Comparison of Notable Third-Party Candidates’ Standing in June Polls and Final Vote Share, 1980-2004 Elections
The drop in support during the campaign is likely due to two factors. First, historically, third-party candidates’ support typically drops as the campaign approaches Election Day, perhaps because voters realize the candidates have little chance to win. Second, generally speaking, support for third-party candidates tends to be higher in the broader pool of registered voters than in the smaller group of actual voters.
Lower-profile third-party candidates also tend to receive higher support in preference polls when included in the list of candidates than they receive in the actual vote. Gallup has asked the vote-choice question that includes minor-party candidates in each election year since 1996, including in the fall, when Gallup begins measuring likely voters’ preferences. In every instance, the available registered and likely voter estimates exceeded the actual percentage of the vote the candidate received in the election.