By: Matt Teitelbaum, Columnist
Third party voters catch a lot of flak. Every election, they hear all about how they’re wasting their vote or spoiling the election for a particular candidate. However, in 2016 things might be a bit different, or at least they ought to be.
Millennials are giving their support to third party candidates in droves. Polls show both Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson with support in the double digits. Some polling has even shown Johnson beating Donald Trump with millennial voters at around 20 percent support. That’s absolutely huge for a third party candidate.
Johnson did stumble recently in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when host Joe Scarborough asked him about the refugee crisis in the war-torn city of Allepo, in Syria.
Johnson’s response? An all too sincere, “What is Allepo?”
He had no idea what to say about the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis because, well, he didn’t know what it was.
So there goes any chance Johnson ever had of making it into the televised presidential debates later this month and throughout October. Johnson needed to play a perfect game to bring his support up to the 15 percent polling threshold that gets candidates into the national debates. But his chances of doing so were never that high to begin with.
Ultimately, Johnson’s supporters will still give him considerably more support than usual thanks to the unpopularity of 2016’s Democratic and Republican candidates. Even if Johnson and Stein only take a combined total five percent of the vote, that could swing the election.
What’s important to remember is that support for third party candidates tends to collapse in the last days leading up to Election Day. Several polls showed Johnson receiving five or six percent of the vote in the 2012 election, but then he ended up with a measly one percent that November.
If the same holds true in 2016, it will mean that third party voters are less solid in their support than they might otherwise indicate. Antagonizing them as Clinton or Trump supporters because you want to guilt them into joining your side might just give them enough spite to stick to their guns.
Be nice. Even if they don’t make it apparent, most third party voters will seriously consider coming home to one of the two major parties in November, especially if the race is looking close.