Somebody has gotten a case of Third Party Fevah! (And it’s the Washington Post.) But is your Average American Voter on the street ready to find a third way? Well… I suppose that depends on who you ask.
Americans split about evenly on the question of whether the country needs a third major political party, but most — more than two-thirds — are open to supporting a qualified independent candidate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Some 48 percent think there is a need for a third way in party politics, and just as many, 49 percent, say not so. Overall, 22 percent say they would definitely vote for a third party candidate with whom they agreed on most issues; another 46 percent would at least consider it. Fewer than three in 10 would flatly rule it out.
Among the half the country who says there is a need for an alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans, nearly all would at least consider actually voting for a qualified third-party candidate. Among those who don’t see the need, nearly half wouldn’t even consider voting that way if given the opportunity.
You can read the full results of the poll here. Without digging too far into the machinery of this particular survey, the results are pretty much as you’d expect. Those who are mostly locked into one party affiliation identity or the other are mostly opposed to the idea of a viable national third party. Independents who swear no allegiance are obviously far more in favor of it, by more than a two to one margin. The one difference among those in the former group is that Democrats are somewhat warmer to the idea, and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. With Obama’s numbers in the tank and a very tight election (at best) in front of them, they probably know that a serious third party challenge would likely hurt the GOP nominee far more at this point, at least given the list of names currently being somewhat seriously considered as contenders.
Ron Paul is the most likely choice and is cited in this poll, noting that every three-way race forecast with the Texas congressman in the mix shows him sinking the Republican’s chances at once. (But Paul still seems to want his son Rand to have a seat at a much larger table later, so he’ll likely pass.) Some other dark horse contenders like Michael Bloomberg produce a similar result. While Obama is in office, there simply isn’t any meaningful chatter about a third party challenge from the left which would further reduce his chances.
Much of this talk is probably still just ginning up media support for Americans Elect, the online attempt to set up a 50 state qualified challenger from outside the system. But with the names generally being tossed around for that, the result would probably be pretty much the same as above if it actually gained any traction. The odds of their generating the kind of money you need to compete with the RNC and the DNC seem slim at best, though.