Majority of Americans say a third party is needed

As protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street demonstration continue to spread from coast to coast, record high numbers of Americans say they are very dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, and a majority of Americans say that a third party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans is needed.

Three Gallup polls released last week suggest that dissatisfaction with the direction the country is headed under the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties may provide an opening for Independent and third party candidates as we approach the 2012 presidential election year.  The first poll, published last Wednesday, found that only 11% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States today.  This is among “the lowest readings on this measure” since 1979.  The all-time low of 7% was registered just under three years ago in December 2008. 

Almost no Republicans express satisfaction with the country today.  Just 3% of GOPers express satisfaction with the direction the country is headed.  Only 9% of Independents say the same.  Democrats are slightly less pessimistic, with 20% saying that they are satisfied with the the state of the Union.  Conversely, a record high number of Americans, 56%, say they are “very dissatisfied” with the way things are going in the country today.

A separate poll found that confidence in the federal government is at a nadir.  69% stated they have little or no confidence in the legislative branch of government, an all time-high.  Nearly half, 49%, said that the federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. 

Though more Americans say they think the GOP will do a better job handling economic and security matters than the Democrats (48% vs. 39%, and 49% vs 38%, respectively), neither of the major parties has majority support on either question, according to a third Gallup survey from last week.

This lack of confidence in the federal government under the mismanagement of the Democrats and Republicans is leading many Americans to consider a third party alternative.  In the latter survey, Gallup found that 55% Americans think the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is necessary.  Support for a third party alternative was highest among Independents, with 68% of those who refuse to identify with any party saying a third party is necessary.  Republicans were evenly split on the question, while just under half of all Democrats said the country needs a third party.

A majority of Americans have consistently stated that the country needs third party alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans across a wide array of polls in recent years.  In August, a survey by Reason-Rupe found that 53% of those polled said they would consider voting for an Independent or third party candidate for president in 2012.  A poll conducted by Douglas E. Schoen LLC in April found that 57% of Americans said the country needs a third party, as Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen reported in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal over the summer. 

A majority of Americans say the country needs Independent and third party alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans.  The question is, however, when will they actually begin to support them?