POLITICS: YESTERDAY, TODAY,
Somewhere between one-tenth and one-third of Americans are libertarians.
Many libertarians do not self-identify as libertarian. They call themselves liberals, moderates, or conservatives. Many of them vote Democrat or Republican.
Thus, to know what percentage of Americans are libertarian, we can’t just ask people if they are libertarians.
When researchers want to know how to label a person’s political views, they do not ask how that person labels herself. Instead, they ask her a battery of substantive ideological questions. They assign her the label that best fits her substantive political beliefs.
Researchers at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and elsewhere conduct the American National Election Studies, a study of voter opinion. The surveys ask voters to answer various ideological questions, such as whether we should have more or less government control of the economy or whether we should be more or less tolerant of others with different lifestyles and moral beliefs. Using this data, analysts at the CATO Institute (a libertarian think-tank