AP-GfK poll: Third party back­ers a wild card in 2016 race

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Emily Swan­son and Jonathan Lemire

Most peo­ple who are drawn to third party can­di­dates in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion aren’t sold on their choice, mak­ing these vot­ers wild cards in an al­ready un­pre­dictable con­test.

A shift in their sup­port to­ward ei­ther of the ma­jor party nom­i­nees — away from Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son, Jill Stein of the Green Party or an­other third party can­di­date — could dras­ti­cally change the shape of the race.

A re­cent As­so­ci­ated Press-GfK poll found that nearly 7 in 10 third-party sup­port­ers say they could still change their minds.

They are about evenly split be­tween Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump if forced to choose be­tween just those two. Nearly onethird re­fused to pick or said they would just not vote if it came down to that.

Mar­garet Bon­nem, a stayat-home mother in Col­liersville, Ten­nessee, had pre­vi­ously sup­ported Stein. But now she says she’ll vote for Clin­ton be­cause she re­al­izes that “a third party can­di­date can’t re­ally do any­thing but pull votes away” from the ma­jor par­ties.

“I can’t vote for Trump, and I don’t want him to ben­e­fit from me vot­ing for some­one else,” said Bon­nem, 54. “So I’ll end up vot­ing for some­one I don’t fully trust.”

The poll, con­ducted be­fore last Mon­day night’s first pres­i­den­tial de­bate, also shows signs that many third party back­ers would rather vote for no one than throw their sup­port ei­ther to Trump or Clin­ton.

Among likely vot­ers in the AP-GfK poll say­ing they’ll sup­port a third party can­di­date, 7 in 10 say they have an un­fa­vor­able opin­ion of both the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can nom­i­nees.

Al­to­gether, the poll found 9 per­cent of likely vot­ers sup­ported John­son, 2 per­cent Stein, and 2 per­cent “an­other can­di­date.”

Among third-party sup­port­ers, 72 per­cent say Clin­ton’s not at all hon­est, and 64 per­cent say she’s at least some­what cor­rupt. Six­tyeight per­cent say Trump is not at all com­pas­sion­ate and 59 per­cent think he’s at least some­what racist.

Over­all, 8 in 10 say they have an un­fa­vor­able opin­ion of each of the ma­jor party nom­i­nees. For 6 in 10, that opin­ion is very un­fa­vor­able.

Pa­trick Can­non, 63, from Min­neapo­lis, says he’ll vote for John­son though he knows John­son can’t win.

“I guess my vote is in the na­ture of a protest vote,” said Can­non, who re­tired from the graph­ics in­dus­try. “I just can’t bring my­self to vote for the other two.”

These third party vot­ers don’t fit into easy po­lit­i­cal boxes.

They’re dis­pro­por­tion­ately young: 26 per­cent of them are un­der age 30, com­pared with just 15 per­cent of likely vot­ers over­all. More than half of them self-iden­tify as in­de­pen­dents, though when asked which way they lean, they’re about evenly split be­tween the two par­ties.

They’re deeply dis­sat­is­fied with the di­rec­tion of the coun­try. Eight-two per­cent say the coun­try is headed in the wrong di­rec­tion, far closer to the per­cent­age for Trump sup­port­ers (94 per­cent) than Clin­ton sup­port­ers (45 per­cent). Six in 10 dis­ap­prove of the job Barack Obama is do­ing as pres­i­dent.

De­spite their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the di­rec­tion of the coun­try, 74 per­cent of them say they would be afraid if Trump is elected pres­i­dent, com­pared with 56 per­cent who say that of Clin­ton. They’re also slightly more likely to say they would be an­gry about elect­ing Trump than put Clin­ton in the White House, 54 per­cent to 45 per­cent.

Whether the Demo­crat or the Repub­li­can can win them over lends po­ten­tial volatil­ity to the race. In the AP-GfK poll, 69 per­cent of them said they could still change their minds about whom to sup­port, while more than 85 per­cent of both Trump and Clin­ton sup­port­ers said their minds were made up.

Jim Stab, a re­tired cap­tain in the Navy, is plan­ning to vote for John­son but says his “lean­ing is weak.”

“Not vot­ing is a waste,” said Staub, 75, of La­guna Niguel, Cal­i­for­nia. “If I won’t for John­son, I will for one of them,” mean­ing Clin­ton or Trump.

On av­er­age, sur­veys have sug­gested Clin­ton may per­form slightly bet­ter when vot­ers are forced to choose be­tween only Trump and her.

But first, they’d need to ac­tu­ally vote. And there are rea­sons to think many of them wouldn’t come out to hold their noses for their least-dis­liked can­di­date.

While 6 in 10 Trump and Clin­ton sup­port­ers in the AP-GfK poll say they al­ways vote, just 45 per­cent of third party vot­ers say the same. In fact, more than a quar­ter straight up say they would not vote if they had to choose be­tween Trump and Clin­ton.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, in­clud­ing 160 likely vot­ers who said they’ll vote for a third party can­di­date, was con­ducted on­line Sept. 15-19, us­ing a sam­ple drawn from GfK’s prob­a­bil­ity-based Knowl­edgePanel, which is de­signed to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror for all re­spon­dents is plus or mi­nus 2.5 per­cent­age points, and for third party vot­ers is plus or mi­nus 8.2 per­cent­age points.

Re­spon­dents were first se­lected ran­domly us­ing tele­phone or mail sur­vey meth­ods and later in­ter­viewed on­line. Peo­ple se­lected for Knowl­edgePanel who didn’t have ac­cess to the in­ter­net were pro­vided ac­cess for free.

TAE-GYUN KIM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, Green Party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jill Stein speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at South Austin neigh­bor­hood in Chicago. Most vot­ers who plan to sup­port third party can­di­dates like Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son and Stein say their minds aren’t com­pletely made up about which can­di­date to sup­port in Novem­ber, lend­ing an el­e­ment of un­pre­dictabil­ity to the pres­i­den­tial race this fall.

SCOTT MOR­GAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, Lib­er­tar­ian pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Gary John­son speaks dur­ing a cam­paign rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

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