A majority of Californians feel that the current political parties fail to do a good job and these voters are open to the idea of a third political party. That was the result of one of the questions in the latest Public Policy Institute poll that received little attention.

By a 52% to 41% margin, Californians liked the idea of supporting a third party because the Democratic and Republican parties do not do an adequate job. As you would expect, it was the Independents who really grabbed onto the idea of a third party by 62% to 35%. But registered Democrats and Republicans apparently don’t think the third party suggestion is so crazy. Democrats said that current parties do an adequate job of representing the people by a only a narrow margin 48% to 44%, while Republicans actually were in favor of the third party idea 49% to 44%.

Poll results on the independent voters is significant because independents, or as they are known in California, Decline to State voters, are growing in number. In September, the Secretary of State revealed that Decline to State voters make up nearly 20% of California’s registered voters. That’s compared to 32.5% Republicans and 43.7% Democrats.

While the Decline to State percentage is large by historic standards, in just the last couple of years, the Decline to State voter rolls have stalled a bit according to a recent release by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College. The Rose Report shows that while Republicans had done well in voter registration in the early years of the decade, since 2006 the Republicans have faltered and the Democrats have come on strong making up much of the lost registration from those earlier years in the decade. The Rose Report titles this the “Obama Surge.”

Yet, there clearly seems to be dissatisfaction with both parties in answer to the PPIC poll question. Past polling results reveal that self-identified Republicans and Democrats don’t always hold the hard-line positions of party leaders or activists. Surveys have shown that as a group, California Republicans are not as solid on some of the social issues as many of the party leaders. On the other hand, rank and file Democratic voters are often less willing to raise taxes as party leaders.

Mark Baldassare, who conducted the PPIC poll, thinks that the disconnect between leaders and the rank and file extends to environmental and law and order issues as well. More importantly, he suspects the positive attitude toward a potential third party reflects dissatisfaction with the stark partisanship displayed in government.

The Rose Report questioned whether the “Obama Surge” was a short-term change in party affinity and voter registration or if it would last for a time. The Report concluded: “If the Democratic ticket wins and has a successful first 100 days, the “Obama Surge” may continue, or even accelerate, here in California.”

On the Republican side, the Rose Report conjectured there may be a “Palin bounce” in Republican registration in Inland California. It is too early to tell. For Republicans, they must look at the current party registration numbers and wonder if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous quip that Republicans are dying at the box office is true.

Politics is cyclical and the two major parties will probably continue unchallenged in their dominance. But continued dissatisfaction amongst the electorate indicates that a potential third party could get attention.