How Americans feel about the prospect of a third major political party in the U.S.

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
August 04, 2022, 6:04 PM GMT+0

Last week, a new political party, Forward, was launched by a bipartisan group of founders, including former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Republican governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. The latest Economist/YouGov poll reveals that Americans generally have positive views of the value a third major party would add to the U.S. political system. Nearly half of Americans say they'd be willing to vote for a third party or independent candidate, though only around one-third report having done so in the past.

When asked how they feel about a third political party in the U.S., more Americans say a third party is necessary (39%) than say the Democratic and Republican parties are enough to represent Americans (30%). The rest (31%) are unsure.

Do views on the necessity of a third party differ among Democrats and Republicans? To test this, we examine how third-party interest varies among strong partisans (people who identify strongly with the Democratic or Republican party) as well as partisan-leaners (people who don't identify with, but lean toward, the Democratic or Republican party). Across this spectrum, ranging from strong Democrats to strong Republicans, we find that Democratic-leaners are most likely to say a third party is necessary (62% say it is), while people who identify as strong Republicans are least likely to view one as necessary (26% do).

Is third-party support driven more by social views, or by economic ones? In addition to examining how views vary according to partisan affiliation, we also look at the impact of social and economic ideology — that is, where a person says they stand on social and economic issues. The poll found that belief in the necessity of a third party is positively linked to holding liberal views on social issues: People who say they're socially "very liberal" are most likely to support the formation of a third party (61%), while people who say they’re “very conservative” are least likely to support it (31%).

Views on economic issues are less closely tied to third-party interest, though people who say they're "very conservative" do stand out in being more likely than other groups on the economic-ideology spectrum to say the current two-party system is good enough to represent Americans (45% say this)

How many Americans have voted for a third-party or independent candidate, and how many would be willing to do so? In our latest poll, 31% of Americans report ever having voted for a third-party or independent candidate — including 35% of registered voters. Independents — whom we define as Americans who do not identify with one of the two major parties — are more likely to say they've voted for a third-party candidate, with 39% saying they have. Despite being somewhat less likely to say a third party is necessary, Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say they've voted for a third-party candidate.

Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they would consider voting for a third-party candidate, while only 22% say they would not; 32% say they're not sure. More than half of Independents (57%) say they'd vote for a third party. Smaller shares of Democrats (41%) and Republicans (40%) say they would consider voting third-party.

Americans are slightly more likely to have a favorable (31%) than unfavorable (26%) view of Forward party founder Andrew Yang. His net favorability rating (percentage favorable minus percentage unfavorable) is higher among Democrats (+25) than among Independents (-3) or Republicans (-16). Nearly half of Independents (49%) and Republicans (46%) say they don’t have an opinion of Yang.

— Kathy Frankovic, Carl Bialik, and Linley Sanders contributed to this article.

This poll was conducted on July 30 - August 2, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

Image: Getty Images, Drew Angerer / Staff