No third party candidate has won the presidency in the United States. The best performance was by Theodore Roosevelt, who came in second in 1912, gaining 27.39% of the vote.
A new poll by Harvard CAPS-Harris has found that 58% of registered voters would consider a third party or independent candidate if faced with the prospect of choosing between Joe Biden and Donald Trump again.
Both men are extremely unpopular, with the poll also showing that a majority of Americans do not want either man to run. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they do not want Biden to seek a second term and 55% said they do not want Trump to run for president again.
Biden has seen his poll numbers plummet over the past year. A Gallup poll released last week showed that Biden’s 41% job approval rating is the second lowest since the 1950s for any president at this point in their term. The lowest was his predecessor, Trump.
It should come as no surprise then that voters would consider someone else with Biden and Trump at the top of the ticket, but third party candidates have not fared well in the United States since Ross Perot’s attempt in 1992.
Perot held a lead against rivals Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush but then dropped out in the middle of the campaign season. He reentered the race in October but by then the damage had already been done and Clinton won the presidency. Perot explained his behavior by accusing the Bush campaign of blackmailing him with doctored photos of his daughter. The Bush administration denied the claim.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) excluded Perot from the 1996 debates and no third party candidate has gotten a significant share of the vote since.
This new poll is a ray of hope for third party advocates. Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, told The Hill that he has “never seen a number this high for an independent run.” He also called it “an unprecedented opportunity for an independent candidate to run and win.”
Trump has hinted that he may run again in 2024, but has said he will not make a decision until after the midterm elections. Biden was non-committal on running for reelection during the campaign but reportedly told former President Obama that he will seek another term. Age will be a factor for both men, Biden is 79 and Trump is 75.
Both men are likely to win their party’s primary if they run. Thirty-seven percent of voters said they would vote for Biden in a primary, higher than any other Democratic candidate. Trump has higher support among his base, with 58% of respondents saying they would vote for him.
With those numbers, it seems possible, if not likely, that a Trump versus Biden rematch is in the cards. And with the Republican party pulling out of the CPD, there may be no better opportunity for a third party candidate to make waves in the next election.