The Libertarian Party: No Improvement Since 1980

By Ian Cioffi

Come Presidential politics season, you’ll hear the same rhetoric coming from Libertarian Party members, “this is the year”. Although that comment has different meaning, depending on which members you talk to. It could mean this is the year they win the White House. Some are less hopeful, and just want their candidate to poll nationally at  15% so they can be in the televised debates. Unfortunately, “this is the year” really means the same thing it’s meant since 1980, nothing.

1980 was the last time the Libertarian Party posted an improvement in a Presidential election. They received 1.06% of the national vote. For a political party that was only nine-years-old at the time, that wasn’t too shabby. Especially considering the fact the powers that be do everything they can to silence third parties. Unfortunately though, the Libertarian Party hasn’t figured out how to improve upon those numbers since.


Year Pres. Candidate / VP Popular Votes Percentage Electoral Votes
1972 John Hospers / Theodora Nathan 3,674 0.0047% 1
1976 Roger MacBride / David Bergland 172,553 0.21% 0
1980 Ed Clark / David Koch 921,128 1.06% 0
1984 David Bergland / James Lewis 228,111 0.25% 0
1988 Ron Paul / Andre Marrou 431,750 0.47% 0
1992 Andre Marrou / Nancy Lord 290,087 0.28% 0
1996 Harry Browne / Jo Jorgensen 485,759 0.50% 0
2000 Harry Browne / Art Olivier 384,431 0.36% 0
2004 Michael Badnarik / Richard Campagna 397,265 0.32% 0
2008 Bob Barr / Wayne Allyn Root 523,713 0.40% 0
2012 Gary Johnson / Jim Gray 1,275,821 0.99% 0

The Libertarian Party more than doubled their vote count from 2008 to 2012, which was the highest number of votes they ever received in a Presidential election. In comparison though, they only received 354,693 more votes than their 1980 results. From 1980 to the last Presidential Election (2012) the voting age population (VAP) increased 71.3 million. So in comparison to the VAP increase, the Libertarian Party only increased it’s vote count  by 0.5% since 1980.

The Libertarian Party is considered the third largest political party in America, but are they the third most successful in terms of Presidential elections? No. From the time both political parties had a National candidate, the Green Party received in total, 4.03 % of the national vote while the Libertarian party received in total, 2.57%.

The Libertarian Party shared a Meme that took a Swipe at Rand Paul when it said “no more Clintons, Bushes or Pauls”. How about instead of worrying about the gains the Paul family has made for the Libertarian cause, you start worrying about the lack of gains your party has made.

At least the Pauls are attempting a new approach at spreading our message. At least they’r getting our message heard by millions on nationally televised debates. And like it or not, when people think of the word “Libertarian” they think of the Pauls before they think of any Libertarian Party candidate.

LP vs RP



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