LP Sees 25 Percent Membership Increase

The Libertarian Party is boasting a 25 percent membership increase in 2007. From their release:

While Republicans and Democrats struggled with members abandoning the party in pursuit of political alternatives, the Libertarian Party saw an increase in membership of 25 percent for the year. “The numbers show what everybody has been saying—people are not happy with the two-party system and are ready for a change,” says Libertarian Party Executive Director Shane Cory.

“The two-party system has failed the American public,” says Cory, “and people are looking for a viable alternative in hopes of returning America to the right path. Our numbers are a clear indication of the failure of Republicans and Democrats.”

From Dec. 2006 to Dec. of this year, the Libertarian Party saw an increase of 25 percent in membership. Major issues for new Libertarian members include disapproval of the war in Iraq and the use of torture in the so-called “War on Terror,” excessive spending by the President and Congress, as well as rampant civil liberties violations.

“We’re attracting members from both the Republican and Democratic Parties,” says National Media Coordinator Andrew Davis. “People are tired of their old political parties, who care more for power than they do for freedom, and these people see the Libertarian Party as the most viable third party alternative. The 25 percent membership increase should serve as a example to the two major parties of what happens when you sacrifice your core values for political power.”

The Libertarian Party has also attracted a sizable portion of new members who serve in active duty in the United States military. The LP’s soldiers, sailors and airmen range in rank from junior enlisted personnel to Vice Admiral Michael Colley, USN, [Ret.], who now serves on the Libertarian National Committee.

“Military service men and women recognize the value in the Libertarian Party’s non-interventionist foreign policy position,” says Cory, a Marine Corps veteran. “Members of the Armed Forces, just like their civilian counterparts, feel betrayed by Republicans and Democrats, and are searching for an alternative.”

27 Responses to “LP Sees 25 Percent Membership Increase”

  1. Austin Cassidy Says:

    Are these paid members, donors, or something else? I’m a little unclear on how membership is defined these days.

  2. Thomas M. Sipos Says:

    Perhaps it’s due to an influx of antiwar voters? After the Democratic Congress proved unwilling to pass their supporters’ agenda, it’s only natural that some antiwar voters would seek a new home.

  3. Eric Dondero Says:

    Why is Cory assuming that all Military members who join the LP are Anti-Defense?

    When I joined the LP while still in the Military in 1985 I was 100% hardcore Pro-Defense. And I almost immediately joined the Libertarian Defense Caucus within the LP to fight for the Pro-Defense position.

    Cory ruins an otherwise fine press release with his assumption that Military guys join the LP cause of non-interventionist foreign policy.

    Did he ever stop to think that to Military guys issues such as legalization of prostitution and lowering the drinking age are important, as well?

  4. johncjackson Says:

    So with the increase membership is now what ? 1/3 what it was a few years ago?

  5. Thomas M. Sipos Says:

    Dondero: “Why is Cory assuming that all Military members who join the LP are Anti-Defense?”

    He isn’t. Antiwar is pro-defense.

    Pro-war is anti-defense.

    Cory is assuming that new members are pro-peace/pro-defense; and that they are not pro-war, imperialistic bigots with a psychotic fear of Muslims.

  6. NewFederalist Says:

    I believe they count those (like me) who subscribe to LP News as “members”. When they used to issue membership cards I would always send it back and insist they change their records to reflect my correct status. That may inflate their numbers.

  7. Tom Blanton Says:

    The number of LP members seems to be a closely guarded secret in recent years. For a while, it seemed that the LP was counting everyone who had ever been a member. That number was around 100,000. If the number is now 105,000, what kind of math was used to determine there has been a 25% increase in membership?

    Is there anyone who knows the number of LP members that contribute $25 or more per year? This would be a number that could be better compared to membership numbers in previous years when the number of dues paying members was reported.

  8. Fred C. Says:

    I was once a $25 member of the LP. I signed the non-initiation of force pledge as it was around 99-2000. Soon after that one of their telemarketers got their hooks into me to become a pledge, and being a broke student with little sales resistance I decided the next year that it was too expensive to continue my paid membership in the LP.

    Since I signed the pledge and I assume that they kept me on file in some way or another, could I be currently considered an LP member under the present by-laws?

  9. Tom Blanton Says:

    Absolutely, Fred.

  10. Jason Gatties Says:

    Not sure why, but I just re-upped my national membership. Its not like I’m happy at the moment.

  11. Wes Benedict Says:

    Tom Blanton,

    Shane Cory sends out a very detailed membership report (several pages containing all the different kinds of members) at least every other month to the entire LNC and many LNC members like myself distribute it further. Were you the one I told about this on another blog, maybe Last Free Voice, a few months ago?

  12. Jacob Katzenberg Says:

    When Cory refers to members, he always means $25 and up in the last year, although it includes life members who paid years ago even if they no longer contribute.

