Gallup released an interesting poll today with respect to the appetite of American voters for a third major party. According to the poll, 45% of Americans believe “the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people” (a number that has increased from 38% in September of 2011), while 46% believe that “they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed” (a number that has declined from 55% since September of 2011.)
40% of Democrats, 36% of Republicans, and 58% of Independents currently support the concept of a third party. It is important to note that the “58% support level among independents…is the second lowest on record.”
In addition, “Gallup tested the support for three third-party candidates identified by name and party — Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), Jill Stein (Green Party), and Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) — and found 1% support for each, with another 1% volunteering another third-party candidate’s name.”
In other words, 46% of the country may support the concept of a third major party, but the practical application of that concept as it relates to current candidates is quite small.
Is that a reflection on the candidates? To an extent. Does it mean that the American public’s primary interest is reforming our two-party system without the addition of a third party? Quite possibly. Could a highly popular figure run on a third-party ticket in the relatively near future and capture a significant percentage of the vote? It could happen.
Recall that Ross Perot received 19% of the vote in the 1992 presidential election. With the rise of the tea party in recent years, a growing dissatisfaction among voters with respect to politics as usual, and a blurred line in many cases between big-government Republicans and big-government Democrats, it is possible that a charismatic third-party candidate with a solid record and established support base could capture a larger percentage of the vote than Perot did in ’92.
However, it is the question of whether or not that candidate could win an election–and whom that candidate would be taking votes away from if he/she didn’t win–that leaves many Americans still quite concerned about a third-party embrace.
One can’t predict the future when it comes to the potential rise of a third major party. However, the willingness of many Americans to stand up for principles over parties, to hold politicians within their own parties accountable, and to think outside the box when it comes to America’s political future–well, those things are growing from where I’m standing with each passing day.