Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Polls show that fewer Americans are calling themselves Republicans or Democrats and the number of Americans unaffiliated with either party has reached an all-time high — good news for Libertarians, say officials of the nation’s third-largest party.

The Libertarian Party has had an 18 percent increase in membership since January, said Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee.

More Americans are joining the Libertarian Party because they are “disillusioned with typical party politics and are looking for a change,” Mr. Cory said.

“What we’re seeing recently is Republicans and Democrats are only interested in maintaining their own power,” he said. “You have Republicans standing by their president during this occupation in Iraq while Democrats sit idly by and watch the Republicans self-destruct.”

A survey released last month by Rasmussen Reports found that a record share of Americans, 32.9 percent, identified themselves as neither Republican nor Democrat.

The Rasmussen poll — conducted in May with a sample of 15,000 adults — found that the percentage identifying themselves as Republicans (30.8 percent) dropped for the fourth consecutive month, while the percentage of Democrats (36.3 percent) decreased for the third straight month, following trends that began for Republicans in the middle of 2005 and Democrats in January 2006.

Mr. Cory said the number of Americans rejecting the Republican and Democratic parties will continue to grow.

“They’re looking for a change and a shift,” Mr. Cory said. “They’re sick of same old politics as usual and are looking for a viable alternative, and we’re that viable alternative.”

Libertarians are known as advocating a free market, nonintervention in foreign policy, and small government that is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. About 250,000 Americans are registered with the Libertarian Party, officials say.

“Several things set us apart,” Mr. Cory said. “People try to pigeonhole us into being opposed to the war on drugs, which we are, but we’re the only party out there advocating our promise of smaller taxes, smaller government and more freedom.”

Mr. Cory said the Libertarian Party’s numbers began increasing in January, when Democrats took control of Congress.

“We were actually a bit worried about that, whenever Dems took control, simply because we thought the left will be placated by this and they’ll think their people will be in power and make everything right,” Mr. Cory said. “But I think [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and others have shown they don’t have the backbone to bring the troops home.”

Democratic Party officials did not respond to requests for comment. Tracey Schmitt, press secretary for the Republican National Committee, said “despite the difficult political environment, people continue to be attracted to the fundamental ideals of the Republican Party.”

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