Gary Johnson

Rumors of Gary Johnson's Poll-Slippage Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

If voters are "moving away from third-party options," as FiveThirtyEight claims, the data isn't there yet


As Scott Shackford noted earlier, the Washington Post's Callum Borchers made the claim yesterday that Gary Johnson's polls are "flat-lining," a term that can be evocative of death. Over at the number-crunching site FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten sounds a similarly pessimistic note about the Libertarian Party nominee:

Johnson's support in national polls — in both our polls-only and polls-plus forecasts — has been trending downwards slightly.3 That suggests voters may be moving away from third-party options[.]

While one tangles with Harry Enten & co. at one's peril, I don't think the numbers at all suggest that voters are moving away from third parties. Post-convention polling for Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein looks almost identical to pre-convention polling.

If you go to RealClearPolitics' poll-aggregation pages for three-way and four-way presidential surveys, you will see find 11 polls conducted completely since July 29 that include Johnson, and nine that include Stein. Here is what they average for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, GJ and JS:

HC 43.5% DT 36.5% GJ 8.8% JS 4.0%

When you take those exact same 11 polling outfits (in order to create apples-to-apples comparisons across polling methodologies), and locate their most recent survey that took place wholly before the conventions, you get this:

HC 40.4% DT 36.7% GJ 8.9% JS 3.8%

Third-party candidates were pulling a combined 12.7 percent before the conventions, 12.8 percent afterward. There's no movement there.

Now, without question FiveThirtyEight does all kinds of complicated weighting and averaging and methodology-parsing that are beyond my immediate competence. The site's rolling "polls-plus" number for Johnson has, for instance, has gone like this:

June 8-11: Between 7.7 and 8.0 percent.

June 12-18: 7.8-8.4%

June 19-25: 8.2-8.5%

June 26-July 2: 8.3-8.7%

July 3-9: 7.9-8.3%

July 10-16: 7.9-9.4%

July 17-23: 8.5-9.9%

July 24-30: 7.6-8.8%

July 31-Aug. 6: 7.5-7.9%

Aug. 7: 7.7%

Basically, Johnson had a peak from July 15-24, a period during which results from a number of his most favorable polling outfits were bunched (while a number of his least favorable didn't produce), and has otherwise stayed around the same level before and since.

But go back above to Harry Enten's suggestion that "voters may be moving away from third-party options." See that footnote in the text? It goes to a fact of some relevance to that very conclusion: "FiveThirtyEight does not include Stein's percentage of the vote." Hard to make judgments about third parties when you don't measure 'em.

Jill Stein is going through a level of scrutiny right now unprecedented for a Green Party candidate in modern history, partly out of Democrats' irritable desire to bring the last of the disgruntled Bernie-or-bust crowd into line. How that heightened exposure and skepticism translates into polling numbers is, I think, still an open question.

Speaking of which, here I am on MSNBC's AM Joy yesterday talking about these issues:

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  1. RCP Avg today – Johnson 8.3

    Not much of a change, if any.

    1. It’s hard to dissect rounding errors. Wait for the CNN bump

    2. I’m making $96 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $120 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I’m my own boss.
      Just working on the internet for a few hours.
      This is what I do.——————-

  2. The article titles, they write themselves.

    1. There are worse things than a slippery poll

  3. Yeah, no matter who wins, we’re polled.

  4. Basically, Johnson had a peak from July 15-24

    I blame global warming.

  5. Make sure to use the phrase “pole slippage” when you appear on MSNBC. See how many times you can get away with it.

    1. Johnson shrinkage?

      1. Now that made me laugh.

        I also saw the scene from Son of the Beach where Johnson invents a new kind of surfboard and names it after himself…then loses it. He runs out of headquarters onto the beach and starts yelling to everyone “Has anyone seen my Johnson?!”

        I cried when they cancelled that show.

          1. (NSFW, like the post itself)

  6. “FiveThirtyEight does not include Stein’s percentage of the vote.” Hard to make judgments about third parties when you don’t measure ’em.

