Politics

Most Americans Want a Third Political Party

| by Reason Foundation

By Matt Welch

From Gallup:

Americans' desires for a third political party are as high as they have been in seven years*. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people. That is a significant increase from 2008 and ties the high Gallup has recorded for this measure since 2003.*

Though the rise in support for a third party could be linked to the Tea Party movement, Tea Party supporters are just about average in terms of wanting to see a third party created. Sixty-two percent of those who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters would like a third major party formed, but so do 59% of those who are neutral toward the Tea Party movement. Tea Party opponents are somewhat less likely to see the need for a third party.

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The desire for a third party is fairly similar across ideological groups, with 61% of liberals, 60% of moderates, and 54% of conservatives believing a third major party is needed. That is a narrower gap than Gallup has found in the past; conservatives have typically been far less likely than liberals and moderates to support the creation of a third party.

Independents, as might be expected given their lack of primary allegiance to either of the two major parties, express a greater degree of support (74%) for a third party than do Republicans (47%) and Democrats (45%).

* I was puzzled why Americans were so pissed off in 2003, and clicking through the trend data [pdf] I see that Gallup seems to be misstating its results–the 58% number was previously matched in July 2007, while in October 2003 third-party sentiment was at 40 percent.

Link via Instapundit. As Nick Gillespie and I argue in the forthcoming book The Declaration of Independents, more and more Americans are realizing that the pendulum of two-party politics has put us in a Poe-like pit. Meanwhile, both parties (and their legions of sycophants in the commentariat) confuses each new swing in the other direction as either the harbinger of a "permanent governing majority" or an occasion to write off the voting public as irredeemably insane.

UPDATE: Some more interesting independent-polling flagged by The Wall Street Journal shows indies planning to vote GOP in the mid-terms despite not liking the party very much, and stressing an agenda of heavy fiscal libertarianism. Excerpt:

A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party.

Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. This movement comes in spite of independents' generally negative views of the GOP—a majority of independents (54%) view the Republicans unfavorably, compared to 39% who have a favorable impression. (The poll also revealed that 48% of independents were either "sympathetic to or supporters of the tea party.")

Yet Republicans still have a 14-point lead overall among independents who say they intend to vote in the upcoming congressional elections (37% to 23%). Forty percent remain undecided.

[I]ndependents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship. The survey also showed that independents believe they aren't getting any of this from the current representatives in Washington.

Independents see both parties as big spenders and taxers—only they view the Democrats as worse. When asked what they like most about the GOP, only 9% cite that it will cut spending and taxes. Fourteen percent of independents who were originally Republicans say they left the party because they felt the Republicans spent too much.