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Friday, October 11, 2013

Is the Time Right for a Third Party?

Our chapter on political parties discussed third partiesGallup reports renewed interest in the subject:
Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.
The results are consistent with Gallup's finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans' widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed.
The prior highs in perceived need for a third party came in August 2010, shortly before that year's midterm elections, when Americans were dissatisfied with government and the Tea Party movement was emerging as a political force; and in 2007, when the newly elected Democratic congressional majority was clashing with then-President George W. Bush.
In the same vein AP-GfK poll shows dissatisfaction with the political establishment:


So should we expect a major third party to emerge in the next year?  The odds stack against it.  For one thing, third parties face daunting obstacles even in getting on the ballot.  In California's "top-two" primary system, for instance, the top-two vote getters in the June primary -- regardless of party -- advance to the general election.  The system effectively bars third party candidates from the November election, except in districts that are so lopsided in favor of one of the major parties that the other does not even bother to field a candidate. (A court has rejected a challenge to the system.)  Campaign finance laws also work against third parties