    The numbers have gone up because they have started asking people to join (or rejoin) after several years of more or less not doing that.

  13. Tom Bryant Says:

    Fred – you are not counted as a member of the LP. The LP does not count approximately 100,000 people as “members”.

    Austin,

    Membership is distributed to us by National that lists active members as those who have donated $25+ or have signed the pledge after the membership definition change (they are marked differently in the database). National does not go back to everyone who has ever signed the pledge and count them as members.

    When the change was made, we had very few “zero dues members”. This figure has slowly but surely increased since then, and now makes up about 20% of the overall membership in my state.

  14. Tom Blanton Says:

    Tom Bryant says:

    “National does not go back to everyone who has ever signed the pledge and count them as members.”

    When did they stop doing this?

    Tom, go read the actual press release linked above. The figure of 105,000 members is given. There is no way in hell there are that many members that have donated $25 or more in the last year.

    Wes, I don’t remember you quoting any numbers. George Phillies stated the number a while back. It was about 16,000 I think. So, are there about 20,000 contributing members now? Why is there so little transparency about these numbers?

  15. Wes Benedict Says:

    Tom Blanton,

    I’ll need to get more information to fully understand the claims of National’s press release. Thanks for sticking to your guns and challenging me on this one. I may have spoken too soon. Perhaps there’s some mixed reporting of categories going on (which may or may not change the facts, but might change the perceptions—or something like that). I need to make sure what’s going on here myself. Regards.

  16. Bill Wood Says:

    I remember the June ‘07 issue of LP News giving the dues paying membership at around 16,000. The next edition of LP News might contain the year end reports.

  17. Eric Dondero Says:

    Sipos, and who was it who just murdered Benazir Bhutto?

    Answer: Radical Muslims

    You wanna run that by me again? What was that you said, something to the effect of “irrational fear”?

    When 3,000 of your fellow countrymen are killed by Radical Muslims and some of us Americans wish to respond and fight back, you label that as “irrational”?

  18. Eric Dondero Says:

    Here’s something that needs to be considered.

    If Ron Paul goes Constitution Party, what will that do to LP membership? What will that do to LP fundraising efforts?

    And conversely, you’ll see CP efforts soar.

    If RP goes CP, how many of you LP diehards here will join him and send in $25.00 to the Constitutionalists?

  19. Jake Porter Says:

    I think this is the reason that we need to provide members with an annual report at the end of every year that lists membership, candidate, and financial information of the party. I am not talking about a fundraising mailing, but an honest report with the good and the bad included.

  20. Carl Says:

    I suspect most of the growth is the reinstitution of dues.

    (But is he talking about sustaining members or members by another definition? In 2006 the bylaws committee crafted language to allow the LP to claim registered Libertarians and oath signers as members while creating the term sustaining members for those who pay dues.)

    Then again, maybe the 2006 platform reforms are having an effect…

    Maybe.

  21. Rob Hodgkinson Says:

    Eric,

    I am a LP Diehard – I will not change a thing that I am doing to grow the LP. Ron Paul is irrelevant to my efforts to grow the LP into an effective political alternative to the R’s & D’s in Kansas and elsewhere.

    Hard work (mine with the hard work of others recruited by my efforts) is the reason the LP is growing in Kansas.

    Ron Paul is simply a recently well-known libertarian movement messenger. (recently well known to those outside the libertarian movement anyway)

    I worked to grow the Libertarian Party long before the recent Ron Paul presidential candidacy was a newsworthy item.
    I have and continue to grow the LP with Ron Paul running as a Republican.
    I will grow the LP with Ron Paul running as a Constitution Party candidate (if that happens).
    I will grow the LP with Ron Paul running as a Libertarian Party candidate (if that happens).
    I will grow the LP long after the current Ron Paul hysteria and hype is forgotten.
    Ron Paul was never the reason I do what I do as a LP supporter and no one presidential (or other) candidate will ever be that reason.

    Reigning in our government (at the local, state and federal levels) is why I am here working in the LP.

    Those that have tried to work inside the R or D parties for change have failed miserably. I believe that our only hope is to bring a viable third party into the political mix. While I am a realist and know that in Kansas the LP is not a major political factor today – it will be in time.

    Long-term hard work in the political arena – not an “I found my 15 minutes of fame” candidate, is what it will take to change our government to make it better!

  22. Jacob Katzenberg Says:

    Mr. Hodgkinson,

    Some small-l libertarians will find a great deal of humor in your (presumably unintentional) statement that “Reigning in our government (at the local, state and federal levels) is why I am here working in the LP”.

