With the presidential debates looming on the horizon, three out of five likely voters say they want to see Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson take the debate stage alongside the major party candidates, a new poll found.
Johnson is a highly-regarded former Republican governor of New Mexico who earned a million votes in 2012 and has succeeded in garnering substantially more support in the 2016 race, with polls showing Americans growing weary of the two major political parties and their candidates.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released on August 25 found Johnson with 10 percent support among likely voters, while the Real Clear Politics aggregate of national polls shows Johnson hovering around 9 percent.
But the Quinnipiac poll was also notable because 62 percent of people surveyed said they'd like to see Johnson included in the three planned presidential debates, which kick off with a September 26 debate at Hofstra University in New York. The other two debates are scheduled for October 4 and 9 in Virginia and St. Louis, respectively.
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Johnson's poll numbers are edging up at a time when third-party candidates typically suffer in the polls, FiveThirtyEight noted.
"Indeed, Johnson’s support right now is higher than many other viable third-party [candidates] at a similar point in campaigns since 1948," FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten wrote.
Johnson has been touting the Quinnipiac poll's findings on his social media account, and has been urging voters to register their displeasure with a debate system that excludes third-party candidates unless they reach 15 percent support in at least five national polls.
Johnson tweeted to his 300,000 followers: "2016 could be the year when the two party hold on American elections falls apart -- and it's about time."
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The threshold for participating in the presidential debates is set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nominally non-partisan non-profit run by lifelong operatives of the Republican and Democratic parties and funded by a small group of anonymous donors.
The commission has come under fire in recent years for its exclusionary policies, and has been criticized in the past for allegedly colluding with major party candidates by informing them of debate questions ahead of time and allowing them to influence how debates are run. Those agreements, which were not disclosed to the public, eventually cost the commission support from the League of Women Voters, which accused the commission and major parties of "perpetrat[ing] a fraud" on American voters in 1988.
The last third-party candidate who was permitted to debate alongside Republican and Democratic candidates was Texas businessman Ross Perot in 1992, who earned 18.9 percent of the popular vote while Democrat Bill Clinton went on to secure the presidency.
Regardless of whether he makes it to the big debate stage, Johnson told The New York Times that he believes Donald Trump's candidacy has changed American politics irrevocably.
“This is the demise of the Republican Party,” Johnson said. “This is an opportunity, I think, for the Libertarian Party to become a major party.”