Though third-party nominees received increased attention from both voters and the mainstream media in this year’s election cycle, they’re still up against the historic tendency of voters to ultimately cast their votes for Republicans and Democrats.
AUSTIN, Texas — Although some indicators suggest the 2016 presidential election could be closer than initially expected, prominent third-party candidates are urging voters not to waver in their support for options outside the traditional two-party system.
Alternatives to the Democrat and Republican nominees, such as the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein and former Gov. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, received unprecedented attention in this election cycle as dissatisfaction with the two major candidates soared to unprecedented highs.
But third parties traditionally struggle to hold the public’s interest as Election Day approaches, with many voters eventually falling in line with one of the two major parties. While some polls previously suggested a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton, others are now showing a tighter than expected race, which could also scare off some potential third-party voters.
A RealClearPolitics analysis of polls which include all four candidates, which was last updated on Wednesday, suggested Johnson would net about 4.1 percent of the popular vote and Stein could get as much as 2.1 percent.
If either candidate can net 5 percent of the popular vote on Nov. 8, they’ll unlock up to $10 million in additional federal funding for future elections. That money could unleash more political power by enabling the Greens or Libertarians to reach more potential voters.
While some polls indicate that Johnson’s unprecedented support is fading in the eleventh hour before the election, Johnson tweeted on Thursday that his support was especially strong among voters who identify as independent.
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) November 3, 2016
In an online poll of 601 likely voters who identify as independents, Bloomberg Politics found that 19 percent support Johnson and 8 percent support Stein.
In an Oct. 31 tweet, Stein urged voters to make a “strategic” vote and go Green.
In a statement published recently on the Stein campaign’s website, the Green Party nominee called it a “bellwether year” in which her candidacy reached new voters in new communities. Encouraging her supporters to push for 5 percent of the vote, Stein continued:
“As corporate, mainstream political pundits scoff at and attack my ‘unlikely’ candidacy, we have been traveling throughout the country, talking with people from all walks of life and organizing on the ground with a fast-growing base of support from ‘unlikely’ voters: millennials, indebted students, poor and working class people, immigrants, people of color, and many others who have given up on the two establishment parties out of disgust and frustration.”
Green Party backers have also used the hashtag #InvestYourVote on Twitter to encourage voters to take a long-term view of the potential effectiveness of voting for a third-party candidate:
On Oct. 31, Stein and Johnson faced off in a televised debate hosted by PBS’ Tavis Smiley, marking an unusually mainstream forum for the candidates. During the program, the pair reacted to the renewed FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails and other recent developments in this often stressful election.
Another alternative candidate receiving an unusual level of attention in the lead-up to Election Day is Evan McMullin, an independent from Utah who formerly served as a CIA operative and as a policy advisor to Congress. Polls and electoral analysts have even suggested McMullin has a chance of winning an electoral vote in the state, where some members of the Church of Latter Day Saints see him as a conservative alternative to Republican candidate Donald Trump.
On Oct. 29, one of McMullin’s tweets went viral after Trump told Fox News that he’d “never heard of” McMullin and accused him of being a “puppet” of Bill Kristol, the neoconservative founding editor of The Weekly Standard.
In a response which has been retweeted over 18,000 times, McMullin fired back: “Yes you’ve never heard of me because while you were harassing women at beauty pageants, I was fighting terrorists abroad.”
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) October 30, 2016