California Voters Want a Third Party

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Californians would prefer a major third political party. The new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll tells us so. But time and again the voters seem to settle into familiar patterns. So how strong is this rejection of the major parties?

While the news made from the new PPIC poll results deal with the governor and senate races and the controversial ballot measures, Propositions 6 and 10, let’s focus on some less covered items in the poll.

Likely voters were asked: “In your view, do the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?”

By more than two to one, 61% to 29%, likely voters opted for a third party over the current parties doing an adequate job.

But what kind of third party would be satisfactory. That’s where you will get disagreement.

For example, 70% of the San Francisco Bay Area likely voters wanted a third party. While all areas of the state also opted for a third party by a comfortable margin, one can imagine the party desired by the Bay Area voters would look a little different than a party endorsed in the Central Valley.

Still, dissatisfaction with the major parties was across the board. When likely voters were tallied in Democratic leaning congressional districts a third party was approved by 62% of the voters, Republican leaning districts showed the same, 63%, and in competitive districts 60% championed a third party.

Further evidence: likely voters had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party 31% favorable, 65% unfavorable—probably expected in this heavily blue state; but the Democratic Party fared only a little better: 41% favorable to 54% unfavorable. Even Independent voters, often described as Democratic leaning, have negative feelings about the Democratic Party, 30% favorable, 62% unfavorable.

What’s all this mean? There are certainly disagreements among party members on how their party represents their views. Not all members of the Democratic Party would agree what a third party should look like; same goes for the Republicans.

Can a party that hopes to split the difference find a middle road success? A third party that is created merely because of dissatisfaction with the major political parties with no core principles would not last long.

One other item in the poll that might indicate what voters are looking for in a third party—although it would seem an anomaly in California. Or at least out of character with the current California legislature: Likely voters support the idea of a smaller government with fewer services over a bigger government offering more services 53% to 41%. Surprisingly, even the Bay Area voters split on the idea of smaller vs bigger government— 47% to 47%.

See the entire poll here.

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