The latest Reason-Rupe poll results reveal a potential opportunity for a third-party presidential candidate. Seventy two percent of Americans say they would or might consider voting for a third-party presidential candidate, while 48 percent of Americans say they would support a presidential candidate who was "conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues." Eighteen percent of Americans said they would strongly support such a candidate, and this is presuming the candidate ran under the banner of a third party. Finally, 37 percent of Americans said they would consider voting for a third-party Tea Party candidate if she or he entered the race against President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee in 2012. These are significant chunks of the population willing to consider and potentially vote for a non-conventional candidate.
Several factors are likely driving this support for non-conventional presidential candidates.
First, there is overwhelming evidence that the American electorate breaks down into more than just simple liberal or conservative blocs. ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd finds that 51 percent of Americans do not fit into conventional liberal or conservative buckets. Gallup finds that at least 44 percent of Americans do not fit this mold. The Reason-Rupe poll also finds that 44 percent do not fit this conventional division. These numbers suggest that traditional Democratic or Republican presidential candidates may not represent the political views of nearly half of all American voters.
Second, Dowd also explains how Obama's low presidential approval ratings combined with the GOP presidential candidates' inability to appeal to Independents may create a ripe environment for a third-party candidate to enter the race.
However, it is important to be clear that as a result of our electoral structure, a third-party candidate is not likely to win a general election. Nevertheless, Americans' willingness—if not downright eagerness—to support a third-party candidate signals that a non-conventional presidential candidate may be able to win one of the two major parties' presidential nominations. This also might explain how a candidate such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), once considered a very remote longshot, is now third in the GOP race for president according to the latest Gallup poll results.
Preferences for the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination as of August 2011
Based on Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents
If the Tea Party ran its own candidate against President Obama and the Republican nominee in the 2012 presidential election, would you consider voting for him or her?
Would you consider voting for an independent or third-party candidate for president in 2012?
Generally speaking, would you support or oppose an independent or third-party candidate who described him or herself as "conservative on economic issues" and "liberal on social issues"?
Click here for full survey results.
The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Click here for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.