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Most American libertarians do not consider themselves part of the conservative Tea Party movement despite a public perception that the two political groups are linked, according to a national survey released on Tuesday.
Libertarians, who generally support maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of government, differ sharply with the Tea Party and religious conservatives on issues such as abortion and decriminalization of marijuana, according to the survey by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute.
Sixty-one percent of libertarians do not identify themselves as part of the Tea Party, the survey showed. About 7 percent of the adult population is consistently libertarian and that includes 12 percent of those who describe themselves as Republicans.
"There's largely agreement on economic issues - the gap is in how libertarians approach social issues, " said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducts an annual "American Values Survey" on political and social issues.
While the survey showed that libertarians tend to favor Republicans, they are a swing group that can turn away from the party if it starts to favor too much government spending or interference with individual liberties, said Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.
"Libertarians are not part of the Democratic Party's base, that's for sure, but they're not a reliable part of the Republican Party's vote," said Lindsey, who saw the survey. "Republicans can scare away libertarian voters."
He noted that the libertarian vote swung against Republicans in the 1992 presidential election, which included third party candidate Ross Perot, a businessman who favored a balanced budget and abortion rights.
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