Outside Young Voters, Most Americans Still Don't Know Johnson or Stein

Author: David Yee
Created: 10 August, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

Tuesday's piece on the growing momentum of both Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) among younger voters is a positive sign for both campaigns.

But outside of these demographics, Gallup shows a much more negative outlook for both minor party candidates because it seems only young voters know who they are. Approximately two-thirds of Americans still don't consider themselves 'familiar' with Johnson (63 percent) and Stein (68 percent).

Of those familiar with Johnson, they seem to be evenly divided between a positive and negative outlook on his campaign. Stein tilts slightly negative in this poll.

When compared to former third party candidates, H. Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, and Pat Buchanan, both candidates come up short -- with Perot's 1992 run for presidency still having a 42 percent favorability rating, while Nader and Buchanan both have favorability ratings above the current candidates.

What's driving this?

Three likely possibilities for this dichotomy between younger and older voters exist.

First, both the Libertarians and Greens maximize the use of social media to keep in touch with voters. While this is tech savvy, the largest bloc of voters is still not 'there' when it comes to embracing technology and social media as their primary sources of news and events.

Social media is great for communicating ideas to Millenials and GenXers, but not so good for Boomers and older.

Second, related to the first, is less disposable money in their campaigns for traditional advertising -- or much else.

There's an axiom in politics that the better funded candidate wins 91 percent of the time. This isn't always true, however, and even in the 2016 primary we saw Jeb Bush's campaign crumple, even though he was the best funded of the field.

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But Stein and Johnson both entered the summer with fairly drastic money problems. Stein had less than $250,000 on hand, Johnson had less than $500,000. Compared to the major party candidates, where Clinton hoarded away $84 million and Trump with $22.3 million.

There won't be much more reporting on finances until after the election, but this summer's numbers were dire for the minor party candidates -- and they are in serious trouble if they haven't broken past this slump in fundraising.

The oldest sections of the voting blocs tend to get their information from television, both news stories and advertising -- and this is simply the most expensive way to advertise politically.

Johnson and Weld have done a good job of keeping their names on CNN, with their two sponsored town hall meetings -- and it's almost certainly a low-cost (probably free) way to get out their message.

Stein and Baraka will have similar town hall meetings later in August on CNN.

But the real problem is that neither of the two minor party candidates can go head-to-head with the major parties when it comes to blanketing entire areas with political ads, not to mention the free ad time Trump and Clinton get from nonstop media coverage. It will be almost impossible for them to have a decent rebuttal to the various allegations that will be made.

The third possibility is the toughest nut to crack -- Stein and Johnson will have to really work to convince the older voters to switch party allegiance.

All too often, within the older demographics of voters, we see straight-ticket voting -- and extreme party loyalty.

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For Johnson and Stein to break this, they will need solid presence on television, clear-cut, persuasive television advertisements, and a spot at the debates to present their case to Americans, but especially the older voters.

Grassroots is going to be the answer for both Johnson and Stein -- getting their eager, younger supporters to engage in one of the largest efforts of getting out the vote in modern elections.

It seems like that is the only 'real' ticket to win for their respective candidacies: it won't cost much, it keeps their younger support engaged, and it gives them a personalized avenue of campaigning that the major parties have not exploited well.

All too often, in business, war, and politics, the answer to matching and beating a 'hi-tech' opponent is by going 'low-tech,' and employing a lot of boots on the ground to overwhelm the impact of the 'hi-tech.'

In the end, they need to employ a strategy that is personalized to the voters, that makes the older voters eagerly want to join the fold of their campaign.

Because if the minor parties have a shot at winning this year, they will have to exploit a totally new, cheaper means of conveying their political message outside of their core group of supporters.

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