Eight days ago in this space I reported that, after an impressive summer of fending off the usual third-party fade, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson was finally starting to recede a bit in national surveys. Well, now I’m back to tell you that the decline—measured nationally, anyway—has stopped.
There have been eight such polls released over the past few days, and Johnson either matched or slightly improved upon his prior showings across all eight. Two of them—CNN/ORC and CBS News/New York Times, both released yesterday—are part of the Commission on Presidential Debates‘ basket of five polls to determine eligibility for the second and third presidential yak-fests. Since Johnson’s support remained the same in each (7 percent and 8 percent, respectively), that leaves his five-poll CPD average unchanged at 7.4 percent, or half of what he needs with less than a week until the next Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump match-up.
So, the Libertarian is not going to crash the two-party party. But you know what else is not happening? Any measurable mass defection based on Aleppo Moment 2.0. As you scan through the boringly stable numbers below, keep in mind three dates: September 28 (the evening when Johnson brain-froze while attempting to tell MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who his favorite foreign leader is), September 26 (the first presidential debate), and September 8 (the original “Aleppo“). The following is an apples-to-apples comparison of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein across the two most recent results of eight national polls:
10/01-03 Economist/YouGov: HC 43% DT 40% GJ 5% JS 3%
09/22-24 Economist/YouGov: HC 44% DT 41% GJ 5% JS 2%
9/30-10/2 Morning Consult: HC 42% DT 36% GJ 9% JS 2%
09/22-24 Morning Consult: HC 41% DT 38% GJ 8% JS 4%
9/28-10/2 CNN/ORC: HC 47% DT 42% GJ 7% JS 2%
09/01-04 CNN/ORC: HC 43% DT 45% GJ 7% JS 2%
9/28-10/2 CBS News/New York Times: HC 45% DT 41% GJ 8% JS 3%
09/09-13 CBS News/New York Times: HC 42% DT 42% GJ 8% JS 4%
9/29-10/3 Rasmussen Reports: HC 42% DT 41% GJ 9% JS 2%
9/28-10/2 Rasmussen Reports: HC 43% DT 40% GJ 8% JS 2%
09/27-29 Fox News: HC 43% DT 40% GJ 8% JS 4%
09/11-14 Fox News: HC 41% DT 40% GJ 8% JS 3%
09/27-28 PPP: HC 44% DT 40% GJ 6% JS 1%
08/26-28 PPP: HC 42% DT 37% GJ 6% JS 4%
09/22-26 Reuters/Ipsos: HC 42% DT 38% GJ 7% JS 3%
09/15-19 Reuters/Ipsos: HC 37% DT 39% GJ 7% JS 2%
Let’s average those out:
NEW: HC 43.5% DT 39.8% GJ 7.4% JS 2.5%
OLD: HC 41.6% DT 40.3% GJ 7.1% JS 2.9%
When you add in the two most recent surveys of 10 additional national polls, and average out all 18, you get a “new” showing of 7.8%/2.6% for Johnson/Stein, and an “old” of 8.2%/3.1%. For the moment, anyway, the Libertarian has halted his slide (at least nationally), while the Green has continued hers. As it was eight days ago, the FiveThirtyEight projection for Gary Johnson’s finish is at 6.5 percent of the popular vote.
Since Johnson’s polling numbers have been ahistorically steady thus far, and since the mini-September swoon coincided almost perfectly with Donald Trump tightening the race to nearly neck-and-neck, Occam’s Razor (as opposed to super-thorough research!) suggests that the biggest factor injecting variability into his support is panic among would-be voters that their lack of major-party vote could tip the election one way or another. If that conjecture is true, Hillary Clinton widening her lead could in theory restore Johnson’s numbers to summertime levels. Though the ad spend against him is theoretically a lot higher than the Libertarian ticket’s own budget, and this remains a weird election year, etc.