Spoiler alert: Poll finds small following for Libertarian candidate
September 10th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
11 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. DC from NJ

    Anyone that helps get Obama reelected, and keeps Romney out of the White House, is doing the country a service. Thanks Gary!

    September 11, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  2. longtooth

    Third party candidates can have a real effect on an election. Ralph Nader got GW Bush elected.

    September 11, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  3. Wes

    When Johnson was Governor or our state he was a little bit wacky; to say the least. He is not a credible leader and should not be considered worthy of a vote. He is probably a nice guy to have as a neighbor or to get stoned with, but I would not let him steer the ship for too long. Johnson is a side note.

    September 11, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  4. Tony

    As a registered Republican I would sooner vote Donald Duck than vote Romney and I do that in the best interests of the GOP. The party seems intent on destroying itself if it hasn't done so already. I know many of the Libertarian Wing will throw away their votes and they aren't doing it out of spite, they honestly believe they doing it for the good of the party. GOP needs to wake up and adapt to changing times.

    September 11, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. WWRRD

    Go for it! Maybe get Obama and Romneys attention and stop them from pandering ton their own special interests.

    September 11, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  6. smgordon1259

    the only issue with a 3rd party is the fact that the media NEVER gives them the EQUAL air time as the other candidates.

    media bought and paid for and run by the ruling elite

    September 11, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  7. Justin Cider

    Gary Johnson > Obama > Romney

    September 11, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  8. Texas GOP

    Johnson was a worthless Governor in the New Mexico which is the tiniest state in Union. I thought New Mexico was part of Old Mexico? Its not? I been thorught New Mexico and there is nothing there and looks like Old Mexico. Maybe he will carry New Mexico with all the Mexian voters there. Us Tea Party suporters will be doing our best to derail this baby state and baby candidates from disrupting the election. Gets smarte like me an vote Mitt and Dan Quayle, Jr. into office.

    September 11, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  9. Steve-o

    First, kudos for CNN as they mention this guy. Albeit he is mentioned as a spoiler versus a candidate.

    Second, for the GOPers who are agitated that Johnson is taking away votes for your guy, wake up! Romney is a Republican version of John Kerry circa 2004, period. He is not that different from Obama and he has no shot of winning. So, stop telling Johnson supporters that they are idiots and let us vote for our choice as our vote tells your beloved party: "hey, the current administation is inept and incompetent, but I'm not voting Republican just because they are the lesser evil".

    There are other choices and I have earned my vote by serving my country and paying my taxes.

    September 11, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. ShawnDH

    Libertarianism is truly the most childish, naive and delusional of all political worldviews. It's really dumb.

    September 11, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    No. No third party, this time.

    The most important aspect of this election, is to put a stop to the dictatorship goal of the Democratic Party. That means all effort must be concentrated in a single opposition focus.

    September 11, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  12. v_mag

    I am an Obama supporter, but I will vote for Gary Johnson. Why? Because I live in Texas. Here, there is no point in voting for either of the "major party" candidates. Romney will win and get all of Texas' electoral votes, no matter how many people turn out. A protest vote is my only meaningful choice in Texas, since my vote will not add a single digit to the only valid count: the electoral college total.

    If you live in any red or blue state, you're in the same hole as I am. Your vote is merely part of a non-binding referendum. Most of the electoral votes have already been calculated, and whether you vote at all for president makes zero difference, unless you vote for a third party candidate. If the "major party" candidates lose a significant portion of the vote in a given state, maybe someone will notice. No one will notice if Dems and Repubs get 99%.

    If you live in a so-called swing state, by all means vote for the candidate of your choice. However, if you live in a red or blue state, your vote will only have meaning if you "vote outside the box" for a third party person. You don't even need to care which third party, since there is no prospect of that person winning or even spoiling the results of the pre-ordained winner. But don't throw your vote away on Obama or Romney. Make your vote count and your voice heard.

    September 11, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  13. MikeB

    Libertarians are tossing common sense aside.

    September 11, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. Rednip

    Why don't these third parties focus their efforts at a Senate seat or several House districts? They always shoot for the big chair, rather than go for what might be a winnable race.

    September 11, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  15. Guest

    I hope he DOES spoil it. The two major parties don't do enough to win over people in the middle. They simply try to make you afraid of the other side. Spoilers will force parties to shift their platforms. The Libertarian Party offers a place for people who like the idea of fiscal sanity and personal responsibility but are abhorred by the social conservatism of the GOP.

    We need about five or six more spoilers and some electoral reform and we might actually start this country moving again.

    September 11, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  16. The GOP Voucher Plan will include a "Legalize Euthanasia" clause and a free gun to commit suicide

    The seniors will need it when their health care dollars run out.

    September 11, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  17. Jim

    Sometimes the lesser of two evils is a third party. I cannot bring myself to support the GOP, a party that I supported for 50 years, because their "values" have become too radical. And I cannot support the Democrats because they are as much the puppets of the financial community and the PACs as the GOP. Gary Johnson 2012. He might not win, but perhaps he can send a message.

    September 11, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  18. Ferret out the BS

    The Paul delegation was treated pretty badly at the GOP convention and many of them threatened to move to Gary Johnson. With a large enough group of Paul supporters Johnson could pull off the "Nader" affect by pulling enough votes to cause the GOP to lose the election. Although right now it doesn't look like the GOP needs their help, the GOP candidates are doing it all by themselves.

    September 11, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  19. irunner

    Gary who?

    September 11, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  20. Kr55

    Democracy in action. Nothing wrong with someone that people feel reflects their values better running and getting votes.

    September 11, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  21. Cindy

    I can only shake my head and laugh at some of these comments. Especially the one we know less about Johnson than Perot! Johnson was a two-term Republican govenor in New Mexico (a Dem state)! He has a record on issues. There is plenty to read about him on issues, incuding his website. Good grief people are lazy.
    Gary Johnson has my vote.

    September 11, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Joe Smith

    As far as I can tell, CNN is the ONLY coverage of this candidate. Maybe if he had a few more supporters, he'd get more news coverage.

    September 11, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  23. ejktexas

    Another fun fact: The GOP has filed suit in at least 6 states to remove Gary Johnson from the ballot. Apparently when you meet the requirements for ballot access it isn't good enough for the GOP anymore. Oddly enough they aren't challenging the Green Party in those states.

    September 11, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  24. demwit

    Why no mention of the Green Party? I hear BIG things are about to happen...

    September 11, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. RookieRick

    Those of you who are concerned about Johnson "causing" Romney to lose, the decision is clear: If your number one priority is "beating Obama" and if you're worried that Romney can't do it, you have no choice but to vote for Johnson. Welcome aboard the Liberty train!

    After the election is over and you've met your goal of beating Obama, then you can get to work on fixing your GOP to turn it into something that doesn't resemble a monstrosity taken over by the extremes and actively seeking to remove any form of grassroots action.. Big Tent, indeed.

    September 11, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
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