80% of Americans Would Consider Voting for a 3rd Party/Independent Presidential Candidate


The recent Reason-Rupe poll finds that 80% of Americans say they would or might consider voting for an Independent or third-party presidential candidate in the 2012 election. Specifically, 60% said they would consider voting for an independent or third-party candidate, 20% said they might consider, 17% said they would not consider, and 3% said they did not know whether they would consider voting for an Independent or third-party presidential candidate.

To be clear, considering and voting are two separate things. Nevertheless, the high percentage tells us something about the current political climate. It means that individuals are willing to at least consider candidates who do not necessarily fit the cookie-cutter molds of Democrats and Republicans and suggests that the electorate is receptive to unconventional candidates.

Across partisan identification, 89% of Independents (including partisan leaners), 86% of Republicans, and 71% of Democrats said they would or might consider candidates outside of the two major political parties.

Note: Partisan identification is based on Q42 in the questionnaire. Independents include both Democratic and Republican leaners as well as pure independents.

Beyond receptiveness to unconventional partisan candidates, Americans report having little trust in the two major political parties. When asked which party they trust to govern more responsibly, the leading answer was "neither" at 35%, followed by Democrats at 31%, and Republicans at 23%.

These answers varied by political views. 83% of pure independents (non-leaners), 35% of non-Tea Party Republicans, 30% of Tea Party supporters, and 25% of Democrats answered that "neither" party could be trusted to govern responsibly. Taking into consideration margin of error, Tea Party supporters and non-Tea Party Republicans are statistically the same and Democrats are only somewhat less likely to state "neither". This reveals that there is considerable discontent toward the major political parties even among members of both parties. 

Note: Tea Party supporters reported they were "very favorable" to the Tea Party movement. Republicans (not Tea Party) self-identified as Republican and are not Tea Party supporters. Independents only include Independents who did not lean Republican or Democratic. Democrats self-identified as such.

Democrats appear to be more favorable toward the Democratic Party than are Republicans toward the Republican Party with 66% of Democrats trusting the Democratic Party to govern most responsibly. In contrast, 46% of Tea Partiers, and 55% of non-Tea Party Republicans trust the Republican Party to govern most responsibly.

Trust in the two primary political parties remained fairly constant across most demographics. However distrust in the parties does change across income and education. The groups least trusting of the two dominant parties include households making $50,000-$99,999 a year (39%/40%) and high school and college graduates (37%/40%).

Those making less than $25,000 a year and those making over $200,000 a year were least likely to choose "neither" and thus more trusting of one of the dominant parties. Those making less than $25,000 a year were most likely to say the Democratic Party (40%) and 17% said the Republican Party. Of those making over $200,000 a year the group was split between trusting Democrats and Republicans, with 33% choosing Republicans and 28% choosing Democrats. Those without a high school degree and those with a post-graduate degree were also more trusting of one of the political parties. Of high school graduates, 49% chose Democrats and 12% chose Republicans. Of those with post-graduate degrees 38% chose Democrats and 22% choose Republicans.