    Even if you refuse to admit it, it’s a fact that everyone is in the tank for Hillary Clinton. Nothing is going to stop her from being president, and there’s a whole industry backing that outcome.

    The question I have is, as a pollster, do you inflate her numbers – in this case by excluding the one candidate likely to pull from her pool – in order to discourage opposing votes from bothering to be cast, or do you deflate her numbers to scare the base into energizing to action?

    1. She’s crushing Trump regardless of whether or not Stein is included. It really doesn’t take a media and polling conspiracy for Hillary to beat Trump, he’s just that unelectable.

      1. I don’t dispute that. I agree it’s not necessary, but it’s going to happen regardless, with pollsters and journalists. GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF THE SAND ON THIS. Hillary’s tank is FULL.

        1. If you take a good look at the polls right now, at least this is what I am getting out of it, the thing that would put Hillary over the top right now is PA. That was once a toss up.

          1. A pool today showed Clinton up by, iirc, 8 points in Florida. I don’t see a path for Trump to the White House without winning Florida.

            1. I imagine he would have to win FL, OH, and PA.

              1. Yeah, that what my math says.

        2. I certainly believe they want to inflate her number as much as they can so no one will be able to argue she has no mandate when, despite the Electoral College massacre, she fails to crack 50% of the popular vote due to Johnson and Stein. That’s another reason for them to want to discourage third party voting.

          1. That’s a very good reasons for people to vote for someone other than Clinton (if they aren’t voting for Trump) as opposed to just sitting at home watching whatever is on television nowadays. At least deny her a “mandate”, not that she won’t claim one anyway.

    2. it’s a fact that everyone is in the tank for Hillary Clinton. Nothing is going to stop her from being president, and there’s a whole industry backing that outcome.

      yeah, this. said the same thing below.

      I have never seen anything like what the media is currently doing. Its the closest thing to what i imagine State-owned media would behave like.

      do you inflate her numbers ….or do you deflate her numbers to scare the base into energizing to action?

      I think its going to be ‘tactical’ – so both. They’re clearly trying to pump this idea of ‘inevitability’ at the moment. And make huge-deals out of what are actually not-even-minor differences in poll #s. and the president and everyone else is hammering trump as though he’s fumbled the ball near the end zone.

      But i have no doubt they’ll change the theme every couple of weeks in order to keep people focused. And i’d expect that in the weeks prior to the election that there will be some attempt to scare people into coming out, particularly in battle-states.

      1. Gotta change up the narrative every once in a while to feed the media machine and keep people clicking.

  7. If you go to RealClearPolitics’ poll-aggregation pages for three-way and four-way presidential surveys

    You’ll find a link to pornhub?

      1. It’s not called suggestion 34…

  8. Drumpf is in a terrible bind. He has to be the good-boy policy wonk, but that’s exactly what his low-education middle age whites hate the most about politicians. They just want to hear excuses for target practice for the guns they just rushed out to buy. Johnson could take advantage of the situation by promising them that he won’t kick out all the illegals who cook the weekend breakfast buffet at the Golden Corral. But not sure his team is savvy enough for the pivot.

    1. “He has to be the good-boy policy wonk”

      Not really, people just want the Great Satan to suffer. That’s a pretty easy policy to formulate.

    2. I can’t tell if you use the name Drumpf because you hate immigrants…or only hate Germans.

    3. Trump can still rant and wail. He just needs to be a little smarter about not putting his foot in his mouth.

  9. More right-wing nonsense from Reason. They are taking shots at Callum Borchers and Harry Enten – two up-and-coming writers from liberal websites – just so that they can impress their Republican friends and score invites to hunting trips.

    And there still hasn’t been a story about Evan McMullin. Why am I not surprised?

    1. I had a question about that actually. It’s clear that “hunting trips” are merely pretexts for law-abiding, god-fearing, tax-paying real men by god to explore their forbidden and shameful sexual urges. But are they the lascivious homoerotic orgies that I’ve always assumed, or are they merely awkward circle-jerks involving doughy beer-drunk men with mustaches?

      1. involving doughy beer-drunk men with mustaches?

        Let’s ask

      2. Very good question, Hugh. Maybe Reason will tell us.

      3. Yes.

      4. Mostly its hicks sitting around wondering how awesome it would be to live in the big city and drink fancy drinks with the smart, enlightened beautiful people.

    2. McMullin is John Huntsman with a war chubby. The idea was floated that the NeverTrumpers could help Trump lose by denying him Utah. McMullin could do this. It looks like more of Mitt Romney’s cerebral flatulence.

      1. You won’t see Reason cover it though, will you?

    3. Nice of Evan to join the race to dilute the anti-Trump vote. Pretty soon it will be Hillary and the 7 dwarfs.
      I smell landslide

  10. Jill Stein has greater name recognition that Gary Johnson? How did this state of affairs come to be?

    1. She’s getting less than half the polling numbers Johnson is getting. I just cannot buy into her being more well known.

      1. Well, she is treating POTUS as an entry-level position.
        That may be part of the reason why she’s known but not supported

        1. POTUS isn’t even an entry level position in terms of skill. What do you have to know to be POTUS? Apparently, not much.

          1. The current market price for the Lincoln Bedroom on Airbnb?

    2. Because she’s more popular with the media.

    3. She’s a chick.

    4. Likely because anyone who’s ever had a beer knows about Stein.

      There’s your name recognition.

      1. For greater name recognition, her children should marry Al Franken’s children and we’ll have a political dynasty: The Stein-Frankens!

    5. She probably gets confused with Ben Stein all the time.

  11. I realize national polling is stupidly important for debate purposes, but I’d like to see more Reason coverage on Johnson’s surging poll numbers in Utah.

    He’s at 16%, a gain of 6 points since June. Not inconceivable he could come in second in that state beating Hillary.

    1. When did the Utahians turn into a bunch of rat fucking anarchists?

      1. When it became clear that Mitt Romney wasn’t going to save the day?

      2. I’m fascinated that a third of Utah Republicans still won’t support Trump in addition to Utah independents that are breaking heavily for Johnson. Could be an indicator of what the LP should aim for in future elections if the GOP is going to be the Party of Trump.

        1. So the LP goal should be Republican Lite?

          1. If Johnson == Republican Lite then there are worse ways for the LP to go.

            1. No, no, no. You’re supposed to bitch about Johnson’s ideological impurities while simultaneously arguing that a vote for Trump is a vote for liberty.

              Have you learned nothing from SIV?

              1. No. Some Trump supporters actually provide valuable insight into a different worldview that I’m not typically exposed to. SIV just seems…damaged.

    2. Thanks, I was going to note the 16% in UT…..on-surging

    3. Evan attended BYU. Backed by Romney pals in Better For America. Poof goes Utah.
      Nice touch that Better For America choose New Mexico as the 1st state for them to get ballot access with a TBD name

    4. Working on a story you might like….

      1. Ooh!
        *makes Popcorn run*

  12. ee that footnote in the text? It goes to a fact of some relevance to that very conclusion: “FiveThirtyEight does not include Stein’s percentage of the vote.” Hard to make judgments about third parties when you don’t measure ’em.

    Jill Stein is going through a level of scrutiny right now unprecedented for a Green Party candidate in modern history, partly out of Democrats’ irritable desire to bring the last of the disgruntled Bernie-or-bust crowd into line.

    And here we get to the actual substance of the point.

    Because its not actually about numbers at all.

    Its about the post-convention MEDIA HAMMER which is working on 10,000% overdrive desperately trying to engineer some concept of “Democrat Unity”.

    Because the biggest threat isn’t really donald trump (despite the nonstop deluge of aghastness at him) as much as it is a combination of un-inspired democrat voters, and fragmented progressive voters still pissed about how Bernie got done.

    All i see in the media every day is a series of stories intended to pretend the DNC-email-leaks never happened, that Trump is Hitler-reborn, and that 3rd parties don’t exist. All which combine into a herding-effect, bringing people back to the idea that there is only 1 choice. But don’t think about who that choice is = just accept that these other “options” are unacceptable.

