Libertarians are probably online far out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. So Paul's popularity online might be a reflection of number of libertarians on the web.That certainly struck me as plausible. People who are largely oblivious to politics still tend to have a general idea of what separates those who call themselves "liberals" from those who call themselves "conservatives". But "libertarian" is a term familiar to people who are at least somewhat in-the-know politically. And libertarianism's inherent distrust of corporate entities (political, industrial, religious, and otherwise) probably filters out many people of modest intelligence.
So I was surprised when I fiddled around with a few Facebook search queries. The online networking site is open to anyone who wishes to join, but it groups people by network when searches are conducted. Even then, the number of entries returned tops out at 550.
To get workable results, I looked only at 23 year-olds, grouped by gender. The political categories used considered are "very liberal", "liberal", "moderate", "conservative", "very conservative", and "libertarian".
Presumably, men are more likely to self-describe as libertarian. Tying into what was aforementioned, men are more knowledgeable about current events than women are. And the live-and-let-live aspect is attractive to women, while the learn-to-fish-or-starve aspect still allows men to be (indiscriminate) hardasses at the same time.
Indeed, the Facebook query results shows men more likely than women to self-describe as libertarians. But less than 3% prefer the descriptor. Among women, the proportion of political libertarians is just .6%.
The numbers for men:
76 - Very liberal
257 - Liberal
297 - Moderate
229 - Conservative
23 - Very conservative
27 - Libertarian
90 - Very liberal
423 - Liberal
238 - Moderate
216 - Conservative
11 - Very conservative
6 - Libertarian
The sample is taken from the University of Kansas, which admittedly isn't MIT. But it's not the local Juco, either. By far the state's premier public university, the most recent freshman class boasted an average ACT score of 24.6, suggesting an average IQ of about 118. That's far enough to the right on the bell curve to be in what is assumed to be libertarian waters.
The results have face validity. Women, the more conciliatory of the two genders, are less likely to self-label as "very X". The female distribution is skewed further to the left than the male distribution is. As to be expected of hifalutin university kids even in a state as conservative as Kansas, both genders are left-of-center. Yet the libertarian contingent is still paltry.
It may be an appellation issue, with people who generally oppose higher tax rates and governmental intervention in the economy while supporting lots of positive personal rights classifying themselves as either "conservative" or "liberal", depending on whether economic or social issues matter more to them. Or they may be opting for the safe "moderate" option.
I'm even more surprised by the dearth of libertarians in light of my personal experience. When I used the service with some regularity, I classified myself as a libertarian to give my 'unorthodox' views the best chance of being entertained. This inspite of the fact that I disagree with much of the Libertarian party's platform, considering myself libertarian only as a means of portraying the limitless expanse of intellectual landscape I like to think I'm willing to tour.
All this is reason to be even more excited about the libertarian Paul's surging popularity. As a small-government, non-interventionist, pro-sovereignty politician, he's attracting a lot of attention among non-partisans. As the polar opposite of John McCain, I can't help but support him.