The Incredible Shrinking 3rd Party Voter
Turns out President Donald Trump has good reason to be playing rhetorical footsie with former supporters of former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson supporters—the road to his re-election may well be blocked by those 7.8 million Americans who voted third-party or independent in 2016.
“The combined national NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls from this year,” reported NBC News last week, “have interviewed 215 voters who said they backed either [Gary] Johnson or [Jill] Stein in 2016….Forty-seven percent say they’re voting for [Joe] Biden, 20 percent are supporting Trump, and 33 percent are unsure or say they’re backing another candidate.”
That sample size is very small, but the implications are potentially huge, and in line with several other indicators about third-party voters over the past two years. If you crudely assigned 47 percent of the 5,946,559 Johnson/Stein voters to Biden, 20 percent to Trump, and otherwise kept the same totals for the major-party candidates from 2016, suddenly the Democrat is winning 50.2 percent of the popular vote, and the Republican is 4.47 million votes behind. And oh yeah, at least two-thirds of the third party vote goes POOF!
That’s not how life works in the real world, of course, but there’s plenty of other supporting evidence for the theory that the indie vote will collapse, in ways not friendly to the incumbent. To wit:
* The 2018 midterm congressional elections, which featured the highest voter turnout in a century, surpassed almost all expectations for Democrats while being strikingly brutal for third-party and independent candidates.
* Exit polls of Johnson and Stein voters in 2016, while showing a much higher propensity for just sitting out any contest without smaller-party alternatives, nonetheless tilted more positively toward Hillary Clinton. “[We] asked voters [who] they would have cast ballots for if there were only two candidates (Clinton and Trump),” CBS News wrote at the t
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