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Why Robert F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s current presidential polling numbers might not hold up into November – The Mercury News

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By LINLEY SANDERS (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has reached 15% or more in three approved national polls. One more, and he will have met one of CNN’s benchmarks to qualify for the debate June 27 with Democratic President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But Kennedy cannot count on maintaining his current level of support as the November election nears.

It is pretty common for third-party candidates to look like they have polling momentum in the months before an election, only to come up far short at the ballot box, according to an Associated Press analysis of Gallup data going back to 1980.

That is not a sign that the polls about Kennedy are wrong right now. They just are not predictors of what will happen in the general election.

Studies have shown that people are bad at predicting their future behavior, and voting is months away. And in a year with two highly unpopular candidates in a rematch from 2020, voters may also use their early support for a third-party candidate to express their frustration with the major party choices. In the end, voters may support the candidate for whom they feel their vote can make a difference or they may decide not to vote at all.

AMERICANS WANT A THIRD PARTY, IN THEORY

The concept of a third party has been popular for a long time.

A poll conducted by Gallup in 1999 found two-thirds of U.S. adults said they favored a third political party that would run candidates for president, Congress and state offices against Republicans and Democrats. (The AP analysis used Gallup data, when available, because Gallup has a long history of high-quality polling in the United States.)

About 6 in 10 U.S. adults have said in Gallup polling since 2013 that the Republican and Democratic parties do “such a poor job representing the American people” that a third major party is needed. In the latest Gallup polling, much of that enthusiasm is carried by independents: 75% say a third party is needed. About 6 in 10 Republicans and slightly fewer than half of Democrats (46%) say an alternative is necessary.

Marjorie Hershey, a professor emeritus in the political science department at Indiana University, said Americans generally like the idea of a third party until specifics emerge, such as that party’s policies and nominees.

“It’s a symbolic notion. Do I want more choices? Well, sure. Everybody always wants more choices, more ice cream choices, more fast-food choices,” Hershey said. “But if you start to get down to brass tacks and you talk about, so would it be tacos or burgers, then that’s an entirely different choice, right?”

THIRD-PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES RARELY GET A SUBSTANTIAL SHARE OF THE VOTE

That hypothetical support for third-party candidates often breaks down quickly.

The AP analysis looked at polling for every independent and minor party presidential candidate who received at least 3% of the popular vote nationally going back to the 1980 election.



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