- Third time support has exceeded 60%, along with 2017 and 2021
- Republicans primarily behind the increase, with 58% now in favor
- Political independents remain group most likely to favor third party
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults currently agree with the statement that the Republican and Democratic parties do “such a poor job” of representing the American people that “a third major party is needed.” This represents a seven-percentage-point increase from a year ago and is the highest since Gallup first asked the question in 2003. However, the current measure is not meaningfully different from the prior highs of 61% in 2017 and 62% in 2021, shortly after the January 2021 Capitol Hill riots.
Over the past two decades, majorities of U.S. adults have typically agreed that a third party is needed. The last time this wasn’t the case was in 2012, when Americans were evenly divided. Gallup also found close divisions in 2006 and 2008 polls. In 2003, a record-low 40% called for a third party when 56% thought the parties were doing “an adequate job of representing the American people.”
The latest data are based on Gallup’s annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 1-23, 2023, which finds both parties receiving low favorable ratings, as has been the case for most of the past two decades.
More Republicans Want to See a Third Alternative
Typically, political independents are most likely to favor a third party, and that is the case this year, with 75% expressing this view. No less than 70% of independents have said a third U.S. party is needed since 2013.
Most often, support for a third party among Democrats and Republicans is below the majority level. However, this year’s poll shows 58% of Republicans endorsing a third U.S. political party, up from 45% a year ago. The only other time more Republicans than now expressed support for a third party was in a late January/early February 2021 conducted after the Jan. 6 riots, the second impeachment of Donald Trump, and the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
There has also been an uptick in support for a third party among Democrats this year, from 40% to 46%, though still less than a majority back the idea.
Although the data are not conclusive due to small sample sizes, both conservative Republicans and moderate/liberal Republicans appear more likely to endorse a third party than they were a year ago.
Republicans’ support for a third party tends to vary based on whether a Republican or Democratic president is in office. On average, 49% of Republicans have favored a third party in years when a Democratic president is in the White House, compared with 38% in years of a Republican incumbent. In contrast, independents’ and Democrats’ views of a third party have been similar under both types of presidential administrations.
For more than a decade now, most Americans have expressed a desire for a third major political party, but none as powerful as the Republican and Democratic parties has emerged. Third-party candidates have, however, been thought to have played spoilers in key states in past presidential elections, including Ralph Nader in 2000 and Jill Stein in 2016. Thus, it is unclear to what extent Americans actually desire a third party, as opposed to just expressing their frustration with the two parties that contest elections and govern in the U.S. two-party system.
With the 2024 presidential election looming, noted educator Cornel West has declared his candidacy for the Green Party nomination, and political scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is expected to announce his independent presidential candidacy. In addition, the “No Labels” organization is laying the groundwork to run a third-party candidate that represents the political center. This effort is partly designed to address public sentiment in favor of a third party and dissatisfaction with a rematch of the 2020 election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, both of whom are unpopular with U.S. adults.
An effort similar to the No Labels campaign in 2012 run under the “Americans Elect” banner was abandoned when no candidate met the minimum threshold for winning the party’s nomination. The No Labels organization says it has no interest in playing a spoiler role and will not decide on its 2024 intentions until after the major-party nominees have been determined.
To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on X.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.