The latest Quinnipiac University poll on this November’s presidential contest included an interesting tidbit — that the relatively unknown Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, had a stronger than previously known backing among Connecticut voters.
Six percent of voters said they would vote for Johnson, far behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s 41 percent and the 36 percent who support Republican leader Donald Trump. But that 6 percent showing is stronger than third-party candidates generally have received in the past.
And it’s much stronger than the backing Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, received when he also ran for president in 2012 — again as the Libertarian candidate.
In 2012, Johnson garnered 1.3 million votes nationwide, about 1 percent of the popular vote across the country. In Connecticut, in 2012, Johnson received 12,628 votes, or 0.8 percent.
That Johnson has strong support in Connecticut comes as no surprise to Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.
“There is an appetite for a third-party candidate due to the high negatives of the major party candidates,” Schwartz said.
Another little-known candidate, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, received 3 percent of the vote in the June 1-5 Quinnipiac University poll of 1,330 Connecticut voters.
Johnson won the Libertarian nomination for governor in Orlando, Florida on May 29th of this year, receiving 55.8 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld is running with Johnson, as his vice presidential candidate.
Johnson is not currently on Connecticut’s presidential ballot, but his campaign says it is working to get onto the ballot in all 50 states.
To be listed on the Connecticut ballot a petition with 1 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the 2012 Connecticut presidential election, or 7,500 signatures requesting Johnson’s name be on the ballot, must be submitted to the Secretary of the State — whichever number is less, according to a spokesman in the Secretary of State’s office. The deadline to petition onto the ballot is Aug. 10.
Johnson has described himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
On fiscal matters, Libertarians push for reduced spending and taxes, saying the federal government has gotten too big across the board. Johnson proposes eliminating federal income and corporate taxes and replacing those with a national sales tax.
He claims he would reduce domestic spending by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Commerce and Education departments, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On social issues, Libertarians generally support abortion rights, gun rights, same-sex marriage, and drug legalization, saying people should be allowed to do anything that doesn’t hurt others.
Johnson served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican after a career as the owner of one of that state’s largest construction companies.
After failing to gain traction in the GOP’s 2012 primaries, he changed his registration to Libertarian shortly before running for that party’s nomination that year.
Schwartz pointed out that the poll of Connecticut voters found neither Clinton nor Trump is well liked by Connecticut voters.
A total of 37 percent of Connecticut voters have a “strongly favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of Clinton, while 55 percent have a “somewhat unfavorable” or “strongly unfavorable” opinion. Trump gets 33 percent “strongly favorable” or “somewhat unfavorable,” and 61 percent “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.”
Schwartz called these unfavorability ratings very unusual. “I know nationally that these are historically the least favorably viewed presidential candidates ever,” Schwartz said. “So in Connecticut, I can’t recall in our own polling seeing two more negatively viewed candidates.”
The Libertarian Party has been running presidential tickets since 1972, but has never been a major factor. The party’s best showing was 1980, when candidate Ed Clark got slightly more than 1 percent of the vote. The only electoral vote the party has received was in 1972, when a renegade Virginia elector pledged to President Richard Nixon cast his ballot for Libertarian John Hospers instead.
Third parties have never won a U.S. presidential election. Former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose Party ticket, got 27 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes in 1912. He finished second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the only time a third-party candidate has finished that well.
Other notable third-party runs include former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who got 13 percent of the popular vote in 1968, winning 45 electoral votes; and billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot, who got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 but no electoral votes.