Election 2016

Did Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Voters Cost Hillary Clinton The Election?

Only if you ignore how many more "likely" Democratic voters went for Trump or didn't vote at all.


Running for president is an affront to democracy.

Now that Donald Trump is president-elect, despondent Hillary Clinton supporters need someone to blame.

Of course, they could blame the Democratic Party for willfully tipping the scales in favor of ensuring the nomination of a candidate who The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald aptly described as "a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption."

They could also blame the lack of enthusiasm for either candidate, which produced a far lower-than-expected turnout, particularly in swing states. They could blame the fact that Clinton only won 65 percent of Latino voters—despite running against a candidate who has threatened mass deportation of undocumented immigrants whom he described as "rapists" and "criminals," and who promised to build a Mexican-financed wall on our Southern border. At least 27 percent of Latinos voted for…Trump!

There were other voter problems Clinton ran into, which likely dwarf any effect third party voters had on denying her the presidency (not least of which because it's ridiculous to assume third party voters would automatically go to Clinton).

According to CNN's exit poll data, Clinton won "union households" with 51 percent to Trump's 43 percent—a shockingly low number for such a historically Democratic base. Clinton lost independents 48-42 percent in favor of Trump (unfortunately, CNN doesn't list independent candidates in national data, offering only "Other/No Answer," which scored 10 percent of the independent vote).

Clinton was only able to win voters under the age of 30 with 55 percent to Trump's 37 percent, while 8 percent of young millennials went into the the all-encompassing "Other" category. While Clinton won the group overall, it is highly relevant that the Democratic nominee lost 10 percent of self-described "liberals" to Trump, with 6 percent responding "Other/No Answer."

But self-reflection is hard and blaming the deliberately marginalized voices of third party voters by the Democratic and Republican parties is easier.

There's no shortage of available takes focusing exclusively on the fact that votes for third party candidates (mostly the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, the Green Party's Jill Stein, and independent conservative Evan McMullin) exceed the differential between Trump and Clinton's vote tallies in a number of states, including some swing states.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow—who when Reason's Nick Gillespie's asserted on Real Time with Bill Maher that she was a Democratic partisan replied, "Dude, I'm not even a Democrat"—said of third party voters last night, "If you vote for somebody who can't win for president, it means that you don't care who wins for president." In Maddow's world, this isn't "punching down" at the tiny percentage of voters who rejected the two least popular presidential candidates of all time, it's that serious-minded independents should only ever vote for the two major parties they refuse to join.

This thinking is in line with the conventional wisdom that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000 because of the razor-thin margin between the two major party candidates in Florida. Of course, such logic falls apart when you consider that almost 13 times as many registered Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush as they did for Nader, and that liberals-for-Bush exceeded Nader's total vote by a factor of more than three.

CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a whopping 63 percent of voters who declined to cast their ballot for the two major party candidates said they would have not voted at all in a two candidate race.

There is bound to be more complete data to come, but based on what we've got, the difference between third party voters' hypothetical support for Clinton versus Trump was relatively small, and had there been no "third party" option, most third party voters would have simply stayed at home. That is something both Democrats and Republicans would be wise to reckon with, if not out of introspection, at least out of self-interest in strategizing for the next election (shudder).

To watch PBS' debate featuring the much-maligned third party candidates Johnson and Stein, click here. You can also watch Reason TV's latest, "Gary Johnson Voters Explain Why They Aren't To Blame For President Trump" below:

NEXT: Trump Didn't Win Because He's Trump. He Won Because Clinton Is Clinton

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Of course they did. And it's fucking awesome.

    1. I think the LP was pretty close to 5% of popular vote for federal matching funds.

      1. 1.7% away from the goal. REALLY close considering that Johnson was playing with the "Weld" handicap.

  2. I suppose if it cushions the blow technically you could say that in Pennsylvania I voted for Gary Johnson instead of Hillary Clinton. But between you, me and the lamppost (and the desk) I would never have voted for Hillary Clinton.

    1. And your keyboard with every function key bound to F5?

      1. F5 on my keyboard activates the backlit keys. Who designs a system like that?

  3. Rachel Maddow isn't a Democrat same as Bill Maher is a libertarian.

    1. Except "Democrat" (capitalized) has no real meaning besides party membership.

      1. I love when someone says how "Democrat Party" is supposed to be some kind of pejorative.

        Politics is football for nerds.

  4. "...Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000 because of the razor-thin margin between the two major party candidates in Florida."

