ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In a three-way race against Democratic front runner Hilary Clinton and Republican front runner Donald Trump, a new national poll shows former New Mexico governor and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson getting 11 percent of the vote.
That poll, released Thursday by Monomouth University, surveyed registered voters about that hypothetical race. The results showed Johnson was strongest among independent voters polled. However it also shows Johnson is mostly unknown, with 76 percent of those surveyed saying they didn’t know enough about the former governor to form an opinion.
In a phone interview with KRQE News 13, Johnson touted the survey results, hoping it encourages voters to look at his positions and consider supporting a third party candidate instead of just voting for the lesser of two evils.
“I think the vast majority of Americans are Libertarian, it’s just that they don’t know it,” Johnson said. “Wasting your vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in.”
This survey comes with voters seemingly unhappy about their options this election year, especially compared to years past. In March 2008, then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama had a 62 percent favorability rating in a Gallup poll, while the eventual Republican candidate that year, John McCain, was at 56 percent.
In the most recent Gallup surveys, 41 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton while just 30 percent thought similarly of Donald Trump.
In a news release, Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the shaky popularity of both major party front runners led them to include a third option.
“A vigorous third party campaign is a very real possibility this year, but it is not yet clear what the impact could be,” said Murray. “Including Johnson’s name in our polling seems to be more of a placeholder for voters who are not particularly thrilled with either major party choice right now.”
University of New Mexico political science professor Gabe Sanchez agrees that this is an unusual year.
“You’ve got a lot of variables that you need for a third party candidate to be successful,” Sanchez said. “Here even within the party, a lot of folks aren’t that excited about Hillary Clinton and aren’t that excited about Donald Trump.”
Third party candidates have had mixed impacts on presidential elections. Johnson himself finished third in 2012, but only got about 1 percent of the vote. In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got nearly 3 percent of the vote, but that may have been enough to tip the race for George W. Bush. In 1992, independent candidate Ross Perot got nearly 19 percent of the popular vote, although he didn’t get a single electoral vote.
Johnson is trying to remove what he sees as one of the big obstacles standing in the way of a third party candidate, the lack of access to televised presidential debates. The Libertarian Party and Green Party have sued the Commission on Presidential Debates in a bid to open up the process. Under current rules, a candidate needs at least 15 percent support in national polls to be allowed on the stage.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have the opportunity to win,” Johnson said. “There’s no way that a third party wins unless they can be in the presidential debate.”
Money is a problem too, with the major parties having a lot more of it at their disposal.
“The Citizens United case has made it very difficult for a third party or fourth party to be effective because fundraising is such a big deal now and without the ability to raise money you really can’t get your message and voice out there,” Sanchez said.