If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

Our View of the Third Party Option in Presidential Polling

Over the past couple of weeks, many people have asked why we're not including Gary Johnson by name in our tracking poll (we do include "some other candidate").

Some people believe that including Johnson will show a deep level of support for a third party candidate. Some even believe he could generate enough polling support to qualify for participation in the Presidential debates. Others say he could steal votes away from one of the leading candidates and ultimately impact who will win the race.

We respectfully disagree. It is true that voters are unhappy with the choice between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Half view it as nothing more than the choice between a lesser of two evils.

However, experience has shown us that asking about “Some Other Candidate” provides a more accurate view of the race than including third party candidates. Our current polling finds that about 4% to 6% of voters say that they will vote for someone other than Obama or Romney. When we ask them a follow-up question, less than half say they will stick with that third party choice.

Therefore, we have concluded that the most accurate measure of the Obama-Romney race is to leave Johnson’s name out of the mix.

Having said that, Rasmussen Reports will continue to monitor the situation. If we see the number supporting “Some Other Candidate” rising above the typical levels of 4% to 6%, we will consider adding Johnson to the mix. This is similar to the way we followed the Texas Governor’s primary in 2010. When we saw support growing for a third party option, we added Debra Medina by name. Our polling was eventually cited as a reason to include her in debates.

Also, we want to be clear that our comments about support falling away for a third party option apply only in the context of a close election. If, in late October, it appears that either Romney or Obama is headed for victory by a fairly safe margin, some voters may abandon the trailing candidate and cast a protest vote for Johnson.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

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