    The dude didn't even carry his own state. How is that Nader's fault?

  5. Did gay Jay even break one fucking percent? Enquiring minds want to know. Just kidding. I don't give a shit what he did. MAGA.

    1. 3.3% I think. He got 4 million votes.

      1. So you're saying there's a chance...

      2. So he did better than the LP ever does.

        I'm not saying he's a good libertarian, but the people saying he was a bad choice for the LP are nuts. For this election at least. He might not have done so well in an election where people weren't mostly motivated by dislike of the candidates.

  6. Fucking progs.

    Spend, what, eight years calling libertarians sexists, racist, gun-totting evil white patriarchs who hate everything good and decent, and who need to be ignored and derided.

    Now bitch how libertarians didn't vote for their candidate. Who are sexist, racist, gun-toting etc more likely to vote for, retards? Trump or Clinton?!

    1. I made basically the same point talking with some friends last night.

    2. The one thing I haven't seen anyone on the Left speculating, surveying, polling, thinking, or asking about is the effect of Clinton's anti-gun positions. It's like they really really really want that to go away.

    3. Next election progs are gonna nominate Wyden so they can capture the libertarian vote.

      Just kidding, they're gonna go with with Warren. Barf.

  7. Sitting in the bar I used to frequent across from the university eavesdropping and stifling sniggers.

    1. Last night we kept the bar I was at open until Trump gave his speech. The tears were flowing so hard for most of the bar except a small group of us who were laughing uncontrollably.

      Good times.

      1. Amazingly, they have Fox News on. Scrolling ticker has been all about Trump's SCOTUS nominee overturning Obamacare.

  8. "According to CNN's exit poll data, Clinton won "union households" with 51 percent to Trump's 43 percent?a shockingly low number for such a historically Democratic base."

    That's the lead right there--buried in the middle of the article.

    That 43% of union households that voted for Trump?

    Those are Trump Democrats who fled the Democratic party for the same reasons that Reagan Democrats fled the Democratic party.

    And they're the tip of the iceberg.

    If 43% of union households voted for Trump, how many more people from the same demographic (blue collar, middle class) who aren't in unions voted for Trump?

    The sooner the Democratic Party rids itself of its social justice warrior/progressive infestation, the sooner they'll start being relevant again.

    Has everyone forgotten these progressives only came to prominence on Obama's coattails because people were sick of the Iraq War?

    1. The people who drove the white working class by constantly calling them evil bigots responds to their election loss by.....screaming even louder that anyone not in lockstep with them is an evil bigot. That's a bold strategy, Pepper.

      1. drove them away, that is.

      2. They're the social justice warriors cryin' about that.

        They're the progressives who infested the Democratic party.

        They'd rather blame Hilary Clinton and Russian hackers alone than even mention social justice warriors.

        They can't admit social justice warriors are the problem--because they're the social justice warriors!

    2. Forget about that. The Dems answer will be to slide further left, guaranteed. It's what they've become and there's no going back, there's no way out. Once you start calling yourself the 'left' and 'socialists' or 'progressive', you're on a one way ride to full on commie. The solution for leftists is always the same. Double down on what didn't work. Because we just didn't do it enough. They'll never admit they're wrong, ever.

      1. If facebook is any indication then this is correct. Fight the patriarchy!!!!

      2. I'm hoping between this and Trump disappointing his supporters like every president does, it opens the door even wider for us.

      3. Indeed, and this is precisely how the vicious cycle to the Weimar era begins. These idiots think that by moving left their pulling the country left with them, when in fact all they're doing is giving the right license to move further right without losing all their appeal to the middle. When this happens, when the parties stop vying for the middle but start sprinting for the ends, I see it as the political equivalent of what an inverted yield curve predicts for the economy: probable crisis ahead.

        In part, at least, Hillary's primary victory may have been a Pyrrhic one. She went too far left (both on the economy and pushing the identity politics hard) in order to beat Sanders that she alienated demographics necessary for the general election.

    3. *lede

  9. Looks like in New Hampshire Maggie Hassan scratched out a victory over Kelly Ayotte by 900 votes. Both the Libertarian candidate and an independent received 2% each.

    1. We cost the Republican the election!!!!

      I suppose we also cost Trump Virginia and any other states Hillary won by less than the 3rd party vote.

  10. If you vote for somebody who can't win for president, it means that you don't care who wins for president."

    I always complain about whiney bitching, but I hope this never ends.

