Spoiler alert: Poll finds small following for Libertarian candidate
September 10th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
2 years ago

Spoiler alert: Poll finds small following for Libertarian candidate

Washington (CNN) – Gary Johnson's poll numbers may not give him much-of-a shot at winning the presidency, but in the latest CNN/ORC Poll, he is registering enough of a following to possibly tip the balance in an increasingly close election.

Three percent of likely voters responded that they would vote for Johnson, the Libertarian Party's candidate for president, in November. That number is slightly higher among registered voters, with 4% identifying with the former governor of New Mexico.

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The poll also finds that Johnson's inclusion, along with the Green Party's candidate Jill Stein, hurts Republican candidate Mitt Romney more than it does President Barack Obama.

Obama leads Romney 52% to 46% when Romney and Obama are the only candidates in question, but Romney's support goes down three percentage points with the inclusion of the third party candidates. Obama's support only drops one point.

"The inclusion of the two minor-party candidates turns a six-point margin for President Obama into an eight-point lead," said Keating Holland, CNN's Polling Director. Since third party candidates are typically not on the ballot in all 50 states, those numbers can be slight deceiving when relating them to the support the candidates will receive on Election Day.

Johnson, who first ran as a candidate for the Republican Party, dropped out of the Republican race and accepted the nomination from the Libertarian Party on May 5, 2012.

The Johnson campaign says they don't see their candidacy as a Republican spoiler and argues that the Johnson's appeal is more important when looked at on a state-by-state.

"Generally, in places like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada," said Joe Hunter, Johnson campaign spokesperson, "it appears that Governor Johnson's appeal comes from folks that supported Obama in 2008 and are now disillusioned with the president."

He continued: "Who cares if Johnson takes votes from Romney in California?"

Johnson is running a largely outsiders campaign and has actively been looking to pull votes from the Romney and Obama base. In the last two weeks, he attended rallies in both Tampa, Florida – the site of the Republican National Convention – and Charlotte, North Carolina – the site of the Democrats convention.

The campaign has also put a great deal of focus on courting former Ron Paul supporters since the ardently supported libertarian stopped his campaign for the Republican nomination. Johnson spoke at a Paul rally in Tampa and Hunter argues that they are making in roads among the typically loyal Paul supporters.

Johnson is rarely included in national polls, something the Johnson campaign has long complained about.

"Our issue is that polls become self-fulfilling," said Hunter, before the latest poll numbers came out. Hunter went on to say that even if a poll shows only a small following, they create a conversation about the candidate and increase the campaign's profile.

"If you are not even in the poll than you are not in the conversation," Hunter concluded.

This latest CNN/ORC poll sampled 1,022 adult Americans and was conducted by telephone on September 7-9, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Watch "OutFront" tonight at 7pm ET for Erin Burnett's interview with Gary Johnson.


Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC poll • Gary Johnson
soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. The Real Deal

    If Obama wins, America loses. If Romney wins, America loses. Neither one will do a damn thing about our debt or annual deficits....guarenteed.

    September 10, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. Big_D

    Even as a liberal democrat I see the libertarians as a good option. The GOP is as inconsistent as they are insane. Small government and less interference has a place at the table. Crazy Tea Party birther racist garbage does not. We both share a love of liberty the GOP has forgotten too.

    September 10, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. POD

    He got my vote......REAL hope and change with him and Ron Paul. The rest of you fools can vote for 'the usual suspects' .....twiddle-dem and twiddle-repb

    September 10, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. Sandi Darby

    I will always vote for the person I think is the best candidate, having voted lesser of 2 evils before, I realize our country has the problems it has because of people who do that. You should never vote lesser of 2 evils. You should study the issues and decide who is the best for our country, not the best for "me."

    September 10, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  5. Mary Tyler Moore

    The RNC silenced Ron Paul supporters and lost 6-9% of the Republican independent voters who would have supported Romney under a much larger tent as the RNC promised. If Romney loses, they've only Ben Ginsberg to blame.

    September 10, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  6. givemeliberty76

    Ancient Texan: Actually if Obama wins re-election the only one to blame will be Romney and the GOP for running such a terrible candidate

    September 10, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Don't restrict who votes legally, and don't restrict who runs legally.

    September 10, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  8. tehgreengrass

    Thank you CNN for including both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in your polling! We're not going to get anywhere with only Republicans and Democrats, and it's about time that voters knew there were other options.

    September 10, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  9. Cam

    The RNC corruption – cheating was so blatant during the convention I decided I would vote for Gary Johnson. I don't really care if Gary Johnson is considered a spoiler by the corrupt media or the corrupt two party system. I don't support cheats and liars.

    September 10, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. conoclast

    Run Gary run! Kissing up to the super-pac's has rendered the GOP and democrat "campaigns" utterly irrelevant to anything other than the fat-cats' issues. (Unemployment? What's that?) ( Poverty? That's what happens to the unemployed, isn't it?)

    September 10, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  11. bob e

    Gary Johnson is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, he is the best of both worlds, I really wish he would win the election, however Barack Obama is feeding off the whole government dependent class warfare thing and Mitt Romney does not care about rights for gays or abortion rights. Gary Johnson is not going to spoil it for Mitt Romney, because Gary Johnson supporters would rather stay at home than vote for any other candidate.

