Some interesting findings from Gallup:
Gallup has always found political independents to be most desirous of a third party, and 68% currently are. But right now there is also a significant party gap, with 52% of Republicans favoring a third party, compared with 33% of Democrats.
This is the first time Gallup finds a significantly higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats in favor of a third party. During much of President Bush's term, the opposite was true, with Democrats more likely to favor the formation of a third party. That gap narrowed in 2007, after the Democrats' victories in the 2006 midterms, and there has been a minimal difference between the two parties until the current poll.
Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit chews the cud:
My assumption is that partisan support for a third party should spike when a party is out of power and has nothing to lose by splitting (or flirting with splitting) over ideology. That's what you're seeing, I think, in the Democratic trend line from 2003 to 2006: Anti-war liberals were frustrated that their leadership hadn't done more to check Bush and to convince the public that progressivism is the truth, the light, and the way, so they fantasized about going rogue. Once Democrats took back Congress, they put that aside and focused on influencing the new congressional majority. And indeed, you see a dip from 2006 to 2008, when Pelosi took over and everyone rallied behind their party's nominee in a presidential election year. Conversely, partisan support for a third party should crater when a party is in power and looking to hold together to preserve its legislative majority — or so I would have guessed. But neither the Democratic nor the Republican trend line follows that prediction. From 2008 to 2010, despite total control of government, Democrats' support for a third party rose seven points. Republican support for a third party also rose by seven points when they had total control of government from 2003 to 2006; my hunch is that's because conservatives rallied around Bush after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, which artificially depressed third-party support at the beginning of the decade. But check out the numbers from 2010 to 2011, after the great tea party tidal wave: An increase of five points, notwithstanding the fact that Boehner and company now have de facto veto power over the Democratic agenda.
My three cents: 1) Economic suckage from 2008-201X has also soured voters on the two major parties; 2) the Tea Party so far, in contrast to the Dean-screaming anti-war left, has resisted being domesticated by the Mother Party; and 3) all the long-term public opinion trends are pointing in the same unmistakeable direction–away from one of the last long-term duopolies left standing in American life.
All three of these points get major play in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, the Nick Gillespie/Matt Welch joint that you should be pre-ordering early and often. Stressed often there is the potency of political independence: Not only does your main policy issue remain in the public discussion (instead of being swallowed by the Borg), but you also have an easier time sidestepping the kind of pitfalls that bedevil the partisan, team-first mind.
Does all of this mean we're going to see some hot third party action in 2012? No. But what it does indicate, as explained well by Reason Polling Director Emily Ekins below, is that while all the systemic biases toward binary politics remain, Americans are clearly yearning for more real variety within the major parties. And when someone finally figures out a way to breach the duopoly, that water's gonna flood through fast.
Read more about the Reason-Rupe poll here, and watch it explained below: