The Slow Decline of the Libertarian Party

In IPR comments, Libertarian Party of Massachusetts Chair and 2008 presidential candidate George Phillies reports on the membership figures for the Libertarian Party, revealing a slow decline since the party’s peak in 1999.

I dug up the membership numbers going back into the past. The number is for the end of the indicated year, except 2015, where the indicated number is the end of June 2015.

You will see that 1992 brought in a lot of people, 1996 brought in a lot of people, 2000 lost ground, 2004 brought in 873 people, 2008 brought in 1177 people, and 2012 brought in 281 people.

Remember that the Presidential campaign is not everything in terms of member recruitment, but it can help. The the extent we credit the Presidential campaign: Note that Barr was more effective than Badnarik or Johnson at bringing in people, and Badnarik was more effective than Johnson, but all of them were more effective than the second Browne campaign.

For 2009 and after, there are three columns. The second column counts people who signed the oath and sent us some money during the year (or are life members), while the third column lists “sustaining members” as defined in the Bylaws. 2006 is an anomaly because dues changed several times in different directions.

Year Members Sustaining
1988 6253
1989 8211
1990 9130
1991 9162
1992 11416
1993 9539
1994 10641
1995 13658
1996 21580
1997 23345
1998 30007
1999 33007
2000 32922
2001 27731
2002 22871
2003 19410
2004 20283
2005 15575
2006 11014
2007 14181
2008 15358
2009 14076 14096
2010 14077 14309
2011 13468 13589
2012 13749 13824
2013 13670 13869
2014 12053 12526
2015 11640 11723

And for those of you who want the month by month in an election year:

Here are the month by month numbers for 2004, 2008, and 2012

Month Members
2004
January 19084
February 18826
March 19276
April 19107
May 19306
June 19834
July 19982
August 19747
September 19830
October 19913
November 19929
December 20283
2008
January 14171
February 13908
March 13809
April 13579
May 13820
June 14121
July 14581
August 14970
September 15378
October 16099
November 16079
December 15358
2012
January 13492
February 13538
March 13406
April 13179
May 12923
June 12870
July 12960
August 13361
September 13788
October 14070
November 14182
December 13749

So look at the month-by-month.

Badnarik brought in under 500.
Barr brought in 1530.
Johnson brought in a bit over 800.

Readers may reasonably say that while Badnarik was a radical, he was a Constitutionalist radical, not a Libertarian radical, and his knowledge of the Constitution had some deficiencies. The guy who did best was clearly not a radical.

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6 thoughts on “The Slow Decline of the Libertarian Party

  1. langa

    I don’t think Barr had much to do with the membership growth in 2008. I would give the vast majority of the credit to the Ron Paul phenomenon introducing people to the libertarian philosophy. While some of those people stayed in the GOP and tried to reform it, many others left once it became obvious Ron Paul wasn’t going to be the GOP nominee. The LP served as a natural home for these people. In fact, the growth would have probably been even more significant if Barr hadn’t gone out of his way to disrespect Paul, thereby alienating many of his followers.

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    1. paulie
  2. paulie

    Between March and October 2014, Libertarian voter registration rose 8.3%. Voter registration as a whole rose 1.4% during the same period. Independent and miscellaneous rose 2.7%. Democratic registration rose .7%. Republican registration rose 1.0%. Green Party registration rose 2.1%.

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  3. paulie

    Some comparisons of past trends:

    http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2014/04/lp-org-libertarian-party-bucks-trend-with-11-increase-in-voter-registration/

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014
    Libertarian Party bucks trend with 11% increase in voter registration
    WASHINGTON – According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, Libertarian Party voter registration in the U.S. has grown 11.4% since late 2012.

    Someone else will have to calculate the percentage change per year, but here is some additional historical perspective:

    http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2013/01/ballot-access-news-updated-voter-registration-totals/

    March 2012:

    D 41.85% 43,512,746

    R 30.10% 31,298,863

    Independent 25.79% 26,808,810

    LP 0.32%
    330,811

    Green 0.24%
    250,682

    Constitution 0.07%
    77,918

    Totals October 2010 were: Dem. 43,140,758 (42.98%), Rep. 30,700,138 (30.58%), Indp. & misc. 24,359,097 (24.27%), AIP/Constitution 476,669 (.47%), Libertarian 278,446 (.28%), Green 246,145 (.25%), Working Families 44,867 (.04%), Reform 30,237 (.03%), other parties 1,107,843 (1.10%).

    Totals October 2008 were: Dem. 43,933,901 (43.62%), Rep. 30,944,590 (30.72%), Indp. & misc. 24,157,259 (23.98%), AIP/Constitution 438,222 (.44%), Green 255,019 (.25%), Libertarian 240,328 (.24%), Reform 32,961 (.03%), other parties 675,980 (.67%).

    Totals October 2004 were: Dem. 37,301,951 (42.19%), Rep. 28,988,593 (32.79%), Indp. & misc. 20,471,250 (23.15%), Constitution 320,019 (.36%), Green 298,701 (.34%), Libertarian 235,521 (.27%), Reform 63,729 (.07%), Natural Law 39,670 (.04%), other parties 695,639 (.79%).

    Totals October 2000 were: Dem. 38,529,264 (43.84%), Rep. 28,813,511 (32.78%), Indp. & misc. 18,999,126 (21.62%), Constitution 348,977 (.40%), Libertarian 224,713 (.26%), Green 193,332 (.22%), Reform 99,408 (.11%), Natural Law 61,405 (.07%), other parties 620,668 (.71%).

    Totals October 1992 were: Dem. 35,616,630 (47.76%), Rep. 24,590,383 (32.97%), Indp. & misc. 13,617,167 (18.26%), Green 102,557 (.14%), Libertarian 100,394 (.13%), other parties 554,668 (.74%).

    LP went from 100k in 1992, to over 200k registered L by 2000, and the latest numbers I saw were just a hair under 400k with the growth trend only accelerating (which would make it over 400k by now).

    The LP also has a non-dues-paying membership, which is also only going up and up.

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  4. paulie

    National LP needs a website that doesn’t suck (I know this is being worked on but results are what count and for now we (LP national) have a website that is terrible, as was discussed at the last LNC meeting. We need updated outreach materials. Again, being worked on, but not here yet. We need training in all the basics of local organizational and campaign management for our candidates and state and county leadership, promoted heavily. Materials exist, but need to be updated and promoted much, much, much more. The database needs a lot better management, as has been discussed at length on past LNCs. We need states and national LP that see their relationship as synergy rather than competition, and which all encourage rather than discourage people to participate at the national, state AND county/parish levels. We need to get with the modern age and how people like to do things these days and push monthly, rather than yearly, donations and push them heavily and constantly. Among other things they are opt out, as opposed to opt in as with the yearly ones, and psychologically less painful for equal annualized amounts of contributions. We need to get a lot better at leveraging our volunteer database, as much or more than our donors. Above all we need prospecting. Passive recruiting does not work. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

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  5. paulie

    “last LNC meeting.” Copy and pasted that from an old post. I was eferring to the March meeting in Phoenix and/or the last 2014 meeting in New Orleans, I believe.

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