Libertarian ideals growing in young voters

Ron Paul might not be the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, but there are signs that some of his libertarian ideals are gaining traction among young voters nationwide.

Recent polling data indicate that there has been an increase in young voters who support less government intervention in both social and fiscal policies — principles espoused by Paul — since the last presidential election.

Jim Lark, an engineering professor at the University of Virginia and a member of the board of advisers for Students For Liberty — an international organization with chapters on several college campuses — said the increased support could be attributed to a greater understanding of what “libertarianism” entails.

“Once you meet the critical mass point, people are going to come out and identify,” Lark said.

“A lot of young people just don’t tend to look at partisan political positions as attractive because they look at parties as two political positions looking for spoils.”

According to exit poll data from CNN, Paul garnered the most support from voters in the 17 to 29 age group among the GOP candidates in several primaries.

A survey conducted in December by Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm based in Raleigh, asked residents of Colorado about their support for the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, two issues often linked to libertarian stances.

Among voters in the 18 to 29 age group in Colorado, which is considered to be a swing state in the presidential election, 72 percent support the legalization of marijuana and 50 percent support legalized marriage for gay couples.

But Georg Vanberg, a political science professor at UNC, said data showing an increase in young voters’ support for policies promoting either social or economic liberty doesn’t necessarily indicate that they share a cohesive libertarian philosophy.

“It may be that there are more and more people skeptical of extensive government involvement in the economy, and that there is an increase in the number of people who are concerned about government interference with social/personal liberty,” he said. “I’m not convinced that the two groups are the same people.”

But many liberty conferences, such as Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, have seen increases in membership and participation.

“Students for Liberty had around 500 people attend its international conference one year ago. When I went this year, over 1,000 people came from 35 different countries,” said Alex Lopez, president of UNC College Libertarians.

“We have grown exponentially in the last five years,” he said.
Carla Howell, executive director for the national Libertarian Party, said that they expect an increase in membership as election season gets closer.

And David Deerson, coordinator for UNC’s Students for Liberty chapter, said the group has expanded since he came to campus.
“When I got here as a freshman, the club was basically just four to six people that sat around and grumbled at Linda’s.”

Everett Lozzi, co-president of UNC’s Youth for Ron Paul group, said both parties will have to acknowledge the increased support for libertarian beliefs by the end of the decade.

“In 2016 or 2020, our generation will be the major voting bloc, so politicians won’t be able to get away with the stuff they have been up to this point.”

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