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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ron Paul and Young Voters

Our chapter on political parties discusses the Libertarian Party, whose 1988 presidential candidate was Ron Paul. He is now running for the Republican presidential nomination, as he did four years ago. Libertarian philosophy has roots in the "Don't Tread on Me" strain of American civic culture, and has appeal to younger Americans. The Daily Campus at SMU reports:

Ron Paul has done well in recent polls, falling just behind "top tier" candidates, and in some cases beating them handily.

Much of this winning streak is attributed to the votes of young America, with whom Paul has polled even higher.

In a Gallup Poll released Aug. 24 Ron Paul ranked third with 13 percent behind Rick Perry's 29 percent and Mitt Romney's 17 percent with Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents.

However, in this same poll, Paul came in first among voters 18 to 19 years old with 29 percent, beating out Perry by eight points and Romney by 17 points.

SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson said the difference might be explained because "libertarian tendencies are particularly pronounced among younger voters — especially relatively affluent ones."

And while Wilson believes Paul will be taken "more seriously this time around," he doesn't believe he can pull off the nomination.

"He is too damaged by his past associations with fringe positions, and he is actually the oldest candidate seeking the nomination," Wilson said. "That said, the political climate has become more accepting of libertarianism generally, and a younger, somewhat more mainstream version of Paul – like, perhaps, his son Rand – might have a future in national politics."

But even for this campaign, Paul supporters have noticed a large increase in young volunteers.

Indeed, the Gallup data show a striking relationship between age and Paul's support:

  • 18-29....29%
  • 30-49....15%
  • 50-64...07%
  • 65+.......04%