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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Many Americans want a third-party option, Democrats even more than Republicans

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A 43% plurality of respondents also indicated being interested in voting for a third party or independent candidate (not Democratic or Republican) in the next presidential election.

  • Yes: 43%
  • No: 30%
  • Unsure: 27%

The findings are particularly interesting in light of the recent uptick in people disaffiliating from the Republican party, though the results do little to clarify where exactly the disenchantment with the two-party system is emanating from, whether it’s a new phenomenon, and whether interest has ticked up recently among certain voters more so than others.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, Independents are the most supportive cohort of adding more parties. Here’s the affiliation breakdown of the 48% of respondents who said more parties are needed:

  • Independents: 60%
  • Democrat: 48%
  • Republicans: 36%

Likewise, Independents were the least likely to say having just two parties was “fine” at 13%, while 29% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans said the status quo was okay.

But when it came to expressing interest in potentially voting for a third-party presidential candidate, interest ticked down considerably among Democrats and up a bit among Republicans, while Independents continued to show the strongest interest. Here’s the breakdown when people were asked if they would be “interested in voting for a third party or independent candidate (not Democratic or Republican) in the next presidential election.”

  • Independents: 66%
  • Republican: 41%
  • Democrat: 25% 

The 23-point gap between Democrats who think another party is needed and those who would actually consider voting for a third-party presidential candidate next cycle might reflect the reality that Democratic voters remain keenly aware of the potential consequences of failing to remain loyal to the top of the ticket. 

What’s perhaps more mysterious is which Republicans are expressing a relatively high interest for a third-party candidate—is it more so the old-guard Romney Republicans, the Trumpers who tend to dislike establishment Republicans, or a healthy mix of both? 

Finally, the high interest among Independents suggests any third-party candidacy is likely to siphon votes from both a Democratic and Republican presidential candidate alike. But it’s impossible to have any idea whether a third-party candidate would lure more Democratic leaners or Republican leaners away. That would surely depend on the candidates running and a clearer understanding of the political leanings of the growing number of people who now identify as independent. In short, it’s complicated.


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