    An old, corrupt liar who pissed off a quarter of her party's supporters at the convention, and took for granted the support of everyone with dark skin, and who wanted continue the drug war and invade foregin countries was supposed to get out the vote?

  11. Did Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Voters Cost Hillary Clinton The Election?

    For Bill Weld's sake, I fucking hope so.

  12. Hmm... More tears, the more hyperbolic the better...

    Donald Trump's Victory Proves That America Hates Women

    1. Without clicking I'm going to guess...Marcotte?

      1. Michelle Goldberg, the most Clinton-loving of all the Slate writers.

        1. Marcotte's Slate replacement went with:

          In America, Love Does Not Trump Hate

          And illustrated it with a pic of a small crying black child.

          1. I swear to Christ their fixation on being the party of "love" is creepy and Orwellian.

            1. They want to make love to you; Republicans just want to fuck. Democrats are the Nice Guys of politics. They would treat you like a proper lady and respect you, but you keep electing assholes just for the thrills.

              1. So Democrats are Pussies, and GOP are Dicks?

                And the 2016 election happened because no one fucked the two Assholes, so they got your dicks and pussies all covered in shit?

          2. How many black people are on Slate's staff, again?

        2. Such a stable of possibilities over at Slate tho, amirite?

      2. Forty-six years ago, Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch, "Women have very little idea of how much men hate them." Well, now we do.

        Last night, faced with a choice between a highly competent if uncharismatic female candidate and the deranged distillation of the angry white male id, America chose the latter.


        1. I guess all these women in family are self-hating or something.

          1. White women who voted for Trump are part of the problem because they also hate women.

          2. Yes. White women who voted for Trump also hate women.

            1. Uncle Toms. Or Aunt Toms.

            2. White women aren't really women.

          3. Additionally, pancake-assed white women are not well-liked.

            1. Don't want none unless you got buns, hon.

        2. She does a wonderful job of illustrating why people voted for Trump, albeit inadvertently.

    2. Ye gods, enough already. America already demonstrated its hatred of women when it rejected Sarah Palin.


    3. The childish reactions are frightening.

      Remember whatever emotions they indulge when they're losing, they will also indulge when they're winning.

      And they're worried about everyone else acting crazy. Epi's proggie projection rule wins again.

      1. "Teams" and then projection: he was prescient.

      2. Yeah, I remember a while back I read a blog post by Helen Smith, which I thought hyperbolic at the time, in which she asked, rhetorically, why a white male would ever vote Democrat. We, this 25-30% of the population, are the antagonists of history in their ideological narrative.

        Talk about id, these infantile post-election tantrums are where they show us who they really are, and what they really think. They are asking me, a white man, to vote for a candidate who represents a narrative in which I am The Enemy?

    4. MEH128
      28 minutes ago
      Can we all agree that women deserve whatever comes next.

      Penny Century
      27 minutes ago

      27 minutes ago
      @Penny Century
      Yes you do. Your sex betrayed the sisterhood. You deserve what comes next.

  13. Hillary Clinton cost Hillary Clinton the election.

  14. We are not pawns in your political game. We do not march ahead to suicide to protect your kings or queens. If your candidate wants our votes, earn them. You are not entitled to me voting for you because you label yourself with an R or a D and that the math of our voting system favors a duopoly. My vote belongs to me. If you really want change, stop acting like tantrum-throwing tyrannical Trotskyists and claiming we should be disenfranchised for our heresy of not crowning Her Highness. Instead, vote for ranked choice voting or some other system that eliminates the "spoiler effect" you claim to perceive. It'll weaken you because your platform sucks, but there's a solution to that: stop having a sucky platform.

    1. I almost got a write-in vote for president from my wife, and I had no publicly stated platform.

      1. My dog got a vote for state senate, and he's a fucking monarchist.

        1. Monar-chien!

        2. Hail to the king, baby.

          1. When he gets drunk he talks about restoring the Bourbons. Then he shits in the yard, yells at the neighbor's cat, and passes out under my bed.

  15. So what's the over/under on the chance of the anti-war democrats making a new appearance?

    1. I predict pro-war Democrats if Trump refuses to get involved in Syria.

      1. It's gonna be great. When Russia doubles down, Trevor Noah is going to be lambasting Trump for 'refusing to get involved.'

    2. I reckon they'll reappear as soon as their boy is out.

    3. Both parties are feeling shockwaves from this election, and they damned well should. Last night was a raising of a middle finger on the flagpole where old glory used to be. It was raised so high that nobody should misinterpret what they are seeing and will be seeing for four years.

