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Self-described “Liberal” Millennials are Actually Libertarian

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This week another Reason/Rupe poll came out, this one on the political leanings of my generation, the Millennials. One interesting thing to note for people concerned with how we vote is that a plurality of Millennials surveyed who described themselves as “liberal” express support for downright libertarian positions.


Liberal, to many Millennials (33 percent), just means belief in “social tolerance, openness, and personal freedom.” And far from preferring a leviathan state, many Millennials said they were liberal because people should have freedom to do what they want in their personal lives without government interference.

So how does that impact our voting? More liberal millennials than conservative ones indicated support for a classically “libertarian-leaning candidate,” by a margin of 60 to 27 percent. But nearly half of conservative millennials oppose a “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” candidate.

Here’s the deal. Conservative Millennials won’t vote for a Democrat. They especially won’t vote for any of the Democrats being floated. But what this poll is showing is that liberal Millennials are fed up with a Democratic party which has been anything but liberal. Consider that 60 percent of Hillary Clinton voters and 56 percent of those who approve of President Obama say they would support a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate. They’re open to free markets, as long as they get their personal freedoms.


In total, a majority—53 percent—of millennials say they would support a candidate who described him or herself as socially liberal and economically conservative.

So what does that mean?

Young people were key to Obama’s election and re-election. Ignoring their wishes not only harms the GOP now, but also going forward.

Traditionally, the GOP has had an all-too-testy relationship with its libertarian wing. Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell:

To wit: There’s the GOP’s historically poor convention treatment of Paul supporters; the incessant scapegoating of Libertarian candidates for GOP losses, even despite mathematical impossibility; the perpetual misunderstanding of what libertarians believe in; the conservative belittling of libertarian causes; the penchant for selecting terrible candidates and then getting pissy when libertarians hesitate to get behind the false choice; and plenty of embarrassing moves that make libertarians want to crawl under a rock.

The personal freedoms we Millennials want in no way violate small-government principles. In fact, they are full expressions of that idea that that government which governs least, governs best. Ending the War on Drugs, fixing our broken immigration system, no longer allowing the state to discriminate against gays in marriage, reining in domestic spying, and protecting whistleblowers are all, fundamentally, small-government positions which would all result in a net decrease in the state.


Nominating truly small-government politicians, who want the government out of the bedroom and the boardroom, isn’t just the only principled path forward for the GOP. It’s also the best way to attract my generation to the party. It’s the GOP, not the Democrats, who Millennials should associate with “social tolerance, openness, and personal freedom.”

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