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Will Third Party Candidates Tip the Presidential Race?

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll has shown a very close race between John McCain and Barack Obama. For most of the past week, they have been essentially tied with typically 4% of voters saying they prefer some other candidate and a similar number remaining undecided.

A separate survey found slightly different results when third-party candidates were mentioned by name. In a four-way race, Obama earns 42% of the vote, McCain 38%, Bob Barr 6% and Ralph Nader 4%. Given those options, 11% were undecided. Barr and Nader were mentioned as candidates of the Libertarian Party and the Green Party respectively.

Barr picked up 7% of the Republican vote, 5% of the Democratic vote, and 5% of the unaffiliated vote. participants to choose between Barack Obama, John McCain and some other candidate.

Nader got 1% of the Republican vote, 3% of the Democratic vote, and 8% support from those not affiliated with either major party.

Rasmussen Reports does not typically include the names of minor third party candidates because early polls tend to dramatically overstate their ultimate level of support. However, it is occasionally useful to review the possibilities and explore what impact these candidates might have on determining the next resident of the White House.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters believe it is somewhat or very likely that a third party candidate will be elected President in the next twenty-five years or so. That includes 10% who consider a third-party President Very Likely.

Most voters—52%--say it is not likely that a third party President will be elected.

The survey also considered a match-up with Senator Hillary Clinton running as an Independent candidate. In that match-up, it’s McCain 32%, Obama 31%, Clinton 22%, Barr 3%, and Nader 3%. In that match-up, Obama wins 50% of the vote from Democrats while Clinton gets 35% and McCain 7%.

It is highly unlikely that Clinton would consider running as a third party candidate. However, a recent survey found that 29% of Democrats would like her to do so if she is not the Democratic Party nominee.

Most voters don’t know enough about Barr to have an opinion of him. Twenty-five percent (25%) have a favorable opinion of Nader while 54% have an unfavorable.

See survey questions and toplines. Crosstabs are available for Premium Members only.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

The Rasmussen Reports ElectionEdge™ Premium Service for Election 2008 offers the most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a Presidential election.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.


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