      The answer is staring us right in the face: two parties are not enough. Our voting system is broken if it can produce this kind of outcome. It's not that the electoral college is broken. It's not "spoilers" destroying what you believe you're entitled to. Two parties simply can't represent the views of so many people. Our voting system served us well enough when we were a fledgling democratic republic trying to make our way in the world. It means ceding power for the good of the nation. If the refusal continues too much longer, it leads to bloodshed. History already taught us that. We should know better. We can do better. We deserve better.

      The finger's up the mast. Choose.

      1. This is why federalism needs to remain and be made stronger. There is too much divide and one party cannot rule over the other half of Americans. Otherwise the USA will break up into more than one nation. We can't go on like this. People need their own identity and freedoms. For most of the history of humans, we were made up of small tight knit groups of people who had autonomy from any outside influence. Huge nation states are a new thing and all it's led to is constant war and inner turmoil. And now they have ideas about world government. It's insanity.

        1. We need our republic back, but that ship has sailed. Wickard v. Filburn unshackled the legislature from its Constitutional strictures. Everything is commerce from the right point of view, and when you're in the business of manufacturing points of view, you're going to find a way to use that decision to legislate everything.

          The rise of Constitutional revisionism as a means to discarding the document almost entirely is our country's greatest enemy, but it already won most of the key battles. The myopia of the framers of the Constitution is that they neglected to consider how scummy and manipulative people are. They thought they could create a document with a high-minded design that restricted government just so. Then the states demanded the Bill of Rights, which should have been predicted, and we got two conflicting design goals because it now looked like the government was giving rights to the people and not reserving rights for the people which ought never be tampered with. Understandably, people were confused, and malicious people can easily lead confused people astray.

          Perhaps it's time for a complete rewrite. We aren't going to get one that all fifty states will agree with anymore. California alone would shoot down the Second Amendment, for example. Progs are violently opposed to peaceful secession. Read the inscription on the Lincoln memorial. We cannot exercise the "Right of the People" to abolish it. The civil war proved that.

    4. I expect CNN to reinstate their Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria death toll clock on January 21st.

  16. Jezebel has Fuck Jill Stein and Fuck Gary Johnson posts. Seems Stein and Johnson voters are irredeemable idiots that don't have the self-awareness to vote for their best interests. But, if they did they'd all realize, of course, that Hillary is obviously the only choice and none would have gone for Trump.

    A couple posts pondered why Democrats didn't do something from 2008-2010 when they controlled Washington to put a legislative end to third parties even being on national ballots. I don't think they were joking.

    1. And that's why you can never afford to compromise with them.

    2. Jezebel has seething rage from misandrists and nothing else to offer.

      Feminism as equality was a fantastic idea. Egalitarianism is right up the libertarian alley. Feminists got almost everything they wanted. But, like any movement, once all the victories were had it's ended up like a wild beast that has had its head severed. It thrashes around violently, destroying rather than creating.

      An organized movement demands that it be used. Democrats had planned a rally where they intended to go to one of Trump's properties en masse to point and laugh. As soon as the election results were in, it was evident that nobody was going to show up for that act of defiant, smug hubris. What was the very first thing that happened immediately afterward? The leader of the mob wanted to hold that mob together, wanted to wield it like a weapon in some other way. That is how mobs work. It's the old "when all you've got is a hammer, all problems are nails" adage.

      We'll be hearing about the misogyny of last night's rebuke for years to come. Glass ceilings, the patriarchy, etc. Dial back the rhetoric, feminists. Lay down your arms and look hard at who you asked us to elect. Consider this to be a huge bullet that you managed to dodge, because the first female POTUS should be a good person who is fit for the job if she's to leave a lasting legacy worthy of respect by all people.

    3. There's a lot more comments there disagreeing with that article than I expected though.

      1. Mr. Sarwak,
        You sir are one of us. God save your soul.

  17. I can't even

  18. "If you vote for somebody who can't win for president, it means that you don't care who wins for president."

    and when you determine who can win before the election is even ran, you care too much.