    September 10, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  12. Mike Baker

    You know what bothers me the most? Is he'd poll higher if CNN and others included him. He's BETTER than Ron Paul on a few issues, and similar on all the others. I'd rather have a candidate be pro-choice, and keep the DOE (energy, not education). Flat out, the dude's a baller than does 100 mile mountain bike rides in Colorado. He's pro-pot... Why aren't more voting for him instead of the double-mint twins?

    September 10, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  13. Greg Kells

    He is polling so low because CNN and every other major news source acts like he isn't even running. Maybe if our "independent" news sources weren't shoving the same two parties down our throats as if they are the only options we have, maybe we'd have a realistic shot at fair and accurate representation. How is a third party candidate expected to have a chance if they are intentionally marginalized or blatantly ignored in the press? I'm still voting for Johnson, and I can only hope he is a spoiler for Romney. The only possible candidate less competent than our current pretender in chief is Romney. The GOP will almost certainly take control of the Senate, and maintain the House. I'd rather have an eloquent shill with no actual power in the White House than a bumbling tool with unlimited power. If we can't have Johnson because our media won't let it be a viable option. The best I can hope for is Obama neutered by a GOP majority in Congress.

    September 10, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. Realitybitesforconservatives

    You hear the sour grapes from Romney's campaign and conservatives, It's a CNN poll, it's a sugar high. When points to the right of poll averages Rasmussen has the president ahead by 4 points Sunday, 5 points Monday, the Romney campaign is self destructing. The bounce would not be as pronounced if on Sunday morning romney and Ryan said how the 20% tax rate cut is revenue neutral. By not answering the questions about it, they have lost face and faith of we the people. You will not win the election saying you are better because he is bad, you must have a plan. Revenue neutral is a lie unless you show how it is done. When your own convention was fact checked full of lies, no one will believe you unless you show them something besides a talking point.

    September 10, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  15. VA Ron

    I have been polled a couple times already. When the pollster asks "If the election was held today, who would you vote for?" I say "Johnson." It completely befuddles them - . But I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and I wish more people disillusioned with the major parties would begin to think outside the box.

    September 10, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  16. Steve

    Yes, I certainly plan to vote for Gary Johnson. I'm certainly not going to vote for Obama which is a mix of Socialism and Fascism or Romney which is a mix of Fascism and Socialism.

    September 10, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. HM8432

    A Republican governor that was re-elected by the Democratic majority in his state? Johnson can't be that bad. Unfortunately, the Libertarians are drowned-out by the (R) and (D)'s; I applaud Johnson for standing by his political beliefs even if it means losing an election. What he did for New Mexico, he would also do for our country; he has my vote!

    September 10, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  18. JJ

    So, the repukes have their own Ralph Nader this year, eh? GOOD! :)

    September 10, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  19. KJ

    Ron Paul will be a write in candidate in California and some other states where he doesn't need to file anything and supporters can sign up as electors. He was a write in candidate there in 2008 but it happened so late word didn't get out.

    September 10, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. Len Morlock

    Gary Johnson is not a spoiler, he's a serious candidate for President. He will be on the ballot in all 50 states. Right now he is the only candidate left with the right ideas, and the right principles. He should be covered like any other candidate, not as a curiosity.

    September 10, 2012 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  21. Bob

    There needs to be a legitimate third party to bring the other two parties down to earth. Republicans are too far right, and Dems are too far left now. What about all those in the middle?

    September 10, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  22. A Woman

    Yep, Mitt is sweating bullets, at the mention of a 3rd Party. I will never be around to see a 3rd Party, but at least I can say I helped lay the seed of what America, desperately needs..A 3rd Party; "An Independent Party of The Common American"!

    September 10, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  23. JeffinIL

    *YAWN* Another Republican running as a Libertarian. If I want a Republican president, I'll vote for Mitt Romney.

    September 10, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  24. RemainCalm

    The “spoiler” fallacy effect incorrectly assumes votes belong to one of only two political candidates. No candidate "steals votes" from a different candidate. A vote is given by a voter to whomever that voter chooses. No vote is taken from anyone because no vote is granted in advance of it being cast. If there are more than two choices, the election is still decided based on the total numbers of votes gained by each candidate. When enough voters choose better government, then a candidate other than the usual D and R failures will win the election.
    Every vote for a Democrat or Republican, the two clubs that got us into this mess, is a wasted vote. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results every time. If you really want to build a future for government reform, join the Libertarian Party. If you want to complain for the rest of your life about the same failed government nonsense, keep on voting for Democrats and Republicans.

    September 10, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  25. GaryB

    End of the day, it really comes down to what impact he might have in the most closely contested swing states and the demographics of those states. Most of Ron Paul's support among college students - which would normally by an Obama stronghold - stems from his support of the legalization of marijuana. As a libertarian, Johnson could leverage this support and theoretically peel slightly more votes away from Obama than Romney. So if you have a state where Romney and Obama are within a couple tenths of a percentage point and the state has a large college-age marijuana-smoking population, Johnson could tilt the scale in Romney's favor. What's more likely to happen, however, is that conservatives, disappointed in Romney, if faced with the likelihood of a Romney loss on election day, might cast their vote for Johnson as a protest vote, making a Romney loss potentially worse than it might otherwise be.

    September 10, 2012 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
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