Why Millennials Voted For the Libertarian In The Virginia Election

Why Millennials Voted For the Libertarian In The Virginia Election

By Rachel Burger

 In a recent viral video, movie star and bestselling author Russell Brand tapped into the Millennial psyche. In the interview with the BBC, Brand argues that the first world’s political system is broken. The solution? Don’t vote. Judging by the percentage of voters who made it out to the polls in Virginia yesterday, not everyone fully buys the message. Though some might argue that Millennials who voted “just threw our votes away.” [contextly_sidebar id=”6b97c1058eb162c35815e962706bfb6e”]

According to Rock the Vote, 61.1 percent of Virginian 18-29 year olds are registered to vote. And while the number of Millennial voters increased 3 percent in this election, they only made up 13 percent of Virginia’s voters. Female Millennials outvoted their male counterparts, and far fewer voted for the Republican candidate today than in 2009.

When Millennials did vote, they surprisingly opted for the Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis more than twice as much as any other age group (15 percent). The reasons for this include that Millennials are sick of politicians bickering in a two-party system, that Sarvis’ policies actually help Millennials, and that Sarvis speaks our language.

It should come as no surprise that Millennials value cooperation. From a young age, education emphasized “teamwork,” “inclusivity,” and “getting along”— a far different childhood from do-it-yourself Generation X. And as Millennials emphasize conflict avoidance and cooperation, they expect the same from their elected officials.

The most recent government shutdown shows that Congress has become more polarized than ever, which is leading disillusioned Millennials away from the traditional political system. They are seeing that Democrats and Republicans are just not able to cooperate, so they are taking their business elsewhere, and the numbers show it. According to a 2012 study, almost half (45 percent) of Millennials are independents, whereas 33 percent are Democrats and 23 percent are Republicans. USA Today recently reported that many college-aged Millennials would welcome a third party.

When Millennials voted for Sarvis, they were voting “no confidence” in a polarized, uncooperative system.

Sarvis, of course, has his own merits with Millennial voters. He is socially liberal, a cornerstone of Millennial politics. He wanted to recognize same-sex marriage in Virginia (which 70 percent of Millennials agreed with in 2011), legalize marijuana (which 67 percent agree with), and enforce a progressive immigration policy (65 percent of Millennials believe immigration “strengthens society”). Throw in ambivalence about abortion, localizing public transportation legislation, and ending corporate subsidies, and we have ourselves a Millennial golden boy.

But policies aren’t the only deciding factor when selecting a candidate—likability still plays a huge role. Sarvis was born in 1976, whereas Ken Cuccinelli was born in 1968, and Terry McAuliffe 1957. If nothing else, Sarvis is closer to understanding my generation’s needs than Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, who are about as old as my parents. Because Sarvis is mixed-race and has an interracial family, he looks a lot more like my generation than the other two white dinosaurs who ran for office. Sarvis is not a Millennial, but who he is better represents my generation than the other guys.

To be sure, most Millennials voted for McAuliffe (45 percent), but that does not detract from the fact that more Millennials than any other age group opted for Sarvis. As my generation ages, the Republicans and Democrats will have to reform themselves if they hope to get our votes. If not, third-party candidates will become the next era of politics. Millennials are voting, and our votes are not going to sit in the trash bin for long.

Rachel Burger is a Young Voices Advocate and the associate editor of a popular news and politics blog. She writes frequently about social issues and foreign policy, and has been published in Thoughts on Liberty, Pocket Full of Liberty, and Aspyr’s GameAgent blog.


Al_Saulinsky November 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

The problem is, the “libertarian” in the Virginia race was no libertarian at all he was a douchebag spoiler bought and paid for by Obama money men. The douchebag “millenials” who cast their vote for this worm voted for the label and nothing more; and tossed the race to a liberal/progressive/mafioso. Chalk one more up to the uninformed voter.

Inconsistencies November 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm

If you’re under 30 and you’re not a liberal, you have no heart. If you’re over 30 and you’re not a conservative, you have no brain. And if you’re a libertarian at any age, you’re a wacko bird.

Stubbsme November 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm

The sad fact is that the mentality of “there are no losers, and everyone gets a trophy” is just now starting to show up in the voting both. Al Saulinsky is right, this guy was no libertarian. Inclusivity, cooperation, and getting along are just other ways of saying conformity. This is the drivel these kids have had pounded through their heads all the way from head start on through college. Many of these kids call themselves independent or libertarian and have no idea what these terms even mean. When you stack up what a majority of what these kids say they stand for it is progressivism, they no longer have a clear understanding of what freedom or liberty is anymore, or even how it is achieved.

Sean Mahoney November 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

the best thing I’ve heard in college was someone telling me “Libertarian’s are so stupid. I mean I agree with most of what they say, but I just don’t like how they get there.” I think people my age have a different world in mind, but it seems like none of them actually understand politics or what some simple terms entail. I am afraid you are correct, and I feel shameful for the stupidity of my peers…

CalledUntoLiberty November 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

What I took away from this is that Libertarians are in danger of being corrupted by frauds just as much as any other party.

What do you call a Libertarian who is socially liberal, and fiscally liberal?

A liberal.

Sean Mahoney November 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Yea Sarvis is a fake libertarian that’s why Ron Paul didn’t campaign for him

billjr86 November 7, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Does anyone notice that the libertarian party facebook page keeps supporting sarvis? not only this has anyone been blocked from commenting or liking something on their page because they showed opposition to sarvis??? Who runs that page because as a libertarian backer i feel that this movement is important and we cant have the facebook page of the party preventing freedom of speech and censoring of ideas against what they are promoting. .. This was a low blow, especially when everyone on the site knows sarvis was funded by obama.

VirtueEthicist November 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm

The author’s point is severely weakened by the last paragraph where she admits a substantial percentage of votes went to McAuliffe. Moreover, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims not supported with evidence other than her own presuppositions about human nature. If millennials value “teamwork, “inclusivity”, and “getting along”, then why would they vote Libertarian over Democratic, at least for these reasons. Could there be other factors influencing their choice? Numerous studies exists show that libertarians downplay these attributes; valuing independence and non-conformity. What evidence is there that these factors are underlying their choice of vote? She cites no opinion polls demonstrating this was the reason. Also, the author assumes millennials think and value the same thing. This is generalizing the entirety of the millennial generation as having the same values.She seems to be describing views predominant among college educated millennials. I could make an opposing argument employing the same tactics of generalization that there are a substantial number of millenials who often retain the same values as those of their parents.

Rachel Burger November 7, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Hi VirtueEthicist,

Thanks for your comment on the piece! For whatever reason, my citations were removed from the original article. If you’d like, I’d be happy to send you all of my sources in an email. You can contact me at rburger11@uchicago.edu

Hayekguy November 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I don’t think Sarvis was anything close to anything genuinely libertarian, but his appeal is pretty obvious here. If someone like Rand Paul were running in 2016 then he could easily capture the millennials and a chunk of Democrats.

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