  19. While you can't blame Johnson and Stein for the overall election, we can certainly blame Johnson and Weld for not hitting the 5% target. Hopefully the Libertarian party recognizes the battle for the 2020 election begins today. Prominent Libertarian members need to be pushing for face time in news media as much as they can to introduce the electorate to the party. Having Nick, Matt and others from Reason or other libertarian leaning media people explaining libertarian principles is fine, but you also need party recognition as well as recognizing the candidate. If, for example, Austin Petersen wants to be the candidate in 2020, he needs to get on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox programs, as well as the Sunday morning show circuit, the news comedy shows, etc. The party also needs to run adds through the next 4 years. Modeling the current NRA ads would not be a bad idea. I think they are effective ads at promoting their organization.

    If you wait until 2019 to start promoting, then the Libertarians will end up with 70% or more of the electorate clueless again on what the Libertarian party is about and who the candidate is.

    1. Johnson got the highest vote total ever and its not even close. I think the people who thought he would somehow do better are delusional, people always shift from the polling numbers to the big parties or staying home by election day. It happens every elections.

  20. Looking at the vote totals, Trump is around the same number of votes as McCain and Romney, and a similar % of the vote as Romney. He ran behind the GOP senate candidates in a lot of key states, including Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. I think people should be hesitant to make this all about Trump (and I felt the same way about liberals praising Clinton in the event she won. Had she won, it was not going to be because she was beloved) - the Democrats did not get enough of the base out, and split ticket voting wasn't enough to save them. I wasn't convinced this was going to be the case, but I was wrong on that, from the perspective of the electoral college. Clinton turned enough of the Democratic base out nationally to win the popular vote, but she completely failed to do so in the states she needed them in.

    1. There was another post before this one that isn't showing up on my screen. But I'm not sure if the squirrels will let it through. But this was not a one off comment, for reference.

  21. Looks like the squirrels aren't posting that other comment so I'll essentially post a quick summary

    I thought Trump had a shot after he closed the polls near the end. I still thought Clinton would win, but I argued with a lot of liberals on Reddit who were convinced he had no shot. I was almost there myself after the 3rd debate, but Trump's narrowing late convinced me that it wasn't over.

    The polling error nationally was within normal bounds. Clinton will win the popular vote by about 1%, according to estimates. And if you look at the RCP averages, they were pretty accurate for swing states outside of the Midwest. Nevada was the only other state they got wrong, and it went for Clinton. North Carolina was the only one I could find where Trump's margin was underestimated by more than a percent or so (it was about 3 there). But they were way, way off in the Midwest. I thought the Rust Belt flip was possible, but I didn't think it was likely to happen. I admit to being wrong on that one. He pulled it off narrowly, but he did it.

  22. If the trend we saw back when GayJay was at 8-9% had held true, then maybe his votes would have made the difference. For whatever reason, the disaffected Bernie supporters flirted with the LP for a while. But it didn't last, because by the end of the election he was pulling more Republicans than Democrats, while his total percentage decreased substantially, meaning he held the GOPers and shed the Dems after Aleppo. And you nailed it in the article: assuming Clinton was the automatic second choice is wrong. Plenty of people had "none of the above" as their second choice, and who knows, perhaps they would have gone for Trump instead
    And as for Jill Stein, I think it's apparent that between 0.5-2% of the country tends to agree with that platform strongly enough to throw their votes that way rather than for the Dems, and depending on how the LP builds on this that may still be our ceiling as well. Both parties either need to chalk us up as a permanent loss instead of expecting us to fall in line, or find a way to draw us back in

  23. Anyone arguing that voting for X cost Y the election is making a claim that X voters plus Y voters, combined, are enough to elect a candidate.

    Take them at their word. Then scold them for costing successful governor Gary Johnson the election by throwing away their votes in a corrupt incompetent like Hillary Clinton.

  24. 3rd Party candidates did not cost Hillary the election. What cost her the election was all the Democrats that couldn't stand her or Trump. No Obama 2012 vote count here

  25. This was the first time since 1972 that I have not voted for the Libertarian Candidate for President. The prospect of Hillary in the White House was too much much for me to stomach. I suspect other felt the same way since Support for Johnson and Stein dropped as the election got closer. She reminded me of Richard Nixon and disgust Trumped my usual loyalty to principle. the way I figured it , better a boor than a whore.

    1. So you wasted your vote, then, because Clinton lost in a landslide.

  26. So who is the LP candidate going to be in 2020?

  27. So wait, let me get this straight. Before the election, I was wasting my vote by voting for Johnson. Suddenly, after the election, my vote was the reason Clinton lost? I mean, I wish Trump had lost, too, but I'm happy being the cause of one of them losing. Maybe next time, they'll court the Libertarian vote?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.