The Washington Post

Is a third political party a viable option?

Americans split about evenly on the question of whether the country needs a third major political party, but most -- more than two-thirds -- are open to supporting a qualified independent candidate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Some 48 percent think there is a need for a third way in party politics, and just as many, 49 percent, say not so. Overall, 22 percent say they would definitely vote for a third party candidate with whom they agreed on most issues; another 46 percent would at least consider it. Fewer than three in 10 would flatly rule it out.

Among the half the country who says there is a need for an alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans, nearly all would at least consider actually voting for a qualified third-party candidate. Among those who don’t see the need, nearly half wouldn’t even consider voting that way if given the opportunity.

Demand for a third party is naturally highest among those who do not identify with either the Republicans or Democrats. Just over six in 10 independents see a need for a third party; nearly as many Democrats and Republicans disagree.

Liberals are more apt than conservatives to want a third party to join the competition (60 to 39 percent).

While the poll didn’t ask about specific third party choices, by a 2 to 1 margin, Republicans who pick Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Texas) as a first or second choice candidate for the GOP nomination say there is a need for a third party. Majorities of supporters of other GOP candidates mostly reject the idea. More than three-quarters of Paul’s supporters say they would vote for a third party candidate who syncs up with them on the issues.

A December Post-ABC poll found that a general election with Paul on the ballot as a third party could doom GOP prospects for a 2012 victory. Paul has not indicated that he would pursue a third party run if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination.

More from the Post polling team

Sign up for Post polling e-mails

Follow Post polling on Twitter

Like Post Politics on Facebook

Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing