Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2013

Capstone Advisor

Shana Gadarian

Honors Reader

Quinn Mulroy

Capstone Major

Political Science

Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Science


Not a single person representing a third party has ever been elected president. Yet, year after year, there are candidates and voters who support individuals who have no chance of winning. Being able to understand why people decide to vote for third party candidates helps us to be better able to predict presidential race outcomes and could also lead to more successful third party candidates.

I find that third party voters in presidential elections tend to be more independent voters who have not committed to one political party. Younger voters are often supporters of third parties. Because they have not voted in as many elections as older voters, there is less of a pattern of votes for one particular party. Third party voters also tend to dislike government, in general. They are more likely to feel disenfranchised by the political process. The two main parties, they feel, do not accurately represent their views. They vote for third parties partly because they genuinely like the candidate and his views, and partly to cast a vote against the two main parties. These reasons for voting for third parties describe many, but not all, third party voters. These patterns are evident in both a long-term study of American presidential elections and short-term case studies of individual presidential campaigns.

In this case, I examine the candidacy of Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. His support dropped 83 percent in the span of just two elections. Voters for Nader fit into the greater narrative of third party voters. His supporters were unlikely to see differences between Gore and Bush in 2000 and expressed a level of frustration with government.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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