A majority of Americans believe that a major third party is needed and that the current two-party system doesn’t do an adequate job of representing the people, a new Gallup poll found.
Only 38 percent of Americans responding to the poll said they believe the two party system does a good job of representing people.
Gallup has now found consistent discontent with the two-party system for five consecutive years.
The last time a majority of Americans said they believed the two party system is adequate was in 2003, when only 40 percent of Americans said that a third party was needed.
The latest results come from Gallup’s annual Governance survey, conducted September 4 to 12 ahead of the tightly contested nation-wide midterm elections between Republican and Democratic candidates.
In October 2017, Gallup found that 31 percent of Americans identified as Democrat, 24 percent identified as Republican and 42 percent as Independent.
Independents are the least supportive of the two-party system, with 72 percent saying a third party is needed. Independents have consistently been most supportive of a third party, Gallup found.
In previous years, Gallup found similar levels of support for a third party amongst Democrats and Republicans. This year, however, the organization found a 16 percentage point gap between the parties, with 54 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans supporting a third major political party.
A similar gap was seen from 2003 to 2006, when Republicans also held control of both the executive and legislative branches.
America’s two-party system is an anomaly among similar Western democracies. Most European countries have parliamentary systems where multiple parties vie for power and often form coalitions with one another.
Despite America’s stated desire for more options, third-party candidates have not fared well throughout modern history. In the 2016 presidential election, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party received just over 3 percent of the popular vote, while the Green Party’s Jill Stein received just over one percent.
The most successful third-party presidential candidate in recent history was Ross Perot, who won 18.9 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 election, which ultimately won by Bill Clinton.
Another notable recent third-party presidential candidate was Ralph Nader, who received 2.74 percent of the popular vote in the tightly contested 2000 election in which George W. Bush narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Many liberal pundits blamed Nader for Gore’s loss, arguing his presence on the ballot cost the Democratic nominee important votes in narrowly decided states such as Florida.
The argument that third party candidates are “spoilers” is constantly used by pundits to try to convince voters to stay away from candidates outside the two major parties.