It’s intriguing how the Quinnipiac University poll from August 25 has been used, abused, and spun by media outlets in general since its release.
The key finding being reported on is that 62% of Americans believe that Gary Johnson should be included in the presidential debates.
The selection of the criteria by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) borders on absurd, arbitrarily selecting polls to qualify debaters, who have to average at least 15 percent in the 5 selected polls.
Johnson is polling at twice his levels from 2012, but still not quite at the 15-percent mark.
It seems that Americans have a sense of fair play in wanting to include him in the debates — close is good enough it would seem.
That, coupled with the outright frustration at the two major-party candidates, both polling as unlikable and untrustworthy.
But the same Quinnipiac poll had two other very critical findings — both damaging to Johnson’s chances even if he gets to participate in the debates.
First, two-thirds of voters wouldn’t consider voting for a third-party candidate — with over half of them stating that the fear of ‘wasting their vote’ and allowing the greater-of-two evils to win is the primary motivation for not even considering a third-party candidate.
In 2016, the ‘spoiler effect’ stereotype is definitely alive and well, and the major-party candidates have done more than their fair share of making sure that the fear of the greater-of-two-evils is on the minds of their respective bases.
This is just the normal defensive ‘playbook‘ for major-party candidates when facing an independent or third-party candidate.
Second, and most damaging to Johnson — 90 percent of those polled have their minds made up.
This is in line with what has been seen in modern debating, viewers already have their minds made up and ‘winning’ the debates has little overall effect on the voter’s ballot box choices.
For 2020, the lesson is clear for third-party and independent candidates.
First, they have to vigorously campaign, solidifying their support by early summer. They must have supporters in hand before the major parties have their respective convention ‘bumps’ in support.
Second, they have to find an aggressive strategy to combat the ‘spoiler’ stereotype.
That will be the hardest of the two to accomplish, far too many voters have been convinced in their own minds that breaking from the political duopoly will result in wasting their vote or, even worse, allowing the ‘other’ candidate to win.
2016 has seen unprecedented activity nationwide by third-party and independent candidates up-and-down the ballot — from the lowest offices to the presidential races.
Victories down-ballot, coupled with aggressive campaigning in 2018 races, will help the cause of combating the ‘spoiler’ stereotype, but would-be candidates will have to keep up the pressure in their campaigning to prove that they aren’t just spoilers.
Because 2020 needs to be a bottom-to-top race if independents and third-party candidates expect to overcome the almost insurmountable hurdles they have faced this year.