The choice was close, but there are numerous snags in the ‘third-party votes did it’ case – not least the presumption that Clinton was a clear second choice


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Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got over 3% the the well-known vote, with many of the ballots now counted. Photograph: note Kauzlarich/Reuters
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson acquired over 3% the the renowned vote, with many of the ballots currently counted. Photograph: note Kauzlarich/Reuters

Two results from the us presidential choice seem hard to reconcile. Donald Trump won the presidency after acquiring what seems likely to it is in 306 the the 538 electoral college votes available. Hillary Clinton looks collection to victory the renowned vote by a portion of a portion point.

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That distinction is since of the means that votes are dispersed in the electoral college system. But an additional potential explanation has been offered: perhaps third-party candidates cost Clinton dear.


Nationally, third-party candidates did reasonably well in this election. With many of the ballots currently counted, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got over 3% that the famous vote, and the green party’s Jill Stein obtained 1%. Altogether, candidates that did not stand for either the the two main parties got about 4.9% that the famous vote (in 2012, third-party candidates only managed 1.7%, and in 2008, 1.4%).

It’s straightforward to view why people point the finger at third-party votes. In Michigan, where the choice was therefore close the the connected Press still hasn’t dubbed the result, trump card is ahead by about 12,000 votes. That’s considerably less 보다 the 242,867 votes that visited third-party candidates in Michigan. The a comparable story elsewhere: third-party candidates won much more total votes than the Trump’s margin of win in Wisconsin, Arizona, north Carolina and Florida. Without those states, Trump would certainly not have actually won the presidency.


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But there space a couple of snags to the “third-party votes go it” argument. Firstly, the assumes the a most voters’ 2nd choice was Clinton. There’s tiny evidence the was true. Many polls – which, it transforms out to be deeply fault – simply asked: “Who would you vote for if the choice were hosted today?” hardly ever was over there a follow-up inquiry of: “And that would you poll for if friend didn’t vote for that candidate?”

There space three various other possibilities besides selecting Clinton together a 2nd choice candidate:

1. Those voters can have favored a different third-party candidate. For example, Johnson voters can have switched to Stein, or evil versa. If so, that would certainly have had actually no result on Trump’s opportunities of winning.

2. Those voters can have liked to continue to be at house rather 보다 vote because that someone that wasn’t their an initial choice. If so, castle again i will not ~ have readjusted Trump’s success over Clinton – other than to do it also larger together a share of all votes cast.

3. Those voters might have favored Trump together their second-choice candidate. If so, lock not only would have actually secured Trump together the winner of the national popular vote, they can have likewise bumped up his electoral college votes by claiming democratic states prefer Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado and brand-new Hampshire, whereby Clinton winner by a smaller number of votes 보다 those actors for third-party candidates.

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In reality, the some mix of every one of the above. Part third-party voters can have preferred to stay at home, some can have voted because that Clinton, and some because that Trump. (People nothing act in perfect herds. If pollsters had much better understood that, probably they wouldn’t have acquired this choice so badly wrong.)

Except the third-party voters didn’t do any of those things. They put their crosses versus the name of a candidate they almost certainly knew would certainly not end up being their next president. Which suggests a stamin of emotion that renders all theoretical “what ifs” a little redundant.