Is it possible that 59% of Libertarians Oppose Same-Sex Marriage?

October 31st, 2013

ThinkProgress explores a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, titled “In Search of Libertarians in America.” The post contends that Libertarians are much more concerned about economic issues than social issues, which would make them more likely to support Republicans than Democrats. Intuitively this sounds right.

But what really struck me is this assertion:

You might think libertarians would be similarly to the left of the Democratic Party on social issues, but that’s not quite so. On the banner issues, marriage equality and abortion, libertarians are to the right of Democrats. A majority outright opposes same-sex marriage, while libertarians are 14 points less likely to oppose making access to abortion more difficult than Democrats.

Here is the graphic from p. 22:


I am astounded by this number. I travel heavily in libertarian circles, and I can’t think of a single libertarian I’ve met that opposes same-sex marriage. I mean, Cato filed an amicus brief in support of striking down DOMA. This is not even controversial among any libertarian I know. Remember when Ann Coulter was booed at a Students for Liberty event for opposing gay marriage? These numbers just don’t gel with me.

Maybe the question includes those libertarians who think the state should have zero involvement in marriage at all (opposite sex or same sex)? Or maybe people who think this should be accomplished through the democratic process, and not the courts? Or are these “Glenn Beck libertarians” who don’t actually know what the term means. This last explanation is plausible in light of this statement:

About one-quarter (26%) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are libertarians, compared to a majority (52%) who say they are a part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement, and 35% who identify as white evangelical Protestant

I don’t know that libertarian means what they think it means. Take a look at how they define libertarian v. communalist:



Any other thoughts?