Voters want a third party but which one?

Last week the Gallup organization released a new public opinion poll that shows American voters’ demand for a viable third political party is at its highest point since they started including the question about it in surveys.

Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.

According to Gallup,

The prior highs in perceived need for a third party came in August 2010, shortly before that year’s midterm elections, when Americans were dissatisfied with government and the Tea Party movement was emerging as a political force; and in 2007, when the newly elected Democratic congressional majority was clashing with then-President George W. Bush.


I would be curious to see pollsters dig deeper on this question. It’s not enough to know voters want an alternative. What alternative do they want?

Liberals who are disaffected from the Democratic Party want a left-leaning third party. Conservatives who are discontent with the GOP want a right-leaning party. There already is a Libertarian Party for libertarians. And for the millions of middle-of-the-roaders, what would a moderate political party look like? For that matter, what kind of party would serve the populists, who want more government intervention in both economic and social matters?

I’m sure my friends in the Libertarian Party take heart when they read reports like this one from Gallup, but until we have better, more detailed data that describes just what American voters actually want when they say they want a third party to oppose the Democrats and Republicans, not even the country’s best-organized alternative party can expect to grow merely upon the sentiment of dissatisfaction.