    And i honestly don’t think people like 538 are any different in this regard. Data be damned. Narrative uber alles.

    1. It’s only because reality has a known liberal bias. Where liberal equals progressive. Where progressive equals enlightened. People who know better than you know what’s best for you so just shut up and get in line.

      1. Where liberal equals progressive.

        Well one of the Presidential candidates doesn’t agree with that, and prefer to identify as an early 20th century progressive, rather than an early 20th century liberal:

    2. There’s something to the observation that people’s support naturally gravitates to the two major parties as the election approaches because of single member districts.

      They may not even know about single member districts or why that means we have a two-party system, but as it becomes clearer that it’s either going to be Donald or Hillary, more of them gradually come to terms with picking one of those two.

      1. People want to be winners, Ken. Ain’t nobody got any business voting for a loser. You’re either with the winners or you’re nobody.

        1. People are OK with voting for a loser, but most will only do so if they are surrounded by a group that will cheer them on.

  13. So there are still people calling him Donald Drumpf? Must be a lot of money in being a retarded John Oliver fanboy.

    1. There are still people who call Obama “Block Insane Yomama”. On this very site. So, yeah, stupid nicknames are hard to kill. I guess people think they sound clever.

      1. Hildebeast, Cankles, GrandMao Pantsuit, Hitlary, Shillary.

        1. From the man who brought you Block Insane Yomama comes the wonderful nickname Snukeapotamus.

        2. Chocolate Nixon is my very favorite.

          From now on, though, Hillary shall be know as Canklestein.

          1. I’m stealing that.

          2. Of the provided list, “GrandMao Pantsuit” is my favorite.

      2. “Dances with Lies”, “Lie-a-Watha”, “Pocahontas” . . .

        They are clever.

        In Candide, Voltaire referred to Leibniz as “Pangloss”, which means (loosely) “all talk”.

        1. Helluva way to talk about the guy who co-invented calculus.

          1. That’s what he gets for being the Ronald Bailey of his time.

          2. It wasn’t for that–it was for his philosophy–which Voltaire exaggerates.

            Leibniz’s argued that there were certain things God couldn’t do–like make a four sided triangle. He extended that to the natural world and said there were thing God can’t do in the natural world because if it worked that way, like a four sided triangle, the world couldn’t exist. Thus, if we assume that God is both benevolent, we should understand that the reality he created is the best world we could have–given what is possible.

            Voltaire has Pangloss saying that we live in the best world possible–to great comedic effect. He takes them to a world where everything is perfect, has then enslaved in brutal circumstances, etc.

            Anyway, if you polled academic philosophers and academics in the physical sciences as to who was the smartest guy with the biggest influence on academia, I bet Leibniz would win. He beats Descartes in math and science, and the cogito post-Heidegger ain’t what it used to be.

            1. Like I said, he was the Ron Bailey of his time. The eternal optimist.

            2. Is Liebniz calculus more well known than Cartesian geometry?

              1. The correct answer is yes.

            3. A perfect society is changeless. We’re one short price fix away from perfection

        2. I like “Fake-agawea”

      3. “Block Insane Yomama” is hilarious IMO

        1. No it is not, and you are a bad person for thinking so. Recite the litany of penance 14 times and chastise your flesh 25 times before sleep this night.

          1. It’s like Arizona_Guy wants to star in a SugarFree joint.

          2. “chastise your flesh” is that one of those euphemisms?

  14. There should be a meme photo with a caption for, “When atheists realize they’re less popular than Muslims”–only in this case it should read, “When Greens realize they’re less popular than Libertarians”.

    Johnson can’t seem to get his answers right, and the Greens can still only score half what Johnson polls?

    1. It doesn’t help that the Green Party is still working on ballot access.

    2. You know what I like? I like when people use that stupid meme with no picture. It really brings out the retard in their post. Kinda like saying ‘that post tho’.

