarians; 13% liberal; 7% conservative; and, 17% bordered one or more categories.

    While the test identified 16% of the voting population as libertarian, only 2% of the respondents identified themselves with that label when given a chance.

  16. They don’t want to identify with us because of some of our 100% purist ideals. Who wants to be part of the drug party? were not, but we are portrayed as such. Who wants to be part of the gutless party? We are not, but we are portrayed as such. Who wants to be part of the party that has no compassion for poor or needy people? We are not but we are portrayed as such. The list goes on and on. They believe in the same things but do not want to identify with us because of how it might look to others or they just don’t know enough about us to identify with us.

  17. Some polling we did in N. California indicates that the LP’s biggest problem is still name recognition. The good news was, of those that knew of the LP, the image was not at all unfavorable. So, that “sex and drugs” baggage we fear we might be carrying is not really the issue; getting the word out that we exist is.

  18. Disenfranchised voter: Before you leap to conclusions, I believe that the Republican party is equally anti-libertarian, but to claim that Dennis Kucinich (who calls capitalism “predatory capitalism” and who wants to take the evil “profit motive out of health care”) is a ‘libertarian’ (or has libertarian tendencies) would make as much sense as calling Karl Marx one. It is easy to see the motive of a democratic libertarian website as wanting to make it appear as if the democratic party somehow represents libertarian ideals, and doing so does not make me a conspiracy theorist; rather just a reasonable human being.

  19. Also: I mentioned that Dennis Kucinich flirts with socialism, but to be fair, I also agree that many republican leaders flirt with there very own kind of authoritarianism: fascism.

  20. The best practice on media coverage is one mention–including LTE’s, standard announcements, etc–per million population per day in campaign season, and per three days when not.

    Local parties can do a lot to up their coverage by doing newsworthy things–and meeting with local media, starting a weekly or monthly radio show (you invite journalists, they write about you) , using Indymedia, using free release services, and an agressive letter writing program, and an ad for meetings or using community boards. Often local small newspapers are dying for filler or a Libertarian occasional columnist.

    Our affiliate has no media problems–we get 3 mentions weekly, and I’m working on a column for the local #2 paper.But media only goes so far–you have to talk to local leaders, educators, and get in the streets, but a little focus can do wonders and create an impressive portfolio and sense of Libertarian presence. See

  21. Dennis, I have a disclaimer at my website concerning the economic scores. The House Rules Committee controls all of the votes in the House. As such, when I go to the records to find votes for the economic axis in the scorecard I am limited to what the Republican leadership actually allowed to come to a vote. This slants the results slightly. Someone like Kucinich receives a higher than expected score because he’s consistently voting against the Republican agenda of corporate welfare because it conflicts with his own socialist ideology. There’s little I can do to correct this except to run the scorecard over an extended period of time when both Democrats and Republicans are in power. If you compare it to the Senate, where there’s more diversity in votes, I think the slant toward the Democratic Party is a net of 8%. Also note that overall Kucinich’s economic score isn’t steller, it’s just marginally acceptable. No one except Ron Paul has a steller economic and social record.

  22. I suspect a key reason for some of the disparity in Congress is because the Dems are not in control. It would be interesting to rate a congress from when they were in control.

  23. Ah, LoganFerree, that makes sense. I guess I should have read more carefully. Nice work!

  24. An idea: would only counting votes for bills (rather than for AND against) make the graphs more accurate?

  25. Dennis, the idea would be difficult to put into place right now, but maybe in the future. If I only looked at votes in favor of libertarian-like bills I would be excluding a lot of equally important votes. And I’d have a harder time finding clear cut votes to include. Of the 15 I included for economic issues, 8 are clearly a case where the libertarian position was for the bill. One more was where I think the only reason you’d vote against the bill was if you were a libertarian. That leaves 6 difficult votes where the libertarian position and the democratic-socialist position would have opposed the vote. I had set a goal of 15 votes for each axis and toward the end I was running into problems in finding more votes. If I continue to do this scorecard every year I may be able to do scorecards for several years and drop some of the less clear cut votes and still have enough. It’s a good suggestion for the future, thanks.

  26. “Meanwhile, south of the border in Costa Rica, Movimiento Libertario is expected to gain… drum roll please… 20% of the seats in the Costa Rican Congress.”

    They did not gain any seats, they will end up with the same number of seats they had before the election. Also, the ML has not been libertarian since last summer when they were taken over my non-libertarians and drove the real libertarians from the party. For details you should read:

  27. I just found this one, and hope folks are still reading. The “blue dot” Libertarians on the chart are:

    Davis, Danny K.
    Tierney, John
    Baldwin, Tammy
    Kucinich, Dennis
    Conyers, John, Jr.
    Frank, Barney
    McKinney, Cynthia A.
    Waters, Maxine
    Pallone, Frank, Jr.
    Owens, Major R.
    Lee, Barbara

    Also, someone asked about Bernie Sanders. He’s part of the blue blob in the “Liberal Left” area closest to the point where Libertarian and Centrist meet. Also in that blob are:

    Abercrombie, Neil
    Blumenauer, Earl
    Hinchey, Maurice D.
    Holt, Rush D.
    Kennedy, Patrick J.
    Lewis, John R.
    Weiner, Anthony D.