These latest results come as both the Democratic and Republican parties are experiencing formidable challenges in the 2016 presidential race from unlikely corners of their ranks, including several candidates who have never been elected to a political office. On the Democratic side, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has drawn a large following from left-leaning Americans. In the Republican nomination contest, real estate mogul Donald Trump has rocked his GOP competitors with personal attacks and unconventional political statements, and Dr. Ben Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina are now among the front-runners for their party’s nomination. None of these candidates has said they will seek a third-party bid for the presidency if they don’t receive the nomination, but their popularity supports the idea that Americans may be willing to consider candidates outside of the pool of typical politicians.
Americans have been warm to the idea of a third party for at least a decade. When Gallup first asked whether a third party is needed in 2003, four in 10 Americans said it was. The figure climbed in subsequent polls, reaching a majority of 58% in 2007. With the exception of presidential election years in 2008 and 2012, majorities of 52% to 60% of Americans have said a third party is needed to address the inadequacies of the Republican and Democratic parties.