When Considering Third-Party Candidates, Voters Must Look to the Past

Photo courtesy of Connie Ma

The 2016 presidential campaign has become one of the most divisive and hate-filled elections in the history of American politics.

Citizens are forced to either support “Crooked Hillary,” or join the so-called “basket of deplorables” that are Trump supporters.

Clinton and Trump are the two most unfavorable candidates in American history, polls show.

About 37 percent of voters consider Clinton “highly unfavorable,” according to a poll conducted by fivethirtyeight. That is about 5 percent higher than any candidate before her, excluding unfavorable ratings for Donald Trump.

Trump is considered “strongly unfavorable” by about 53 percent of voters, which is more than 20 percent higher than the previous high, which was President Barack Obama in 2012.

Nearly six in 10 Americans said they either “dislike” or “hate” Clinton or Trump, according to a poll done by NBC.

The distaste for Trump among a number of likely voters is leading some to consider casting a so-called “protest vote.”

This means voters would choose one of the third party candidates — Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein — instead of one of the two major-party candidates.

Based on prior elections, third-party candidates don’t gain much traction.

The push for action against the two major-party candidates rarely leads to a full third-party candidacy win.

Look at the 1992 election with Democratic candidate Bill Clinton and Republican candidate George H. W. Bush. There was also a third-party independent candidate: Ross Perot.

During the general election, a number of likely voters saw Perot as an alternative to the two major-party candidates.

This was not as much of a “protest vote”; some voters actually identified more with Perot’s ideology.

They believed that what Perot fought for, including lowering the deficit and protecting American jobs, were things that the other two candidates didn’t offer.

Surprisingly, Perot did garner a decent amount of support. He received 18.9 percent of the votes compared to Bush’s 37.4 percent and Bill Clinton’s 43 percent.

While Perot did receive a significant amount of attention and garnered a lot of support, he didn’t come extremely close to winning the election or taking second place.

Perot is often used as an example of a third-party candidate who stole the election’s attention from the two primary candidates.

Some say that the votes for Perot took away some of Bush’s, handing Clinton the election.

This means that voting for Perot wasn’t a wash. It changed the tide of the election.

Perot’s political campaign was important to many Americans who wanted a different ideology governing the country, and Perot ultimately earned 18 percent of the total votes.

Another example ­— the 2000 presidential campaign involving George W. Bush, Al Gore and Ralph Nader — shows that voting for a third-party candidate during a neck-tied election not only does little to raise support for that third-party candidate,
but it can hand the election to one of the major-party candidates — in this case, former President Bush.

A quick look at this year’s presidential election shows that the third-party candidates could have that same effect that both Perot and Nader had in their respective elections: a spoiler for one of the two major candidates.

As of Oct. 17, Clinton and Trump are close nationally among likely voters — 45.9 percent are likely to vote for Clinton, 39.1 percent are likely to vote for Trump, 6.4 are likely to vote for Johnson and 2.4 are likely to vote for Stein, according to a RealClear Politics poll.

In this election, voting for a third-party candidate will not win that candidate the presidency. Either Trump or Clinton will be our next president. But it could pull enough support away from Trump or Clinton to give one of those two the lead.

This is not to say voters should not consider voting for a third-party candidate, especially if they truly identify with that candidate’s platform.

Third-party candidates are far from receiving a plurality of likely voter support, though the country will more than likely be stuck with one of the major-party candidates.

So, voting for the “lesser-of-two evils” might be a worthwhile option to consider.

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