    Presumably, you meant reining

  23. Thomas M. Sipos Says:

    Dondero: “who was it who just murdered Benazir Bhutto? Answer: Radical Muslims … What was that you said, something to the effect of “irrational fear? When 3,000 of your fellow countrymen are killed by Radical Muslims and some of us Americans wish to respond and fight back, you label that as “irrational”?”

    More than 3000 Americans were murdered since 9/11—by whites, blacks, and browns, by Jews and Christians and atheists. Murderers come in every color and religion and non-religion.

    Yet when you single out one group for “war”—something you don’t do to groups— one may call your response bigoted and irrational.

  24. Michael H. Wilson Says:

    Rob Hodgkinson, nice words and a great website you guys have.

    MHW, Vancouver, WA

  25. Marco Says:

    Go Libertarians Go! :-)

  26. disinter Says:

    Are they up to 10 members now? Or is it 11?

  27. Marc Montoni Says:

    Lot’s of people talking about how many teeth there are in the horse’s mouth…

    The LP has—always—had a “free” membership category. Since its inception. In 1972.

    I was an employee at LPHQ (1989-1993) when we were still offering “Instant Member” cards in bundles of 100 via the LP literature sales catalog. It was a simple postcard with a tear-off part that you kept, which was a wallet-card sized thing. It said what any membership card would say, had a place for you to sign it, and the back side had the statement of principles.

    The part you didn’t keep was a standard business-reply post card. The membership statement was there with a place for you to sign it, and of course it had space to enter name, address, and other contact info. Being business reply, it was even free for the signer to mail.

    After several years of pushing the “free” memberships, however, the LNC at the time took a look at the effectiveness of marketing the “instant member” category—and determined that normal prospect lists (ie names gathered at gun shows and college fairs and the like) had a better “conversion” rate than the “Instant” names. As a result, the LNC decided to stop marketing the category.

    You could still join as a free member, but other than filing the signature in a portable file box with the signatures of others and noting on the national LP database that the person had signed, free members were not pursued further. As stated, their response rate was extremely low. And LPHQ no longer marketed it as an option.

    [Interestingly, LPHQ staff revealed that their experience was the same in the first months of 2006 under the so-called “zero dues” regime—free members generally don’t ever wind up donating to the Party. I suspect few free members (if any) volunteer, either.]

    Throughout the nineties, there were still a few people who took advantage of the ability to recruit free members. I did so (normally only with people I suspected I personally would eventually convert into donors). The last “signature only” (ie free) member I recruited and submitted to LPHQ was 2006; in January. By February, I had collected a donation from him.

    I have a copy of one of the last correct national membership reports that now-departed LPHQ staff distributed in April of 2004. Most of the staff who knew how to generate these reports were dismissed from LPHQ shortly after that. These reports counted all the people who had ever signed the LP membership pledge as of the report date.

    On the archived report mentioned above, there were 19,276 people who had signed & paid; 69,831 who had signed and paid at one time but who had “lapsed”, and 26,294 FREE members. These 26k free members were “lost” by LPHQ:

    When Geoff Neale put LPHQ on the new Raiser’s Edge database as of 09/14/2004, he failed to retain the signature status of the Non-Contributing members (the 26,294 number). LPHQ still has the names on the database, just no signature flag. I have suggested to current LPHQ staff several times that they fire up the old database and recapture those signature flags, if only to improve accuracy, but they have not done it so far.

    In any case, if you take the number Cory says have signed (105,000) and add the missing 26,294, there are actually over 131,000 people who have signed the LP’s pledge—and every one of them is a “member”—just not necessarily a “Sustaining” member. I think using that number is entirely appropriate.

    The LP uses dues-paying members only internally, as it should. The Democrats and Republiboobs don’t EVER reveal how many donors they have, why should we?

    Externally, HQ counts everyone who ever signed the pledge. I’ve actually been trying to get all Libertarians to do this for a long time. It is entirely accurate to state that “135,000 Americans have signed the Libertarian Party’s membership pledge”, and it sounds a hell of a lot better than “12,000…”.

    In fact when I was doing a lot of radio interviews, when asked how many LP members there were, my answer was always “there are over a quarter-million registered Libertarians in the dozen-odd states where it is legal to register Libertarian.” This got it into the discussion that there were more Libertarians than could fit into a phone booth—and at the same time slip into the conversation that registration is discriminatory in many states. It was bait which most of my interviewers managed to catch and bite, giving me an opportunity to discuss our Soviet ballot access laws.

    But when talking to my fellow members, I always use the number of “current” donors.

    Nowadays, Cory’s reports seem to be honest. He produces one report that just shows the total number of donors. As of 11/30/07, he says there are 14,017 donors. He produces a second report that breaks down the number of free & sustaining members vs nonmember subscribers.

    That’s sufficent. At least with some primary-school adding and subtracting, you can figure out what the real member/subscriber/free numbers are.

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