Presidential Campaign

In shock poll, Libertarian Johnson beats Trump among economists

Greg Nash

First, the numbers. In a new poll from the National Association of Business Economics (NABE), asking which presidential candidate would do the best job managing the American economy, 55 percent choose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 15 percent chose Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and 14 percent chose Republican nominee Donald Trump.

{mosads}The results are interesting for several reasons. The National Association of Business Economics has a strongly pro-business viewpoint. It is not a bastion of liberal or populist economists. It is a mild surprise that Clinton would be so comparatively popular with this group, but it is a shocker that libertarian Gary Johnson would be seen by more of these economists as a better manager of the national economy than Trump.

Why does Johnson outperform Trump among these economists?

Most importantly on the positive side, Johnson represents a clear and coherent economic and political philosophy that conservative and libertarian economists can understand and support if they choose. On the negative side, Trump has no coherent organizing economic philosophy, spent decades acting like and supporting traditional liberal Democrats, has repeatedly shifted his positions on major issues and has little more trust from economists than he has earned among the general electorate.

It is a huge victory for Johnson to emerge in this poll of economists as the main challenger to Clinton on economic policy. I have previously written in The Hill that Johnson should be included in the presidential debates since he is on the ballot in all 50 states, has achieved support in polls that is increasingly in double digits, and has offered a very clear agenda on economic policy and other major issues.

I have long written that on a number of issues I agree with the libertarianism offered by candidates from former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to Johnson, and on other issues I do not. For example, I agree with the libertarian opposition to infringement on civil liberties in the Big Brother state that has grown with widespread eavesdropping from big government, and I agree with libertarians on their opposition to what is called the war on drugs, and I believe pot should be legalized (and Jack Daniels should always remain legal!).

I do not agree with the degree of laissez-faire advocated by libertarians in an economy that I believe is rigged by big business and their lobbyists and campaign donations.

Whatever any of us may believe philosophically about the economic policy of libertarians, pro or con, Johnson makes a major contribution to our national debates, as did Paul before him. The libertarian perspective is valuable, important and deserves to be considered by all voters. It is also fair to note that Johnson, like Paul before him, has won a fair share of support from younger voters who are the future of the nation.

If someone had asked me to predict who would emerge as the leading alternative to Clinton in a poll of respected economists, I would never have guessed that the runner-up to Clinton would be Johnson, and not Trump.

The truth about Trump is that he is a crony capitalist, who now states that he supported the Clintons and other liberals with donations for so long because he wanted to obtain influence with them while they were in power. He has led several businesses to bankruptcy. He has called himself the “king of debt,” a description that Johnson or Paul and other leading libertarians would never use to describe themselves.

While the policies offered by Johnson are clear, compelling and transparent, the business success claimed by Trump can only be proven when he releases his tax returns and the magnitude of his debt to domestic and foreign bankers.

While the viewpoints offered by Johnson are rooted in a long-held and consistent philosophy that can be evaluated by those who agree with him, and those who do not, the viewpoints offered by Trump seem to change like the leaves that change their colors when summer gives way to fall. We know what Johnson believes today, and will believe tomorrow. Can anyone suggest we know what Trump will believe tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow?

Economists live in a world of economic data, facts and opinions informed by their experiences. It is a stunner that in a major poll of business economists, Johnson, not Trump, would emerge as the leading alternative to Clinton.

Whether we agree with him or not, let’s give credit to where it is due to Gary Johnson. It is a considerable achievement that he performs better than Trump in this poll of economists — which is one more reason he deserves to participate in the presidential debates this fall.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


Tags Donald Trump Economics economist economy Gary Johnson Hillary Clinton NABE National Association of Business Economics poll
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