    3. Why do people hate roads and bridges and want to kill Gaia?

      1. I just don’t think there’s anybody quite like the Greens–people who imagine they’re sooooooo much more popular than they are.

        They’e absolutely sure they’re the coolest kids in school–despite being only half as popular as the second most dreaded kid in school.

        At least we know we’re unpopular.

        Well, except for Welch and Gillespie. LIBRT-ARYAN MOMENZ!!!

        1. Their ideas are in vogue among progressives, which I think inflates their perceived level of popularity. But few progressives will actually vote for them.

  15. “flat-lining,” a term that can be evocative of death

    No. It’s not that it “can be”. It absolutely is. A proper term to use here is “plateauing”. Using “flat-lining” implies ignorance or bias or both.

    Now, the polls may not actually be plateauing, but that’s a separate argument.

    1. People do sometimes use “flat-lining” as “plateauing.” If the line is flat, then it’s flat, goes the argument.

      1. That’s a rationalization for justifying the mis-use of an idiom after one fails to use it in the appropriate context. I highly doubt the term was used before the advent of heart monitors.

        So sayeth the armchair critic.

  16. Today’s Monmouth polls showed GJ at 7%.

    Going backwards, no?

    1. Johnson was at 5% in the previous month’s Monmouth poll, but he was higher in earlier polls.
      From today’s Monmouth poll: “About 8-in-10 voters have no opinion of either Johnson the Libertarian (78%) or Stein of the Green Party (85%). Otherwise, Johnson earns a 15% favorable and 6% unfavorable rating”

    2. 7% Aug. 4-7
      5% July 14-16
      9% June 15-19

      Monmouth’s results seem more volatile than others’, FWIW.

  17. Fivethirtyeight didn’t predict the Trump nomination either.
    Not sure what they said on Brexit.
    *Crystal Balls are fragile things….

    *Old story when Alfred Hitchcock was asked how before anyone else he saw stardom for Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedren, he said, ” I have crystal balls.’

    1. Hari Sheldon didn’t predict The Mule.


      1. A real nerd knows it’s Hari Seldon.

        1. lol amirite speling is kewl

  18. I like how 538 show that the odds have shifted from 50.1 Trump / 49.9 Clinton way way back on July 31 to 86.5% Clinton / 13.5% Trump now .
    It’s like we all just collectively woke up in the past 8 days to how awful Trump is as a presidential candidate.
    It was fun y’all for the past year, but time to wrap up this election stuff. Whew, just in time for our collective attention span to switch to the Olympics. USA! USA! USA!

    1. Nah, Trump will get as many reset buttons as he needs, while some inconsequential administrative hiccup a decade ago will continue to define Hillary and stalk her till election day. If people want to bitch about the media, they should bitch about how they really fall into the low expectations trap.

      1. To which “inconsequential administrative hiccup” are you referring?

        1. A computer illiterate deciding to use her personalized email server for all her emails.

          1. Since when does a computer illiterate go about setting up their own server to avoid FOIA requests? Pretty sure the truly computer illiterate would just use the email address that comes with the office.

            Now, a felonious, scheming, grifter on the other hand…

  19. Johnson’s Poll-Slippage


  20. Clinton’s advantage (and name recognition) among women and minorities will be too much to overcome for either Johnson or Trump. Adjusted for reality, Johnson is probably winning 5% of the vote. Impressive, but nowhere near what Ross Perot got in the 90’s.

    Clinton is socially liberal AND wants to give free stuff to people, which is an unbeatable combination for the United Statists of America. Simply unbeatable.

    She is clear a frontrunner now, which calls for Johnson to adjust his strategy. But much like Trump, Johnson isn’t running a visible campaign. The LP made the same mistake the GOP primary voters made – in an election year of potential, they trotted out a beatable candidate.

    1. Monmouth poll on Johnson: 15% favorable, 6% unfavorable, 79% Gary who?
      That’s 79% of potential upside given those who know him like him 2.5:1

  21. The narrative isn’t going to build itself…

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