Thursday, March 18, 2010

A third party?

Sifting through our last national poll really makes me think the time is ripe for a third party to have some success.

Consider these findings:

-Independents are extremely fed up with both parties, giving Congressional Democrats a 61% disapproval rating and Congressional Republicans a 63% one.

-Beyond their general disapproval independents think both parties are too extreme ideologically. 50% think Congressional Republicans are too conservative and 49% think Congressional Democrats are too liberal compared to only 29% and 31% respectively who think those entities are 'about right.'

-The ideological unhappiness is not exclusive to independents. 20% of Democrats think that their party is too liberal and 20% of Republicans think that their party is too conservative.

Combine the Democrats and Republicans who think their party's too extreme with the independents who don't like anyone and you have a pretty significant swath of the electorate.

Of course there are a lot of reasons why a meaningful alternative won't emerge in 2012. For a third party to have any success it would really have to stand for something, and it's hard to say if being the great moderate alternative can get peopled fired up and rallied around the cause. I think it also needs to be bigger than a single politician's raging ambition- can a party really be built up around Michael Bloomberg's desire to be President?

The conditions are right for someone besides the Democrats and Republicans to get some traction. But there's a long way to go for that to happen.


d.eris said...

Tom, you often ask readers for suggestions and comments for future polls. Like many others, I don't think we need to, or, frankly, can wait until 2012 to see the emergence of credible and viable third party and independent candidates for office. There are literally hundreds of third party and independent candidates running for office at all levels of government this year. Does PPP plan to explicitly assess support for the many Green, Libertarian, Constitution Party and independent candidates for governor, House and Senate in 2010?

Ben Daniels said...

I think there's a real opportunity for a moderate or a liberal wing of the Democratic party to break off. Some analysis shows a pretty clear internal split:

Voting records:

(complete series -

Voter identification:

And political contributions:

However, I don't think there's a procedural ability for a third party to have any success, mainly because of the Senate. While I think coalition government would work just fine in the lower house, the Senate is likely to continue to be impossible to move legislation through without a massive majority. Hence the Democrats in some ways represent a permanent coalition of "moderate" and "liberal." It's effective in our form of governance, but it has some obvious internal inconsistencies.

Ross Levin said...

Public Policy Polling should start including more third party and independent candidates in their polls. Especially if a prominent third party candidate is running - like Rich Whitney in Illinois or Laura Wells in California this year - but even if there isn't a particularly notable third party candidate running. If the poll excludes choices that will be on the ballot, it isn't accurate.

Steve said...

Tom, we hear a lot in the media about hypothetical support for a generic "third party," but actual third party candidates often have to beg just to get included in polling. I would urge you to include more of these candidates and parties in your surveys as well as ask more questions about why people tell pollsters they want a third party but don't vote for one. That's a question I'd like to see answered.

TCE said...

A Third Party won't be viable anytime soon because of the ballot access laws. It costs thousands and sometimes millions to even have your name on the ballot. Times have changed since Ross Perot had a real shot at winning.

Anonymous said...

I think you are being disingenuous and myopic, by not including at least some of independent candidates or third parties in the current races. This is especially true in some states where independents make up a large segment of the electorate. Each state has its own rules as to how a minor party becomes a major party, get splaced on the ballot, or even allow an independent run for office. Many will argue the point that independents do not win or even have an impact. Usually, that comment comes from either of the two major parties who are worried. And they don’t see what is happening in their own state or the country. We are undergoing a fundamental change in our political process. Your own pools show that. Some cases in point; high-level anti-incumbent fever, distrust of both political parties and anger at special interest groups.
Look at Arkansas, where 92% of the registered voters are independents. Over the last few months The three percent of Republicans were on the “you will split the vote and put Blanche Lincoln back in office” bandwagon when Trevor Drown announced he would be running as an independent. Instead of focusing on providing a stellar champion they could all get behind, that was their message. That message didn’t work. Nine months later, we now have 8 members of the GOP who will run in the primary and then have a run-off. The two front runners make most of us want to vomit. Blanche has a credible challenger, regardless of who wins that race, neither will work for us.
Ironically, three weeks before the first primary takes place Drown is required to turn in his 10,000 signatures to secure his place on the November Ballot. So he will be on the ballot from three to seven weeks before the two major parties have chosen the two that will join him. The local media has been watching him and as evidenced by the coverage and interest it is anticipated he will get more than enough to make it happen. Will you put him on the poll then? Of course you will, the results of any poll which doesn’t include him would be meaningless.
I guess you will have to make your decision on a case by case basis. Research and check the pulse at the state level. Be careful who you ask, what you hear, especially from bloggers. Many have their own agenda, candidate, etc and will do anything to sway your opinion. And in full disclosure, I support Trevor Drown and his message, like him I am an Arkansas Conservative, independent of any political party.

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