Just when it looked like the general election was locked down to two major players, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the historically unpopular candidates are now facing increasing opposition from third party candidates. One of the top third party contenders who could steal some thunder from the two major candidates is the Green Party's Jill Stein, who has been considered an alternative for Bernie Sanders' supporters unwilling to bite the bullet for Clinton. However, for many, casting their ballot for Stein begs the question: is voting for the Green Party a wasted vote?
Traditionally, a U.S. election boils down to a two-party match-up. But this year, third party candidates are threatening to disrupt the Democrats and Republicans. While Stein and the left-leaning Greens could take away from Clinton, the Libertarians, led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, could hurt Trump. There are three main reasons why third party candidates could enjoy relative success in 2016:
- The two major party nominees have unusually high disapproval ratings
- There's a lot of talk from major party leaders and influencers about resorting to a write-in candidate
- Americans are actually finding third party candidates to be somewhat appealing. According to a CNN/ORC poll published Tuesday, Johnson earns 9 percent and Stein earns 7 percent. In a July 2012 Gallup presidential poll, Stein earned a measly 1 percent and Johnson 3 percent. Oh, how the times have changed.
In short, there might be something to a third party gaining some heat and a potential threat to splitting the vote.
So when you belong to the growing portion of the electorate that doesn't want to vote for either major party candidate, who do you vote for? If you're so dissatisfied with the current state of government, there's something to be said for upsetting the status quo and fighting for change by voting for a long-shot like the Green Party. From that perspective, it's hard to call a vote "wasted" when it's in an effort to support the policies you believe in the most (that should be the point of voting, right?).
But in modern times, third party candidates rarely make a dent in the national election. In fact, sometimes, they make it harder for the main party candidate politically closest to them to win. The last time a third party came up in a general election in a substantive way was Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000. Many argue a vote for Nader was a lost vote for Democrat Al Gore — and, thus, an aid to Republican George W. Bush. It's a compelling position, especially considering that the fringe candidate took over 90 thousand votes in Florida, the state many conclude the election ultimately came down to.
This is where "strategic voting" (as opposed to "sincere voting") comes in—it's when a voter supports a candidate who isn't his/ her first choice in an effort to vote for the "lesser evil." Voting for the Green party is not wasted — not voting altogether is what's wasted. However, there's certainly a risk that voting for Stein takes a vote away from Clinton — which could, ultimately, help Trump.